Keywords - Are You Missing the Obvious?


posted on 26th of january, 2010

Alright, that's a topic you may be getting sick of. It's certainly one of the least fun aspects of selling microstock photos as well (only topped by the waiting for sales), but in spite of all this (or perhaps because of all this) - it desires continuous attention and revision. So, here it comes - one more tip to help you with your keywords.

A while back Dreamstime released a feature which allows you to download a spreadsheet file of all your sales up to the end of the month before the current one (ie. it's not real-time and is generated at the end of each month). You can find the Excel Archive link on the Earning Page or on the Statistics Page. I know many of you are using it, but I suspect there's also people who just didn't bother... yet.

Now, back to the main point. Download that archive, unzip it and open it in whatever document editing program you're using. Click on the Buyer searched after field and filter out all records which have "n/a" as value in this field. In OpenOffice.org you do this by selecting a field from this column, then go to Data > Filter > Standard Filter... As a condition choose "<>" and as value type "n/a" (without the quotes, of course). This will show you only the sales for which there is keyword data. It's much easier to inspect them this way. Plus, the spreadsheet file groups all keywords used to buy a given image on one line (that's on the first sheet - Total Earnings).

Next step: make yourself a good portion of hot coffee (chocolate, or tea - whichever you prefer; pops are also allowed) and get ready for reading. :)
I'd long suspected what I saw in my last reading of the file, but never took the time to carefully confirm it. I'm pretty sure you'll come to very similar conclusions such as mine:

1) - The vast majority of keywords used were very simple and basic (ie. "coffee", "research", "depression"). None of the complicated terms I have here and there were actually used to find my image. So, buyers like it simple.

2) - Rarely did I see a combination of three or more keywords used together. This means that the one or two-word terms must be spot on, in order for the buyer to find your image.

3) - Many of my files with high download rate had (as percentage) more different keywords used compared to those with fewer downloads. This means that going back down to 10 keywords will eventually limit my sales. Somewhere between 15 and 25 keywords should be the optimal balance for most subjects.

4) - Much more often than not, the keywords used for download of my images were either also present in my titles or I had used a synonym for them in the title. This means that titles such as "Aaah!" or "Ouuuuch!" might not be the smartest thing to use. Neither are sentences like "What do you want?". If it's a woman experiencing some sort of pain - why not call it "Woman in Pain"? But! Don't make your titles a mere list of keywords either - that we refuse during review. ;)

I suppose some of you will come up with more important observations, should you take the time to go through this information. For now I'm sitting here in amazement of the fact that (in general) we often have far more information available than we end up using... out of lack of time, not paying attention, or maybe even pure laziness. If I would like to take my microstock adventure (or any other one, for that matter) successful, then I need to start using all the data I have available.
Other times we end up fixed on one particular piece of information that's not available (and might never be) and as a result lose precious time and effort.

Share your findings, remarks and life wisdom in the comments section, please. :) I hope this has been helpful.

Comments (24)

Posted by Nadezhda1906 on August 05, 2011
Thanks, very helpful!
Posted by Kimson1972 on January 08, 2011
..I read every word and my ambition is to remember all when uploading...!
Posted by Lostarts on December 29, 2010
I like this blog. Thank you, Petar.
Posted by Dprogers on September 24, 2010
I really enjoy looking at the statistics on Dreamstime and aiming to derive what makes people buy my images. I got some keywording advice from a friend that was very useful for the Antarctic images. But I wonder if it is possible for Dreamstime to provide some statistics on where the buyer is from - country would do. With the changes to US tax laws that means images sold to US buyers are taxed differently, so this has to be tracked for each image sold. It would be interesting to know for example, if my images of Western Samoa, which are popular, are bought by Western Samoan's or there is no correlation. On my webpage (cpanel) gives me a great deal of stats on where viewers come from, the search terms they use, the search engines they use etc etc and I find this fascinating as at times I can understand surges from certain countries, because I've been there on a trip and so made new friends. Facebook pages likewise have some interesting stats. I'm pleased Dreamstime enhanced the stats a while...(More)
Posted by Afagundes on February 19, 2010
You are right, Petar, it is boring and we are lazy, but it has to be done, I have already downloaded the file and started to see some interesting things.
Usually they look for a single word was my first observation.
Posted by Easyhwa on February 01, 2010
It’s helpful,thanks.
In fact writing keywords always bother me, I think more time for me to practice is better.
Posted by Sebikus on January 29, 2010
Very usefull, if somebody have a lot of sales I think. But what for newbie? I haven't had a problem with it yet. I use databanks of keywords and I think they are very useful for many people. Do you have difrent opinion?
Posted by Yuritz on January 29, 2010
helpful,was already looking on which of my pictures were found using a keyword,but it's always nice to keep it in mind!
Posted by Keki on January 29, 2010
very helpful thanks!! :)
Posted by Bobsphotography on January 28, 2010
Very usefull, thanks
Posted by Elisamoriconi on January 28, 2010
Thank you, this is very useful, I surely do!
Posted by Ronvid on January 27, 2010
As a NOOB here, keywords are the killer for me. Especially if the subject is simple -- like a ball or something. I am a rather prolific writer and have articles all over the internet but I often struggle just to come up with 10 keywords (silly huh?). At any rate, I appreciate your helpful articles on keywords and although some people might be sick of hearing about them (doubt it though), I just can't get enough. Thanks.
Posted by Kringstad on January 27, 2010
Ahh thanks for the great tip! I am going to slim mine down a bit. Thanks again take care!
Posted by Petarneychev on January 27, 2010
Alek, if you use a lot of keywords this will affect where your image appears in the relevancy sorting (it will appear later). However, your image will match more searches. The key factor is finding the balance, which I believe to be between 15-25 words. Limiting the number within this margin enables you to judge relevancy in a more objective way. It's harder but pays off, literally. As a side note, I'm still waiting for the image with 80 properly relevant keywords. ;)
Posted by Kringstad on January 27, 2010
You said that 15 to 25 keywords should be the optimal balance for most subjects but does this mean that if I max out the keyword field (assuming all are relevant to the image) during submission process there is a drawback? Thanks!
Posted by Rosedarc on January 27, 2010
Thanks for the explanation on the n/a symbol.
I agree totally with your point 4 and how it affects the automatic translation. A simple description of the image in the title is likely to bring more sales. Something more complex is likely to bring on a very weird translation, not relevant at all to the image.
Posted by Mani33 on January 27, 2010
Thanks for the tips! Cheers ;)
Posted by Petarneychev on January 27, 2010
@ Rosedarc - images which have n/a in the buyer searched after field have been downloaded by using the visual navigation throughout the site. It could be an image appearing on a banner somewhere, linked through another web-site, or simply the buyer browsed the categories page. It could also be included in a collection by you or another user that the buyer visited.
The automatic translation works for all information belonging to the time (title, description and keywords). Perhaps what you're experiencing is the same as I refer to in point 4.

