The Practical Keyworder - Concepts: One thing leads to another...

Concept keywording has gotten a bad reputation - why? As I pointed out in an earlier post, many articles have been written about the necessity of "shooting to concept" ( Want Success? Start with the Concept). So, if you have a great concept, why not throw on as many concept words as possible?

It is widely believed that too many concept words will dilute a search. I believe that this is true - but there is much more to it. Throwing a bunch of keywords against the wall and hoping that some will stick is a bad idea. But concepts words themselves are key to stock images and must be included in your keyword set. So how best to proceed?

Traditional search engines and databases management systems use both a thesaurus (see my earlier post The Practical Keyworder for an explanation of the thesaurus method in keywording) and a controlled vocabulary. The language of these systems is structured in a HIERARCHY. Hierarchies are terms that go from broad to narrow. Think of them as trees with trunks (the broadest term) and branches (narrow terms). The branches can also have branches that are more specific (narrower terms) or are close variations (related terms). An example of a word tree would be


→ FINANCE (narrow term) → MONEY (related term)

→ BANKING (narrow term)


Search engines are designed this way because it is effective and it produces more relevant results. To get relevant results for your images in Dreamstime, you will need to copy this structure. Here's how:

Step 1: Find the key concept and think of the broadest term possible for it. This successful image includes the broad term "Business":

Step 2: Think of terms that are narrow to the broad term BUSINESS that fit your image. The sample image here has the narrow terms "corporate" and "corporation". Follow the concept down to the narrowest and most specific terms possible that fit the image. The sample image uses extremely specific words like executive and brainstorming. You can test yourself by thinking in terms of part/whole. Go back and ask yourself - is this narrow term part of the key concept? Is it related to the key concept?

Including many narrow and related concept keywords helps your search. On the other hand, if you include too many broad and unrelated concepts your search will be diluted and unfocused and you will get poor results. It is not the quantity of terms, but the quality.

Here is an example of a keyword set that has too many broad terms:

- the keywords communication, concept, design and abstract are used. Each of these words by itself brings up thousands of images and this image is lost in the crowd!

Here is an example of a image with few concept words at all:

. This is a perfectly fine stock image with a strong key concept that is not expressed in the keywords at all. Words like dollar and canadian are included, but not security or finance.

To recap - 1. find the key concept for your image 2. Go from broad to the narrowest term possible 3. Make sure that your concept terms are a part of the whole (broad concept) or related to the key concept. 1-2-3 easy!

Following a concept strategy helps you and it also helps the Dreamstime community. When too many people throw broad, unrelated concepts on their images, the site as a whole functions poorly and search results become confusing and irrelevant for the user.

Good Luck!

Photo credits: Holly Kuchera, Melissa King, Pressmaster.

Your article must be written in English

January 13, 2012


very useful tips, tanks for sharing this information with us

April 13, 2010


Excellent tip!

April 13, 2010


PHEW, finally someone who has an opinion and has a solution to boot.
so, let's try my own tree :
- information
- error
- explanation
- solution

lol, as I said, you are the first person I read who not only tell me what is wrong, but provide me with a specific solution and explanation.
Well done. I now understand fully what all this broo haha to proper keywording is all about. For the past two years everyone's been telling me what's wrong, but never providing me any explanation nor solution.
Hats off to you (no pun intended).

oh, forgot yet the narrowest ie. add to favorites :)

April 13, 2010


Pretty smart for a Hat-check-girl :)) thanks!

April 13, 2010


Thanks for sharing your tips!

April 12, 2010


Nice blog article,congratulations!

April 12, 2010


Nice article!

Related image searches
Keywording related image searches