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Keywords on deviantART: a guide

Thu Jun 27, 2013, 4:41 AM

This guide is based on a project written for an 8th semester course in Knowledge Organising Systems and Processes at the Royal Danish School of Library and Information Science

The project was based on image indexing literature and included an investigation of keywords from 107 deviations from deviantART. The results of this investigation was compared with previous studies of what types of keywords users add to their images and what types of keywords is used in image searches. 

The guide begins with a very brief summary of the recommendations with examples. Afterwards follows a more thorough guide for those who are interested in the reasoning behind the recommendations and some of the results of our project.

 

In summary

Add keywords that describe:

  • What your deviation is

e.g. photograph painting poem plushie necklace animation 

  • What your deviation is of. 

      This includes both what your deviation is of in general:

e.g. woman cat flower dancing dance walking city beach kitchen sunset spring christmas

      As well as what your deviation is of specifically:

e.g. jennifer lawrence grumpy cat amsterdam the moon sherlock holmes

  •  What your deviation is about.

e.g. love mythology freedom war mother earth scary cute heaven hell post-apocalypse

Use:

  • Synonyms.

e.g. photo photograph 

  • Both British and American versions of words.

e.g. colorful colourful

  • Keywords taken from the category you've placed your deviation in.

e.g. paintings pop art still life fantasy sci-fi

  • Keywords you personally would use in a search.

 Don't use:

  • Keywords that has nothing to do with your deviation.
  • Commas between your keywords.

What are keywords? Why should I add them to my deviations?

Keywords are descriptive words that help others find your deviations via the Search engine here on deviantART.

FAQ #70: What is the format for the Keywords in deviations and what are they for?

On the submission page you'll find a field where it says Keywords (use spaces between keywords).

You are not required to add keywords to your deviations. It is however a good idea to do so if you want others to be able to find your work.

When someone searches for deviations on deviantART they search in deviation descriptions, titles and keywords. 

In our study we found that the deviation descriptions are often used for communicating about other things than the deviation. Furthermore we saw that deviation titles often don't describe what can be seen in the deviation.

If your title and description isn't descriptive of your deviation it is a good idea to make the effort of adding good keywords. Adding good keywords helps make sure that your deviation turns up in searches where it is relevant.

Which keywords should I add?

When uploading a deviation it can sometimes be difficult to think of keywords to add, but there will always be some relevant keywords you can use. When adding keywords, try to keep in mind what kinds of words you use when you search for images. Besides this there are some general guidelines you can keep in mind to help inspire you when adding keywords.


1. Add keywords that describe what your deviation is. This could be a photo, a watercolour painting, a poem, a necklace, or something else entirely.

2. Add keywords that describe the tools and materials you used to make your deviation. This could be Photoshop, Flash, Copic markers, graphiteyarn, mohair, nickel-free brass or something else.  

3. Add keywords that describe what your deviation is of in general terms and if possible in specific terms. This means any people, animals (and other beings), objects, actions, events, places and times depicted. In general terms your deviation might be a painting of a man standing in front of a building in the summer. More specifically it might be a painting of President Barack Obama standing in front of the White House on the 4th of July.

Whether or not you can use specific keywords depends on what your deviation depicts, but it is always possible to add keywords that describe your deviation in general terms. Both the general type of keywords and the more specific type of keywords are important, if you want others to be able to find your deviation. Even what an abstract painting is of can be described in general terms by using keywords that refers to its colours and shapes.  

Previous studies have shown that the general type of keywords, particularly the ones describing people, animals, beings and objects, were the ones most used in image searches. This means that it is positive that our study also found this type of keywords to be the most commonly used type of keywords on deviantART.

4. Add keywords that describe what your deviation is about. What your deviation is about is all the abstract concepts that can't be directly seen by looking at your deviation, but can be interpreted from it. A drawing of a heart can be about love, romance or Valentine's Day, and if it is broken it can be about heartbreak.

