How ShutterStock.com Handles Keywords

Stock House Thursdays: ShutterStock.com

So, here I am, after yesterday’s grand announcement that I was going to begin analyzing one stock house a week for all its requirements for keywords.

Up first in week 1 is ShutterStock.com.  I am not choosing the stock houses in any particular order other than I plan on starting with some of the big players first, as they have a lot more contributors, and after all, I would like this information to be useful to somebody.

For the record, these aren’t really “reviews,” in that they will have no thumbs up or down at the end.  This is not intended to be a recommendation or otherwise about any of the stock houses I will analyze.  Most of the elements I’m looking at don’t necessarily have an objective right or wrong answer. The only thing that really matters is that the photographer know the correct way to keyword for the individual stock house.

I hope to provide an in depth look at how stock houses deal with keywords, and how their search engine works in order to give their contributors a complete set of requirements so that they can keyword their images get maximum exposure at the site.

If you haven’t read my introductory post for this series, on the various ways stock houses differ in their keyword standards, you probably should read 10 Ways that Stock Houses can be different in their Keywording Standards first.

Here are the variables I analyzed:

  • Plurals
  • Synonyms
  • Variant Spellings
  • Verb Forms
  • Other Forms of the Word
  • Phrases
  • Punctuation
  • Capitalization
  • Abbreviations
  • Tab Delimiters
  • Keyword Weight
  • Number of Keywords Allowed
  • Faceted Search

Plurals:  I did searches looking for dog & dogs, boy & boys, tureen & tureens, child & children, man & men, knife & knives, box & boxes, couch & couches, baby & babies, and ibex & ibexes.

Result:  ShutterStock returned the same results for each set of keyword searches.

Prognosis:  You do not need to include the plural form of any of your keywords.

Synonyms:  I did searches looking for sofa & couch, child & kid, frustration & aggravation, boy & male child, happy & joy, mad & angry, daffodil & narcissus, boy & lad, elevator & lift, and apartment & flat.

Result:  ShutterStock returned different results for each set of keyword searches.

Prognosis:  You do need to include all appropriate synonyms for your keywords.

Variant Spellings:  I did searches looking for closeup, close-up & close up, makeup, make-up & make up, snowman, snow-man & snow man, tabouli, tabbouleh & tabouleh, Hanukah, Hanukkah & Chanukah, airplane & aeroplane, and industrialization & industrialisation.

Result:  ShutterStock returned different results for each set of keyword searches.

Prognosis:  You do need to include all appropriate variant spellings for your keywords.

Verb Forms:  I did searches looking for frustrating, frustrated, frustrate & frustrates, baking, baked, bake & bakes, running, run, runs, & ran, standing, stand, stands & stood, and sleeping, sleep, sleeps & slept.

Result:  ShutterStock returned the same results for each regular form of each verb.  However, they returned different results for each irregular form.  Their search engine did not recognize ran, stood or slept as a form of the infinitive (the search engine did, curiously, recognize runned, standed and sleeped as forms).

Prognosis:  You do not need to include all forms of any verbs.  However, you do need to include all irregular forms of any verb, such as ran, stood, slept, sat, or wept.

Other Forms of the Word:  I did searches looking for frustrating, frustratingly & frustration, amazing & amazement, happy & happiness, angry & anger, and joy, joyful, joyfulness & joyous.

Result:  Mixed.  ShutterStock returned the same results for each form of frustrating and amazing.  However, they returned different results for happy & happiness, anger & angry.  Also, they returned the same results for joy, joyful & joyfulness, but different results for joyous.

Prognosis:  It appears they consider this important, as they have some but not all, so I assume are working to get consistency for more words, but for right now I would recommend including all non-verb forms of a keyword.

Phrases:  I did searches looking for “wooden chair”, wooden chair, wooden + chair, wooden and chair, “chair wooden”, chair wooden, chair + wooden, chair and wooden.  I did similar permutations of searches for Scottish terrier, Washington DC, Mount Ranier, and chef’s hat.

Result: All forms of the phrases returned the same results, except for the search in quotes, which only found images with the exact phrase in the caption.

The caveat here is that until very recently, ShutterStock divided all keyword phrases you submitted into individual keywords of one word only.  This meant users could only search for phrases found in captions.

