How I Use the Shutterstock Keyword Tool to Sell More Stock Footage


Using the Shutterstock Keyword Generator Tool to help you consistently rank high and rank often

If you want to make money selling stock footage and photos, you have to sell a lot and sell often. The only way to achieve this lofty goal is by consistently appearing high in search results. You may have some gorgeous and relevant imagery, but if you have not properly tagged it with the best keywords, then it will continue to live on dreaded page two or lower, never be found. I would argue that along with creating quality work, knowing how to properly keyword is the next most crucial skill to have as a successful stock artist.

Shutterstock has recently integrated a new keyword tool right within the upload footage console to assist in the process. Among the three main stock sites that I use (Shutterstock, Pond5, and Adobe Stock), I rely most heavily on Shutterstock’s keyword tool. I often start there and copy and paste into the other sites. I will walk you through my process of brainstorming, generating new ideas for keywords, and actually implementing them into your photos and footage in this quick breakdown.


UPDATE: Adobe Stock released an email this week titled ‘The Cheat Sheet’ revealing a few new tips into better ways to keyword. They are giving us some valuable insight into how they rank their media, which we should absolutely pay attention to. Here were a few that I found helpful.

  • List the keywords in order of their importance. (I had no idea this was a ranking factor! At least on Adobe’s platform, you need to be sure to list the top 10 most relevant keywords first.)

  • Titles of footage are not searchable within Adobe’s website, so be sure to include your keywords in the appropriate box and don’t just rely on them being in the title to be searchable.

  • There is no need to include plural versions of your keywords, as the singular version will suffice. (i.e. you can simply list ‘orange’ instead ‘orange’ and ‘oranges’)

  • When listing verbs, always use the infinitive form of the word. (i.e. ‘eat, laugh, enjoy’ instead of ‘eating, laughing, and enjoying’)


Here is another little strategy that I have found helpful when trying to come up with new and relevant keywords. You will save yourself a lot of time and effort with a little upfront research into what topics are going to give you the best opportunities to stand out from the crowd and actually be found in search results. To do so, you have to narrow down a niche or a specific category that is not overly saturated, but that is also in demand enough that it will actually be searched for. If we can determine what people are actually searching for, we can use that information to help us match it with our keywords.

I recommend starting with a very broad list of ideas that would be easy and fun for you, depending on your location and interests, to shoot daily or weekly. For me this might include a few things like: family, children, and happiness. As you can see, those keywords are so broad and generic, it’s going to be tough to compete right of the bat with any of those words, especially if you are new to the game. You need something more specific. My next step is to head on over to Shutterstock’s main search page (not the contributor site, but simply Let’s use ‘family’ as an example. I type this into the search console and before hitting enter, I take note of what appears in the auto populate box.

shutterstock search box

Notice how there are a number of relevant topics that automatically populate in the search field. This is such a helpful tool! Now we have a few phrases or ‘keywords’ to help us narrow down ideas that are not only specific, but that we know are also commonly searched for. ‘Family shopping’ or ‘family dinner’ seem like great ideas.

If I have not already shot this footage, I am going to jot down those ideas to add to my list for the future. If I click on through to see what’s existing already for family shopping, I notice that there are less than 175 pages of footage depicting this. Already we’ve cut down millions of search results from simply ‘family’ into just a few thousand. With some relevant and quality content, you are very likely to begin reaching the top of that search page in not time at all.


Let’s walk through an example of how to use Shutterstock’s new keyword tool in action.

shutterstock submit footage

Once you have uploaded your clips, navigate on over to the submit content portion within the Shutterstock contributor page. In the upper right corner you will see the little icon for the keyword tool. Once you have selected which clip to work on, go ahead and click on the tool. Here it will ask you to fill in a relevant keyword to generate some already present examples within Shutterstock’s catalog. For this example, I used the key word ‘sail boat’.

Using Shutterstocks keyword tool

As you can see, Shutterstock populates other relevant clips that correlate with ‘sail boat’. You will have to select at least three of these for the tool to begin populating key word ideas. Try to pick the most closely related clips to what you are uploading. You can also narrow it down even further. For this example, I added ‘sail boat dock’ to make the results even closer to my clip.

sail boat search.jpg

Shutterstock generates a handful of useful keywords. Just click on each one to add it to your clip. When you have selected all that you would like, hit the red ‘done’ button and the keywords will automatically be added to your clip in the original submit page. I used 35 of the suggest key words and then added 15 more of my own. Whenever possible, it’s best practice to go ahead and use all 50 allowed keywords for your submissions.


Many times you will have sets of footage that share groupings of the same keywords. Here is how I handle this situation. I keep a google document list handy that has about 30-40 keywords for each category that I commonly submit. For me, those categories might be ‘lifestyle family’, ‘summer themes’, or ‘outdoor life’. I copy and paste those sets of keywords into all the relevant clips on Shutterstock and then I go through each one by one to add another 5-10 keywords that specifically describe each clip. Obviously if there are no notable differences in the clips than you can simply copy and paste. Once I’m happy with my keywords in Shutterstock, I typically copy and paste the same keywords across all platforms (Pond5 and Adobe Stock). These sites will also generate their own suggested keyword ideas. I do take note of them, as they do have helpful ideas from time to time. But overall I find Shutterstock’s keyword tool to be the most accurate and helpful.

What are you using to help with your keywords? Leave a comment below and let me know your favorite tools and tricks to come up with great ones. Any of you using third party software to help you? I haven’t taken this step quite yet, but I have considered it. I recently wrote about my thoughts on whether to use BlackBox for uploads if you want to read more. Maybe I will give it a try at some point and let you all know how it works. Happy uploading!