Alamy offers every contributor the opportunity to effectively create “different sub-accounts” in the form of pseudonyms. One theory is that by using different pseudos, you may ultimately improve your own image search engine rankings.
What are Pseudos?
At Alamy, it’s possible to create sub-names under one account and link specific images to those folders. Essentially in the same way you would organise collections at Shutterstock or other stock sites. However, as I’ll explain, the reasons are much more complex.
How do I create Alamy Pseudos?
Upon opening Alamy’s Image Manager, you’ll see a link to “Pseudonyms” on the top right:
Then you’ll be able to add as many folders as you would like and add images accordingly (only one per folder).
If it was just about this, it wouldn’t make for an interesting and brutally honest blog post!
It’s all about the rankings, stupid 🙂
Other than for personal organisation and making comparisons (dog pics vs cat pics, etc), Alamy veterans claim and Alamy themselves vaguely corroborate, that organising your images into pseudos may have a direct affect on your images’ keyword rankings.
Higher keyword rankings is a noble goal as it means more views are closer to the first-page results, which means more zooms and ultimately more sales (See Alamy Measures for a breakdown). The rule of thumb is that for every 4 zooms there should be a sale, on average (in my case it’s slight worse at 5.5 zooms per 1 sale).
According to a forum participant’s correspondence with Alamys’ Contributor Relations and posted on the Alamy Forum:
“…..there can be scenarios for certain searches where pseudo’s in theory can be connected [to improving search results], but lots of things have to happen there, for example, very similar images with the same tags etc. It’s a way to stop single people swamping searches just by splitting large collections between pseudos.
In another email:
“We purposefully do not divulge too much detail in this area as we want contributors to concentrate on producing solid imagery with great tags.”
How does Alamy Search Ranking Work
The honest answer is that few people know for sure how Alamy’s search algorithms works, as Alamy don’t want anybody “gaming the system”. Alamy also doesn’t give much away and prefers to ‘keep their cards close to their chest’ on anything to do with how the search engine works. They have, however, been more forthcoming to answer questions about whether their buyers search elsewhere for potentially cheaper options at micros – see link to that exclusive interview here.
However, what’s commonly known is that everybody starts with a medium keyword ranking. It may improve or worsen depending on a number of factors, including:
- How many times your image has been viewed as a thumbnail related to keywords used searched by a majority of buyers;
- How many times your image has been clicked-through, also known as Click Through Rate;
- How many times your images have been licensed.
Improving your Click Through Rate (CTR)
CTR is an important factor in deriving your search rank, which in turn affects search order and the chances a buyer will see and buy your images. The Alamy CTR average for January 2018 is 0.55, which means that for every 1000 views, there’s 5.5 zooms. A footnote to keep in mind that about 25% of sales occur without zooms, such as if a buyer zooms an image and comes back later to buy.
Some factors that may cause a low CTR ranking (<0.50) include:
1. Bad or spam/irrelevant keywording;
2. Too many similar images coming up searches;
3. Correctly keyworded Images but weak commercial or editorial images that don’t catch buyers’ attention in the thumbnails. In other words, images must be commercially saleable, current and in demand.
I sucked at keywording!
I was guilty of particularly the first sin. This caused my CTR to look embarrassingly like this for the past year:
At one point, a few months ago, I went through each image, one-by-one to re-keyword. Took me ages but I believe it was well worth the effort and as a result there’s been a slight uptick in my CTR…although a still long ways to compete with the veterans.
I’m on step 9 out of the 12 steps in the Recovering Keywording Spammers Program.
Using Pseudos to improve CTR
Back to the pseudos! The tactic many Alamy veterans use to improve CTR rankings for their best images is to separate images into at least three pseudos:
- Low Ranking: Junk images and those awaiting deletion (Expect a CTR of <0.10)
Since images in Alamy stay searchable within the system for 6 months upon deletion (but not for sale), it makes sense to make it more difficult for buyers to find such images by including them with your junkiest of images (or just delete them) which have little to no chance of being licensed. Perhaps those from your early days of your stock photography adventures that you nostalgically keep as a testament of how far you’ve come :D. Or perhaps within an series of similar images, some of the least interesting. Probably about 10%
- Mid Ranking: Normal images (Aim for a CTR of 0.75)
These will be the bulk of your images, likely 80%.
- High Ranking: Best of the best (Aim for a CTR of >1.00)
The remaining 10% will consist of images which have both already sold, thus already in a high ranking for certain keywords, and been zoomed. In my portfolio of 5,900 images, 180 fit this criteria (3%). I get a few zooms a weekday so I’ll move them along to the new pseudo accordingly.
I’ve selected the remaining 7% of images (400) on the basis of which images I feel are most likely to be zoomed -> sold. A mixture of RM and RF, editorial and commercial.
Algorithms may change from one day to another
I don’t even know if going through all the effort to separate pseudos makes any difference or as it’s just pseudo-science (pun intended). Perhaps it’s currently impossible to change your rank without changing your keywords.
Nevertheless, I’ll keep an open mind over a statistically significant period with this strategy. Since it’s not that much effort to move some images around, why not. At the very least, I’ll be able to track how my best images are doing and make intelligent adjustments if and when.
We must be aware that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes with contributors continuously trying to keep up (even going as far as trying to “game the system”. It’s kinda like market traders developing algorithm strategies to predict financial market-movements (known as “black boxes”) and more recently, crypto-currency mining.
Back to the basics
The sure-fire way of affecting your keywording ranking is by developing an effective keyword strategy in close proximity to the subject. Everything else should be secondary.
This means a robust strategy of accurate captions and targeted keywords & super-tags. Avoid the temptation to go for “maximum discover” ability and greening up. Green is not synonymous with dollar bills.
I found a great post on the Alamy forum from an Alamy veteran (GS-Images) on how to obtain regular sales on Alamy which I’ve decided to paste on here:
“1) Only submit your best. If you’re questioning it, bin it. Take another a different day.
2) Backgrounds are very important to an image. Look at that as much as the subject when taking a shot. Many clients want a clean background. Often you can improve it in post and remove nasty harsh lighting or objects that ruin the subject, but it takes a while to get realistic results doing that and it’s very time consuming, so not for everyone.
3) Not too many similars. If you have lots of images of the same thing but they all look quite different, it’s worth having them but tag them appropriately. So you could have a swan in winter, a swan swimming, a swan in summer, a swan flying – Supertag those key things that separates one image from another, so the most relevant appears highest in search results.
4) Sales mean more to your rank than CTR. If you have an average CTR but good sales, your rank will shoot upwards.
5) Tag using phrases as much as you can. A robin in winter – Use phrases like “robin winter”, “robin in winter”, “winter robin”. That’s how clients often search, and if you have that exact phrase, your image will appear higher (in theory, but the practice lately isn’t always the same for unknown reasons).
6) Don’t go so much for what’s a nice looking image. Look at what’s topical and often in the news. Try to include people doing things, or using whatever you’re photographing. I used to try to not get people in my shots, but I think that was a mistake. Why have a shot of a pizza on it’s own? Take one of someone eating the pizza! In my opinion that’s more likely to sell” – GS-Images
This is all relatively new to me so I hope I’m on the right track. Anybody have experience with pseudos at Alamy – comment below! In any case, I’ll keep track of my results and report back soon.