Another type of abstract keywords is the ones describing the impressions you get from your deviation and its content. You can for instance have a drawing of a cute monster, a scary monster or a depressing monster, or a painting that is intended to make the viewer feel happy, sad or nostalgic.

Previous research has shown that in image searches abstract words are often used in combination with keywords describing image's contents in general terms. This means that it is important to both use keywords that describe what your artwork is of and what it is about. 

Other things to keep in mind

It is not necessary to add keywords that describe parts of a whole if you have already added keywords that describe the whole. For instance, if you add the keyword face it is not necessary to add words such as lips, eyes or nose unless they have particular significance in the deviation.  

The category you chose for your deviation can usually give inspiration for a few keywords. And since the categories themselves can only be browsed and don't automatically function as searchable keywords, it is always a good idea to take advantage of this inspiration. If you've added a deviation to the category Traditional Art > Paintings > Pop Art, then it won't turn up in a keyword search for Pop Art, unless you also add Pop Art in the keyword field (or the title or description). 

In our study, we found only a few deviations where words from the categories were used as keywords. This is unfortunate, as previous research has shown that the type of words that can be found in deviantART's categories are often used in image searches. 

One last thing to keep in mind when adding any kind of keyword is to use synonyms and alternative ways of expressing or writing something whenever it is possible. E.g. photo and photograph, fan art and fanart, colorful and colourful. This is important because the search engine on deviantART only looks for the exact words entered into the search field. So if someone searches using the keyword colourful they will not find the deviation where you added the keyword colorful, unless you also used colourful in the title, description or keyword field.

If you have any questions about our project, our findings or keywords and searching in general you are more than welcome to ask. :)



Skin by Ikue (modified by Bit-sinna)
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:iconzerna:
Zerna Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Is there any way to add a keyword that REMOVES certain results? Like if you were searching for "horse" per say, but you didn't want anything related to "Palamino" in your search results?
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Yes! There is a really esay way and it works in a lot of other search engines too (such as google). :)

You just add a minus in front of the word you don't want to be included in your results. (The minus has to be connected to the word you want to excluded, like in the example, otherwise it won't work.)

Ex:

horse -palamino

--> gives results with the word horse, but without palamino.
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:iconzerna:
Zerna Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh, wonderful! And this also applies to Deviantart's tag words as well?
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:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Yes it does. :)
Reply
:iconcashkingd:
CashKingD Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hello, and thanks for the guide. I have a question: at what point should I stop adding tags? Like, when does it get redundant? 15 tags? 20? More? Thanks
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
As long as your tags are relevant for your image there is not a cut-off for when adding extra tags become redundant. But I can imagine that it will often become difficult to add more relevant tags once you have reached 15 or 20+ tags. :)
Reply
:iconrainbowideasyt:
rainbowideasyt Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2014
Hi, 

So commas are not recommended, what happens to keyword phrases?

Example: A picture of a cat chasing mouse

Keywords I want: cat chasing mouse, cat hunting, cat running
Keywords I put into keyword section: cat chasing mouse cat hunting cat running (like this...?)
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Hi, 

Keyword phrases are treated as single keywords, and for this reason the order of the keywords does not matter. So if you want the keywords you mention, you would only have to add the following to your keywords field:

cat mouse chasing hunting running 

This way your deviation will show up in searches for:

cat chasing mouse

cat running

mouse running

cat hunting

hunting cat

chasing

cat

and so on...

I hope that answers your question, but if not, please let me know. :)
Reply
:iconrainbowideasyt:
rainbowideasyt Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2014
I see, very simple indeed. Thanks for the explanation!
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No problem. :)
Reply
:iconthevalentinetiger:
TheValentineTiger Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Do you happen to know if grammar matters? It would be slightly irritating to have to put 'don't' and 'dont'.

