In this short article I'm going to show you some simple ways to create a unique list of relevant keywords for your photographic images, so that you help searchers can find your photos in the search engines of online stock agencies.
This example relates to my article Keywording Photographic Images for Online Stock Agencies.
Let us start with an original caption:
Commuters on Escalator, Liverpool Street Station
Six words, and only five of them indexed. That's not a very good start. So what do we do?
Think first from the buyers perspective. What is he likely to search for? What do you want him to type in at the search engine to find your image?
Some terms immediately spring to mind: "passengers, rush-hour, railway, stairs". Let’s add those in to our initial list and start to keep a running total:
commuter escalator Liverpool Street station passenger rush hour railway stair (10 words)
(For the time being we will work with the singular form of the words and forget about punctuation. We will get to them a little later.)
Now let’s run those words through a thesaurus.
If you have a recent version of Microsoft Word on your computer, fire it up and type the keywords we have got so far into a blank document.
Highlight the first word, then press Ctrl-C to copy it.
Now go to the Tools menu and select Language > Thesaurus. (You can also get to the thesaurus by right-clicking on the word and selecting Synonyms > Thesaurus from the drop-down menu.) Select one of the synonyms from the thesaurus.
You can copy the original word back into the sentence by pressing Ctrl-V.
Keep adding synonyms from the thesaurus.
When you run out of synonyms for one word, move on to the next, remembering of course to keep one copy the original keyword.
After a couple of minutes your list will look something like this:
commuter traveler person along for the ride customer fare rail user escalator moving staircase Liverpool Street station passenger traveller fare rush hurry run dash hour railway rail mainline railroad stair stairway train (32 words)
When you get bored with Word’s thesaurus, try one of the better on-line thesauruses, like the one at www.visualthesaurus.com. Another couple of minutes with this tool gives me:
commuter straphanger rider traveler traveller travel travelling traveling person along for the ride customer fare transportation system mass transit conveyance rail track user escalator moving movement staircase Liverpool Street station piazza plaza shopping centre center arcade shop office work workplace business occupation employment passenger traveler fare rush along hurry run haste hasten rat race dash rush-hour hastiness stress speed movement motion railway rail line track mainline railroad stair step stairway train (70 words).
Not all these words were found directly in the tool, some of them were just suggested indirectly by it. For example, station led me to plaza then piazza, which I then included because it reminded me the photo contained a shopping plaza.
Also, the Visual Thesaurus usefully reminded me that alternative spellings are possible (travelling/traveling, centre/center).
Another possible way to find keywords is to use a search engine like Google. Try entering the original caption “Commuters on Escalator, Liverpool Street Station” at Google. Already in the results list, without even going to another page, I can see some more useful keywords: “Express link, forecourt, run down, up, tube, handrail, Underground, National Railways, British Rail, platform”.
A more sophisticated tool is the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. This can help you understand a lot about how keywords work in general, and is also useful for generating keyword ideas.
(It also a useful resource for photographers trying to understand what searchers are looking for, and can help to point the way towards the subject of their next photoshoot.)
Try entering some keywords like "commuter", "railway", and "escalator", one per line in the keyword box in the Google Adwords Keyword Tool.
You can enter all the good keywords you have already found.
Now click the "Get keyword ideas" button.
Google will show you hundreds of keyword suggestions, which you can sort in various ways.
And talking of search engines, what are your competitors using to keyword a similar image?
Go to an online stock agency and search for images that match “commuters escalator station”. Explore the links to see the keywords that were used to index the image. From brief visits to Getty and Alamy , for example, I get some more keywords to add to my list: “indoors, subway, routine, conformity, pedestrian, businessman, business woman, businesswoman, busy, citizens, crowd, delay, gathered, gathering, group, many people, handrail, inside, interior, lobby, subway, executive, urban, public transport, tube, crowd, people, city, connection, activity, brisk”
You can also enter the URL of a rival page into the Google Adwords Keyword Tool mentioned above, that will generate even more ideas.
Another useful on-line tool that you might like to check out is WordTracker, a Web-based tool that will tell you how popular your keywords are on other Web pages and how many people have searched for these keywords in major search engines in the last 24 hours.
In your list of keywords, remember to include:
Terms that relate to the geographic location: “Central London, England, UK, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Europe”
Terms which relate to the picture format, colour and effects: “blurred, blur, blue, grey, pale, landscape, horizontal"
Common synonyms for “photograph” itself: pic, image, picture, photo, photograph, full colour, color”.
The letter “s” (see here for why).
Now we have:
commuter straphanger rider traveler traveller travel travelling traveling person along for the ride customer fare transportation system mass transit conveyance rail track user escalator moving movement staircase Liverpool Street station piazza plaza shopping centre center arcade shop office work workplace business occupation employment passenger traveler fare rush along hurry run haste hasten rat race dash rush-hour hastiness stress speed movement motion railway rail line track mainline railroad stair step stairway train Express link, forecourt, run down, up, tube, handrail, Underground, National Railways, British Rail, platform Central London England UK Great Britain Europe indoors, subway, routine, conformity, pedestrian, businessman, business woman, businesswoman, busy, citizen, crowd, delay, gathered, gathering, group, many people, handrail, inside, interior, lobby, subway, executive, urban, public transport, tube, crowd, people, city, connection, activity, brisk, blurred blur blue grey pale landscape horizontal pic image picture photo photograph full colour color s (142 words)
Let's tidy up our list by deleting duplicated words, adding punctuation and plurals to get our final list. Here it is, sorted alphabetically:
activity, activities, along, arcades, blue, blur, blurred, brisk, Britain, British, business, businesses, businessman, businessmen, businesswoman, businesswomen, busy, center, Central, centre, citizens, city, cities, colors, colours, commuters, conformity, connection, conveyance, crowds, customers, dash, delay, down, employment, England, escalators, Europe, executives, Express, fares, for, forecourts, full, gathered, gathering, Great, grey, groups, handrails, haste, hasten, hastiness, horizontal, hurry, hurrying, image, indoors, inside, interiors, landscapes, lines, links, Liverpool, lobby, lobbies, London, mainlines, man, many, mass, men, motion, movement, moving, National, occupations, offices, pale, passengers, pedestrians, people, persons, photos, photographs, piazzas, pic, pictures, platforms, plazas, public, race, rails, railroads, railways, rat, ride, riders, routine, run, rush, rush-hour, rushes, s, scene, shops, shopping, speed, stairs, staircases, stairways, stations, step, straphanger, Street, stress, subways, systems, tracks, trains, transit, transport, transportation, travel, travelers, traveling, travellers, travelling, tube, UK, Underground, up, urban, users, using, woman, work, workers, workplace (140 keywords)
This list contains individual keywords that are either directly relevant to the photo (railways, commuters, stations) or are other words that can be combined with the keywords to match more nebulous but nevertheless related searches (rush-hour stress, transportation systems, underground shopping plazas).
Notice that I pluralize most nouns (for example, arcades, handrails) because plurals will match both singular and plural search terms in most search engines.
(Read up about your agent’s search engine if you are in any doubt about how it handles plurals. For some words I have included both single and plural forms, particularly if I feel they might somehow be different to the search engine - "lobby" and "lobbies", for example.)
We have come a long way from our original 10 words with just ten minutes work. And now we have created a much better base on which our buyer's search attempts can act.
If you want to see exactly how many exact search matches are possible with fewer of more keywords, try our Keyword Combinations Calculator using the 10 keywords we started with and 3 search terms, then try it again with 140 keywords and 3 search terms.
A stunning difference, I think you will agree.