NationalGeographicStock: Keywords and Search for Stock Photographers

Stock House Thursday:

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Following up last week’s analysis of I will now take an in depth look at how handles keywords.

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.

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.

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.

For those of you with some gumption, you should read the complete introduction and methods behind these analyses: Image Keywording for Stock Houses: The Methodology.


  • Result:  NationalGeographicStock 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.


  • Result:  NationalGeographicStock returned different results for each set of keyword searches.
  • Prognosis:  You do need to include all appropriate synonyms for your keywords.

Variant Spellings:  

  • Result:  Mixed:  NationalGeographicStock returned different results for catsup/ketchup, tabouli/tabouleh/tabbouleh and airplane/aeroplane, but the same results for gray/grey, Hanukkah/Hanukan/Chanukah and industrialization/industrialization searches.
  • Prognosis:  You probably should include all appropriate variant spellings for your keywords.

Verb Forms: 

  • Result:  NationalGeographicStock returned the same results for each set of keyword searches.
  • Prognosis:  You do not need to include all forms of any verbs.

Other Forms of the Word:

  • Result: NationalGeographicStock returned different results for every non-verb form of each word.
  • Prognosis:  You do need to include all non-verb forms of any keyword.


  • Result: Any search in quotes “” returned only exact matches for the phrase.  All other searches for the combinations of wooden and chair returned the exact same results.
  • Prognosis: You do need to include common phrases or combinations of words as single “keywords”

Words in a Keyword Phrase:

  • Result: NationalGeographicStock returned more results individual words than keyword phrases containing the word
  • Prognosis: You do not need to include the individual words as keywords, as long as the word a separate word in another keyword phrase.  In other words, you do not need to keyword cup if you have the keyword phrase cup and saucer, but you do need to keyword cup along with teacup.


  • Result: Mixed results: NationalGeographicStock allows prepositions inside keyword phrases, and seems to ignore them in searches, yet if the preposition is in a keyword phrase, you will be found by a search for the exact phrase inside quotes.  In other words, waiting for and waiting return any image with the keyword waiting, but “waiting for” only finds the exact keyword phrase waiting for.
  • Prognosis: It appears that you do need to include prepositions in your keyword phrases.
  • Note: NationalGeographicStock does the searcher a huge favor, by letting them know if a preposition was dropped from the search, for instance when I searched for waiting in line, I found this message: “Trivial word >>in<< ignored”.


  • Result: NationalGeographicStock deletes periods in searches.
  • Prognosis: You do not need to include periods in any of your keywords.


  • Result: NationalGeographicStock deletes hyphens in searches.
  • Prognosis: You do not need to include the hyphenated versions of any of your keywords.
  • Note: NationalGeographicStock makes clear that they ignore all of the following punctuation marks:  !#$%&’*+,-./:;><=?@[]^_`{}


  • Result: NationalGeographicStock recognizes apostrophes in searches.
  • Prognosis: You do need to include both versions of your keywords, with and without an apostrophes, such as bakers dozen and baker’s dozen.


  • Prognosis: NationalGeographicStock ignores capitalization when searching.


  • Result:  NationalGeographicStock returned different results for each set of keyword searches.
  • Prognosis:  You do need to include all common abbreviations for your keywords.

Individual Letters:

  • Result:  NationalGeographicStock returned results for all my individual letter searches.
  • Prognosis:  If appropriate, you can include individual letters as keywords.


  • Result:  NationalGeographicStock returned results for all my numeral searches.
  • Prognosis:  If appropriate, you can include numerals as keywords.

Tab Delimiter:

  • Prognosis:  Unclear

Alphabetization of Keywords:

  • Prognosis:  No, NationalGeographicStock does not puts all your keywords into alphabetical order.

Keyword Weight:

  • Result:  There was no indication that images were returned based on the number of images, nor the order of the keywords.
  • Prognosis:  No weighting based on number of keywords, but maybe for keyword order

Number of Keywords Allowed:

  • Unclear

Disambiguation of Homographs:

  • Prognosis:  NationalGeographicStock does not help the searcher out with keywords with multiple meanings.  If you use the keyword trunk, you better also have elephant, tree, car, or luggage if you hope to have this image found

Faceted Search:  NationalGeographicStock offers none of the usual faceted searches, such as format, category and file type, etc

  • Prognosis: It is very important that you do need to keyword all words found that are often found in these faceted searches, such as; horizontal format, vertical, black and white image, vector, color illustration.


A few additional notes about NationalGeographicStock.

They is no information on their webiste about submitting images and the rules about keywording.

However, they have a succinct and clear page of advice for how to search for images, here.


I hope this helped you understand how NationalGeographicStock deals with keywords. With this information you should be able to modify your keywords appropriately and see an immediate increase in you numbers.

Previous Stock House analyses:






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