Also, if I a word like 'sparkles' will it also search for images with the tag 'sparkle'?
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Grammar does matter quite a bit, I'm afraid. So if you want to cover all bases in regards to "don't" you will have to include the following so they are present in either your title, your description or your keywords:

don't dont do not

While "dont" isn't gramatically correct, a quick search shows that it quite widely used, and can as such still be a valuable keyword.

In regards to singular/plural and different word endings in general: At the moment a search for "sparkles" will not return results for "sparkle", so if both is relevant for your image, I'd suggest adding both.

Sorry for the slow response, I hope it has been of some help. :)
Reply
:iconthevalentinetiger:
TheValentineTiger Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
That's ok, as you can see, I'm not the fastest responder either.

Thanks for the help! Presumably the rules still apply the same with the new hashtags?
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No problem. The same rules should apply, however until the new tags are fully implemented it will be impossible to say precisely how they will work. But I'll update the guide when things settle down enough. :)
Reply
:iconkohaya7kae-13:
Kohaya7Kae-13 Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This was a helpful guide! But I was wondering... what if the keyword I want to use if about my series, like for example... I have a manga called Doll Weapon... then I put dollweapon in keywords. But when I tested if it works by using search engine in dA, I noticed that if only i put dollweapon(without space) then will it appear... So in order for it to appear normally, it should be doll weapon? (with space, even though it's supposed to be whole as a series?)

I'm sorry for such confusing question : (
Thank you for reading!
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
If I understanding correctly, you are asking how to make your deviations appear when people search for the name of your manga Doll Weapon. Is that correct? :)

If so, then it is correct that you need to add the words separately as in the following example:

doll weapon manga original character drawing traditional art

With a string of keywords like this your deviation will show up when someone searches for the name of your manga. But if you want it to turn up in searches for the word Dollweapon as well, you will have to keep adding that to your keywords together with Doll Weapon as in the following example:

doll weapon dollweapon manga original character drawing traditional art

I hope this was what you meant, but please let me know if it didn't answer your question. :)
Reply
:iconmushomusho:
mushomusho Featured By Owner May 23, 2014
Hi! Thanks so much for this helpful and well written guide. :hug:

I have a question about keywords with spaces in them. If I want to tag "Game of Thrones", I have to leave spaces, but I don't want them to be separated into "game", "of", "thrones". Is there a way to address this?
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner May 23, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Hi, I'm glad to hear you think so. :hug:

I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you in that regards. You can't combine the keywords in any useful way so that the keywords are taken as one semantic unit. But this is not actually a problem, if you just want to make sure that people who search for Game of Thrones can find your deviation. With just those keywords, your deviation will turn up in the following searches:

Game of thrones (no matter the order of the words)

Game Thrones (no matter the order of the words)

Game of (no matter the order of the words)

Thrones of (no matter the order of the words)

Game

Thrones

Of (although it is my experience that very few searches consists of this word alone ;))

As you might notice, the problem with this is only that your deviation will turn up in some unrelated searches on the word Game alone or the word Thrones alone. But there is no way to avoid that, so my advice would be simply add Game of Thrones (and your other keywords) and not worry about it. :)
Reply
:iconmushomusho:
mushomusho Featured By Owner May 24, 2014
Wow! :wow: Thanks for the fast and detailed reply.
You're so good at explaining; I'm sure you did well for your semester paper :D

I'm in a course slightly related to yours - computer science. So, I'm quite curious about their search algorithm :D
If I search for a phrase, do the deviations that contain that phrase exactly in the same order take precedence over deviations that contain the words in a different order?
Are words in title/description/keywords equally important? What does the algorithm look at first?
Those are the things I wonder.. :)
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner May 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you, that's sweet of you to say. :)