@ Melonstone - indeed, using more keywords will probably bring more sales in the long run, but remember that on the average using more than 30 keywords means one is pushing the limits of relevancy and entering spam territory. :) ... or it could be that many of the keywords are not simple enough to actually be usable by buyers.
It's understandable that your husband dislikes spam. It's one more personal example of why everyone needs to be careful when...(More)
Posted by Melonstone on January 27, 2010
About 50% of my sales are via n/a - and 50% of those n/a images sold are not in a collection, so a buyer purchasing an image he had put in a lightbox at an earlier date makes sense. Perhaps some buyers regularly look at the latest uploads and put possible future purchases into a lightbox.

Re simplicity of search terms, as Petar says, different buyers use different (simple) search terms to locate similar images, so limiting keywords to, say, "green apple fresh healthy fruit" will generate sales, but, due to the differential between buyer's search terms, expanding the keywords will bring more sales.

My husband buys images and uses simple search terms: "clown face". If he can't find what he wants within the first 10 pages or so, he might change the search terms ("clown smile"), but he might also go to another agency because he simply hasn't got time to search through multiple pages. He particularly dislikes images that don't match his search terms at all but still appear in the results...(More)
Posted by Rosedarc on January 27, 2010
What really surprises me is the photos purchased with n/a in keywords. How does this happen? Does it mean the buyer put the photos in his/her lightbox at an earlier stage?

I also have the feeling that titles are very important when it comes to the automatic translation system; I've searched my pictures in other languages and they only came up if with words specified in the title. Do you have more insight in this matter?
Posted by Bradcalkins on January 26, 2010
I see what you mean - I suppose there is always more going on than meets the eye!
Posted by Petarneychev on January 26, 2010
Brad, I don't really think that point 3 is a direct result of the search engine and sorting (while what you're saying is also possible). I maybe didn't explain my thoughts well - my point was that the longer an image is online (as is the case with my most downloaded images), the wider the range of keywords used by buyers becomes. Time allows for more buyers to use different keywords. That's why it's crucial to cover more than just the basics.
Posted by Justmeyo on January 26, 2010
You have right! I saw too most of my photos were purchased with one or two keywords and rarely with 3 or 4 :)It's a useful article,thank you for sharing with us!
Posted by Bradcalkins on January 26, 2010
I too, am surprised at the number of images purchased with only a single keyword, or at most two. I have a red apple and green apple shot and it is the rare buyer that even bothers to specify a color!

I think point 3 is a natural consequence of the search engine. You must match more than just keywords to get a relevancy match - thus the first sales will tend to match titles to a high degree (unless the subject is not well covered). As downloads build up you start to match keywords without needing relevant titles since you can now be found using downloads-descending...



Comments (24)

This article has been read 3196 times. 19 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Dragosvaju, Dimitri Valmas.

About me

I am a photographer based in Europe. My work includes lifestyle, wedding, portraiture, commercial images, as well as still-life . I gladly photograph Christian, charity or other aid events or projects free of charge. For more information or if you want to see my extended portfolio, please, visit my website.


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