Prognosis: Inconclusive as to how future phrase searches will work.  However, if you have submitted to ShutterStock in the past and had all your keyword phrases broken up, you can now go back and recreate the appropriate phrase

Punctuation:  I did various searches with periods; NY & N.Y., Washington DC & Washington D.C., with commas; chair, wooden, and Washington, DC, with hyphens; closeup, close-up & close up, makeup, make-up & make up,and apostrophes; chef’s hat and baker’s dozen.

Result: ShutterStock appears to delete commas, periods and apostrophes on import of keywords, and ignores them in searches. However, hyphenated words would return different results from single word and two-word forms.

Prognosis: You do not need to include commas, periods or apostrophes in any of your keywords, but you do need to include appropriate hyphenated versions of any keyword.

Capitalization:

Result: Upon import, ShutterStock turns every single capital letter to lower case.  Then, in search it treats every word  as having the first letter capitalized, and matches these upper case searches with lower case keywords, every time.

Prognosis: Capitalization does not matter at all.

Abbreviations:  I did searches for New York & NY, and apartment & apt.

Result:  ShutterStock returned different results for each set of keyword searches.

Prognosis:  You do need to include all common abbreviations for your keywords.

Tab Delimiter:

Prognosis:  You can use either a comma or semicolon as your keyword separator.

Keyword Weight:  This can be based upon order of keywords (first being more important) or number of keywords (less keywords means each is more important)

Result: ShutterStock puts each image’s keywords in alphabetical order eliminating the possibility that order affects weight, and through my searches I saw no indication that the first images shown in results had fewer keywords than those at the end of the results

Prognosis:  Definitely NO weighting based or order or number of keywords.

Number of Keywords Allowed:

Result: ShutterStock has a maximum of 50 keywords.  This counts keyword phrases, such as “polar bear” as 1 keyword

Prognosis:  This is reasonable considering there is no need for most forms of verbs and other words, and you don’t need plurals.

Faceted Search:  I looked at each of the faceted search option that they have available to searchers.  They have five faceted search options:

  • Image Type:  Photos, Illustrations, Vectors
  • Orientation:  Horizontal, Vertical
  • Category: 30 general categories that you pick for each of your images at import, including, The Arts, Education, Nature and Science
  • People: subgroups for Gender, Age, Ethnicity and Number of People
  • Editorial: Editorial or Non-Editorial

Result: The buyer could user any of these faceted searches to narrow down their results.  However, if they don’t and instead do a keyword search for the term such as illustration or horizontal, Shutterstock’s search engine is not able to recognize that they should return the same results as if someone had checked illustration or horizontal.

Prognosis: You do need to keyword all words found in these faceted search options.  In other words, even you select Nature as the category for your image, you still need to use the keyword Nature as well.

—————-

That it seems to me is everything you need to know about the way ShutterStock deals with keywords.  In summary:

  • Plurals: You do not need to include the plural form of any of your keywords.
  • Synonyms: You do need to include all appropriate synonyms for your keywords.
  • Variant spellings: You do need to include all appropriate variant spellings for your keywords.
  • Verb Forms: You do not need to include all forms of any verbs.  However, you do need to include all irregular forms of any verb, such as ran, stood, slept, sat, or wept.
  • Other Word Forms: It appears they consider this important and I assume are working to get consistency for more words, but for right now you do need to include all non-verb forms of a keyword.
  • Phrases: Inconclusive as to how future phrase searches will work.  However, if you have submitted to Shutterstock in the past and had all your keyword phrases broken up, you can now go back and recreate the appropriate phrase
  • Punctuation: You do not need to include commas, periods or apostrophes in any of your keywords, but you DO NEED to include appropriate hyphenated versions of any keyword.
  • Capital Letters: Capitalization does not matter at all.
  • Abbreviations: You do need to include all common abbreviations for your keywords.
  • The tab delimiter: You can use either a comma or semicolon as your keyword separator.
  • Keyword Weight: Definitely NO weighting based or order or number of keywords.
  • Number of Keywords Allowed: Shutterstock has a maximum of 50 keywords.
  • Faceted Search: You do need to keyword all words found in these faceted search options.

The next stock house I’ve analyzed is 123rf.com, which can be read here.

 

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This entry was posted in Illustration keywording, Image Keywording, Stock House Thursdays. Bookmark the permalink.
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  • http://www.backyardsilver.com/ Steve Heap

    Jody
    Do you have any insight as to how Shutterstock’s relevant search works? As an example, if you search for “cat”, you have one sort for popular, one sort for newest, and a sort of “relevant.” How can relevant be established with only one keyword?

    Steve

  • K.A. Gilligan

    Thank you for your time and effort!

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