And you ask some very interesting questions, questions that I'm in fact equally interested in knowing the answers to, but unfortunately I have not been able to get that kind of information. Not yet anyway. Sorry that I can't be of more help in that regards. :)
Reply
:iconclearlyhasproblems:
ClearlyHasProblems Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Student Writer
I accidentally clicked on the journal option for a fanfic. How would i change it to a story? 
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner May 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
If you do not get the option of changing category away for Journal when pressing edit, my advice is to delete the journal and reupload the fanfic, so you get the chance to submit it as a literature deviation instead of a journal. I just tested to see if I could move a test text (where I chose the journal option instead of the literature category) to the literature category and it was not possible. So I'm afraid reupload is the only option. :(
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:iconclearlyhasproblems:
ClearlyHasProblems Featured By Owner May 13, 2014  Student Writer
Thanks!!
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner May 15, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No problem. :)
Reply
:iconpokelover586:
pokelover586 Featured By Owner May 7, 2014
How do i put keywords to a group???
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
You can't add keywords to a group the same way you do to a deviation. When searching for groups the search looks at the name of your group, the group's tagline (the text shown beneath the name, e.g in your group PokemonMasters the tagline is "We are the Pokemon Masters!") and the description, so you simply have to make sure that the keywords you want others to be able to find your group by is included in your tagline and/or description. :)
Reply
:iconpokelover586:
pokelover586 Featured By Owner May 8, 2014
ok thanks! 
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:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No problem. :)
Reply
:iconiknewyouweremuggle:
Iknewyouweremuggle Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014
thank you, that help me very much. I was a bi confused about the "spaces" and what that means...
but now I know :)
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Glad that it could help. :)
Reply
:iconcrescent-cresswell:
Crescent-Cresswell Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2014  Student General Artist
A little help. If I want to put the keyword "otome games" and "online otome games" should I put it like this---> otomegames onlineotomegames  or like this---> otome games online otome games. I'm a bit confuse :(
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
It would be enough with the following:

online otome games game

There is no need to write games twice, as the system doesn't take the order of the words into account. But it is a good idea to include the singular form of the word if you are talking about one game in particular. These four words would make your deviation appear both when people search for

otome games 

and when they search for 

online otome game

and when they search for

games otome

and so on...

However, if you know for a fact that people usually search for these things by using otomegames and/or onlineotomegames then you can cover all your bases by writing:

onlineotomegames onlineotomegame otomegames otomegame online otome games game

But this is most likely unnecessary overkill, so my suggestion would be to stick with:

online otome games game

and combine these with keywords that describes the deviation/game further. 

Sorry for the long reply. I hope it helps at least somewhat. :)
Reply
:iconcrescent-cresswell:
Crescent-Cresswell Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2014  Student General Artist
No, I don't mind how long this is, it's really helpful. Thank you very much! :iconletmehugyouplz:
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy to be of assistance. :)
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:iconnielisson:
nielisson Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2014
Thanks
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome. :)
Reply
:iconhollowdran:
HollowDran Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Does capitalization make a difference in a tag word? 
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:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No, it doesn't. You can add your keywords all in lowercase letters (or with capitalization, if you prefer) and people will still be able to find your deviation whether they search for those keywords using capitalization, only uppercase letters or only lowercase letters. :)
Reply
:iconrjsg679:
RJSG679 Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2014
I'm having trouble getting my artwork to display in the search engine put the name of the title and  a few descriptive keywords and it doesn't appear in the search engine in DA and less in the google search engine. How are people suppose to notice my artwork if when they are searching for those subjects the artwork doesn't appear? I search for it directly and found it in more like: and it was being desplayed along side naked women. It has nothing to do with that. And yeah it so gonna get noticed that way. If anybody can help deeply appreciated.
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:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Is it all your deviations or just a specific one you are experiencing trouble with? (And when you did the search, where all the search terms spelled the same as the keywords you added when you uploaded the deviation?)

I did both a search here on dA and in Google on the words "Replica Seeker of Darkness Keyblade" and in both cases I got your deviation as the first result, but as long as I don't know which keywords you added, I can't say if the same would be the case in a keyword search. If you tell me the keywords, I can try a search myself too see. :)

But when you upload a new deviation keep in mind that it will not show up in a google search immediately, it will have to be discovered by Googles crawlers first. And when making a google search for your deviations only search for words that are visible on the deviation page (and not the hidden keywords) as that is all that google's crawlers can access. 

