Setting Up Your Own Keywording Standard

If you aren't keywording to a set standard such as Getty or Corbis you may well be using what we like to call an intuitive standard - trying to match keywords to what people will want to use intuitively rather than using words which plug in to someone else's keywording system or controlled vocabulary.

The problem is that libraries using such keywording often forget to have any sort of standard. Whilst it is normally impractical to put together a huge controlled vocabulary in which every word has a defined relationship with every other one, some simple rules can give you the sort of consistency and clarity you need so that clients can understand how your keywording works. If clients come across different ways of doing things they won't know what search terms to use, and may cross you off their research list because of the ongoing frustration.

When creating your own standard you need to address issues such as whether you want to always include plurals, or only when there are multiple instances of something in the image? When including a verb do you want to use the simple "kick" or "throw", or do you also want the present tense continuous variation "kicking" and "throwing".

Whatever you decide on, be sure to write it down, and use that as a basis for your staff to use, or for outsourced keywording companies to work into their systems. You can even include your standard in a research tips section on your web site.