Right Keywords for the Audience - Why Search Data Isn't A Reliable Guide to What Keywords to Use

There's a keywording adage "you can't buy what you can't find".  A second saying needs to be added to that: "people don't search for what they don't find".

Many photo libraries spend time pawing over search statistics to find out what search terms their customers are using.  If there are many searches using certain types of keywords - say words relating to composition or main colour - it is concluded that keywords reflecting those aspects of an image or video are important.  Fair enough.

The mistake is believing the reverse is always true.  If no one searches on say fashion descriptions on a celebrity site, these may not be important, but only if there are some keywords to find which researchers are ignoring.  It is no use saying: "we don't add keywords relating to fashion because no one searches our site for them."  The more likely scenario is that no one searches the site using fashion keywords because researchers long since gave up because there were no fashion keywords to find.


Imagine you owned a movie theatre which only screened horror movies, and audiences were dwindling. How sensible would it be to say that moviegoers didn't want any other type of movie because horror films were the only ones they ever turned up to see?

The best way to test that theory would be to offer some other sorts of movies, publicise the fact that a specialist horror movie house was now offering some different genres, and count the audiences that resulted.

Some good advice for photo libraries is not to have too much faith in search statistics.  They only tell you how your customers are currently searching your site, and generally give few clues as to what needs improvement.  You are better off spending time talking to your customers, observing what images and videos they use, then incorporating keywords to reflect those preferences.

But don't stop there.  If you're suddenly adding a whole lot of different keywords, tell your customers about them, and make it easy to use on your site by having search mechanisms which suggest alternative keywords and ways of searching.