And about the More like this feature: it is a work in progress and has been known to show unrelated things, especially in new deviations which haven't been added to a lot of collections by other users.

Reply
:iconrjsg679:
RJSG679 Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2014
It's happening to two drawings that I want people to notice. They are The Original Dragon of Unova and the other with the same title witha #2 added. Before you replayed I tried changing the title and the keywords to see if they appear in the search result but nothing. First keywords and title were Pokemon B/W: The Original Dragon nothing else for the keywords. I changed it to the current title and put various keywords including the current title and things like Tao Trio Fusion, Kyurem Perfect form Kyurem Complete form Pokemon Drawings and I still don't get any search results. Ah didnt include comas so that's not the case. Yeah Riku Replica Seeker of Darkness Keyblade works just fine.  Also those two drawings were already submitted to a gallery that has to do with the subect i'm working with. Tao Trio Realm. No search results.
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I tried searching for your deviations using the keywords you provided. When making a dA search:

Kyurem Perfect form : doesn’t find your work.
Kyurem form: finds The Original Dragon of Unova and The Original Dragon of Unova #2
Tao Trio Fusion: gives The Original Dragon of Unova #2
Kyurem Complete form Pokemon Drawings: The Original Dragon of Unova and The Original Dragon of Unova #2

It is the word “perfect” that is the problem, it doesn’t show any deviations even when I search your gallery for it. Try double checking that this particular keyword is spelled correctly. Otherwise your keywords can be used to find your deviations here on dA.

However, you are right about Google not showing these deviations yet. They must simply not have been indexed by Googles crawlers yet (even though some of your newer deviations have). This has nothing to do with choice of title or keywords, it is simply a matter of time. (And even when they get indexed you won’t be able to find them in Google by using the keywords you added in the keyword field, as it is only dA’s search that has access to these.)

To get your deviation noticed in the mean time I would suggest trying to add them to the galleries of various relevant groups here on dA, using the <a href=” forum.deviantart.com/showcase/…>Thumbshare forum and maybe sharing them on other sites you are on by way of deviantART’s Share feature.
Reply
:iconrjsg679:
RJSG679 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2014
Thanks a lot Bit-Sinna! It just like you said as soon 
as  people notice them it will start appearing as more relevant results. It's just a matter of patience. I figured out that my drawings appeared in the search results after sending the last replay. Sorry for not saying anything the window of your reply in my feedback dissapeared when i relpied back. Thank you very much for bothering to do the search! :)
Reply
:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
You're very welcome. You can always ask, if you have questions regarding keywords and searching, I'm happy to help. :)
Reply
:iconrjsg679:
RJSG679 Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2014
Well google crawlers appeared in my page. The Original Dragon is now available in google search. The idea was if someone was looking for the original dragon that gamefreak didn't bother to put in their games they could see my drawing and have a better idea of how it looks. Nobody nows how it looks and well as for me I wasn't satisfied with the results I got so I made mine. Yeah, again it was a matter of getting views favorites so it would appear as a more relevant result.
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:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Good to know. Sounds like a good reason to want to draw something. :)
Reply
:iconlexxiss666:
Lexxiss666 Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2014
Probably a stupid question: But what if I use every letter of the alphabet as a keyword - would that make an artwork "omnipresent"?!  
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:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No, that would just mean that it would turn up in all searches where single letters are used. A search for "a" or "d" would produce your deviation, but a search for red, for instance, would not show a deviation tagged with all the individual letters, unless the word "red" was also added. :)

Even so, I would not recommend it, as it just creates noise and makes it harder for everybody to find what they are looking for. 
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:iconlexxiss666:
Lexxiss666 Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2014
Thank you for you time! :) (Smile) 
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:iconbit-sinna:
Bit-sinna Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No problem. :)
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