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Author Topic: Number of keywords affecting best match position?  (Read 5912 times)

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« on: April 10, 2011, 07:24 »
Firstly, sadly it seems this is a taboo subject for discussion on iStock.  This thread http://www.istockphoto.com/forum_messages.php?threadid=322302&page=1 - "Is it new Best Match or my wrong Keywording?" in the help forum was locked, and a follow-up thread was not only locked, but also deleted from the site.

The concern is that files with a larger number of keywords are getting unusually poor placing in best match searches.  If this is true it would mean that official iStock guidance on keywords is no longer relevant (no pun intended  ;)).  We've been actively encouraged to provide lots of of useful information in our keywords, since terms like 'photography', 'horizontal', 'nobody', 'indoors' or whatever can improve search terms for buyers.  And the official position was that best match placing was not disadvantaged by having a high number of relevant keywords.

I'm not saying that I'm sure that lots of keywords = poor best match position (if an image picks up some early downloads it's often not the case), but it is looking like maybe it's a factor, whether on purpose or by mistake.

Certainly I've found that a lot of my own uploads over the past 6 months or so can be found right at the back of searches.  I usually invest a fair bit of time in tagging files with as many relevant, potentially useful keywords as possible.

These results below could have moved around for other reasons - another best match shift or whatever.  Also, these aren't brand new files, so it's not possible to know how things would have gone if they'd only had a few keywords from the start.

Anyway, for a couple of recent-ish files of mine that were at the back of tens of thousands of results, this is what happened...

Macro raspberry photo - uploaded 3rd February 2011

Best match position searching for 'raspberry' yesterday was approx #12980 (page 65 of 67, 200 results per page)

Removed keywords:
berry fruit, colour, food, macro, photography, ripe, selective focus, simple, sweet food, small, healthy eating, local produce, many, nobody, vibrant colour, saturated colour, ...

Keywords now:
raspberry, close-up, freshness, red, fruit, berry

Best match position now is approx #9705 (page 49 of 67)

Cherry photo - in the exclusive+ collection - uploaded 22nd November 2010

Best match position searching for 'cherry' yesterday was roughly #18035 (near the bottom of page 92 of 92, 200 results per page)

Removed keywords:
berry fruit, close-up, colour, directly above, food, fruit, gingham, group of objects, nobody, photography, raw, red, ripe, saturated colour, bunch, clean, healthy eating, indoors, local produce, macro, pattern, simple, stalk, summer, sweet food, three objects, white, wet, droplet, fabric, cotton, seasonal food, ...

Keywords now:
cherry, traditional, freshness, fruit, tablecloth

Best match position now is approx #11070 (page 55 of 91)

And an example with fewer results:

Fern koru uploaded 17th March 2011

Best match postion searching for 'Koru' was #65 out of 67 files

Removed keywords:
flora, beginnings, brown, close-up, fragile, green, growth, life cycle, origins, photography, small, spiral, vertical, bracken, circle, curled up, foliage, forest, frond, nobody, outdoors, shape, softness, tree fern, detail, radial symmetry, countryside, pure, selective focus, spring

Keywords now:
fern, freshness, new zealand, nature, koru

Best match position searching for 'Koru' is now #11 out of 67.

Please note, this is not an attempt to figure out how to 'game' the best match.  I'm trying to work out if - by doing what iStock officially advise on keywords - I'm spending time and effort on sending my work to the far back of search results.

Any suggestions?  And thanks if you managed to read all the way down to here  ;D


  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2011, 07:35 »
There was a huge best match shift last weekend, and a huge shift again yesterday.
The best match constantly changes, to avoid 'gaming', and even if you figure out what it's doing right now, that could totally change at any time.
Also, what terms a buyer uses to buy an image 'weights' your keywords, in many best match iterations. So for example if two people bought your raspberry image on a search for red and fruit, they'd go up on that search but wouldn't rise for raspberry. Other have suggested that your ranking would even go down on raspberry, which though totally illogical, I have also observed from time to time.
If you had a big port and tried to change the keywords when you'd sussed out a best match algorithm, it would probably have changed by the time you'd changed all your keywords.
The main thing is to keep your keywords clean and relevant: don't brainstorm to try to find 50 keywords, but if you need 50 for a detailed file, use your 50.


« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2011, 10:36 »
I spent hours the other day looking for an image and it was incredibly frustrating because most people didn't keyword their files thoroughly.  I was looking for businessmen at night, and I tried a variety of combinations of keywords.  Some files showed up for some searches but not others, some people keyworded "businessman" but not "man", some people used "man" but not "businessman" or "business".  Some people didn't use "night" or anything relevant to the scene.  I ended up finding the perfect file about 2 seconds before I was about to give up.  The file only had 7 keywords and was missing a huge number of relevant KWs that would have really helped when I was trying to narrow down my search. 

Sooo in my opinion, it's better to leave ALL relevant KWs rather than trying to game the system (which, as ShadySue pointed out, could change tomorrow anyway).  You might have improved your best match ranking for raspberry, but there are still 9704 files before yours and you might have ruined your best match standing for "berry fruit" or something else. 

« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2011, 10:59 »
Sooo in my opinion, it's better to leave ALL relevant KWs rather than trying to game the system (which, as ShadySue pointed out, could change tomorrow anyway).  You might have improved your best match ranking for raspberry, but there are still 9704 files before yours and you might have ruined your best match standing for "berry fruit" or something else. 

You may be right about the keywords.  Hope so.  But please note I'm honestly _not_ trying to 'game' the system.  My point is that I've been following official advice from iStock about keywording, and it seems that might be causing my files to sink without a trace, before getting a chance of any downloads.

But I didn't know about a big best match shift over this weekend as ShadySue pointed out.  So maybe the improvement for these three files is only a coincidence. 

I'd definitely prefer that it was a coincidence - I certainly don't want to start spending days or weeks removing carefully added keywords from my files.  For me it would make no sense for files that are well keyworded, with the artists giving rich information and improving search result quality, to be pushed far back in the results.

The problem is that myself and other contribs are finding that it looks like this is what's happening.

« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2011, 12:53 »
A lot of those keywords were rightly removed anyways.  You don't need 'healthy eating' on every food image.  That just annoys buyers.

« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2011, 16:19 »
My question is why punish files with lots of keywords?  If its because Istock thinks more keywords = spam, then why not tell contributors to reduce keywords rather than punish those files secretly?

If there was a bump, maybe the bump comes from simply editing the metadata? 


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