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Stock Photography SEO

Posted: May 2nd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: SEO | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Last night I ended up having an interesting conversation with a friend who has worked tagging photos for a stock photo agency. While we were talking I was struck by the similarities between tagging your photos effectively, and that of carrying out SEO activities on your website. Both have a huge impact on your income if carried out successfully, both are hugely competitive for popular search terms and both require a level of expertise and talent for choosing the right words and terms. The only real difference is that in web SEO, if your site is not winning the search term ranking war you can go around organic search and get paid search results, in photography I don’t think anyone does that yet (anyone feel like starting that business?).

One fundamental difference right now, is that websites tend to be text based, whereas a photo is pure image. So with photos effective keyword tagging is pretty much the only way someone will find your photo when they are searching for a particular need, unless they already have a relationship with you. Expressing the contents of a photo in keywords is now a key skill for all photographers, and they often pay people to do it for them. You have to look at the photo, describe what’s there, and not be emotional about it. You have to be aware of synonyms for key words, and you have to categorize how many of each object are in the photo – such as ‘2 women’. Saying ‘our holiday’ is not going to win you any stock photo business, it’s too personal and non-descriptive. Same with web SEO. A blog title like ‘I’m annoyed..’ may express how you feel, but won’t help your witty, helpful rant on why Microsoft Vista sucks be found by the people who need to read it.

Of course all the major search players are creating more and more advanced image searches as we speak. Google’s image search has a lot of interesting tech behind the scenes, such as face matching, but none of it is yet targeted towards stock photo needs. As this technology evolves we may see the end of the need for photographers to sit and manually tag their photos, but I suspect that’s a long way off. Computer based interpretation of spoken speech has taken a long time to get to the poor level it’s at, and image interpretation is possibly a harder task with less priority. So for now photographers need to be SEO experts in their own field, or they just need to become a world class famous photographer on commission who never needs to worry about stock again. Simple.