Microstock assets search-ranking

Metadata; keywording, titles and even subtitles or descriptions. It’s the pain in the ass of every microstocker (and many other professions). But you have been paid off with a top-ranking asset after doing all this work. What happens to the search ranking of this asset over time? I’ve been following a few top-ranking assets and “not so good” ranking assets of mine for over half a year and will show you how the search ranking changes over this period.

Result of half a year tracking images

Asset 1

We start with an asset I’ve uploaded in March this year and has never been sold. This asset could be found on page number 12 for the generic search term ‘Tropical forest’ on Shutterstock after ±2 weeks. A month and a half later the asset was on page 26 and a week later it went even further down to page 28. My hopes went down for this asset, and I disregarded the possibility of (m)any sales already.

For the sake of this blog, I kept following this particular asset. Unexpectedly, something magical happed: at the end of month 2, it went up to place 298 on page 3. I double checked if I ever sold this asset, but I didn’t, hence I am still wondering what made this asset sudden rise in ranking happening? Must be something to do with views and clicks.

From that moment in time, the asset has been dropping steadily with ±2 pages per month till now. Today it can be found at place 752 on page 8 for the search term ‘tropical forest’. Why am I showing this image? To show that an image ranking can rise to the first pages even if it does not have a great start and does not sell at all. Let’s hope it get its first sale to see what happens with the ranking!

Search ranking of asset at shutterstock
Search ranking of asset at shutterstock - a image that has never been sold

Asset 2

Let’s go to an asset that has earned me quite some money. I tracked the ranking of this asset for the search term ‘Nature’ on Shutterstock. This asset started selling more and more, reaching page 4 of the search term. This time I had good hopes: a steady rise in ranking which for me was the result of the sales it made. However, one day it jumped down 16 pages in ranking. Which, ones more I cannot explain. My thoughts on it:

  1. A lot of other assets rose in the search ranking due to clicks and views (likewise my asset shown above). Which cause my asset and probably many other assets to jump down so much at once.
  2. Shutterstock changed something in the search algorithm making my asset to jump down.

Point 1 seems unlikely as it is a guess for Shutterstock to replace images that have been selling with images that might be selling. However, we will never know as we do not have access to all the data. Let me know if you have any thoughts on it!

Search ranking of asset at shutterstock - jumping up and down with ranking position
Search ranking of asset at shutterstock - jumping up and down with ranking position

Asset 3

Let’s go to a last image. This asset has been selling quite a lot and I’ve been following this asset on both Shutterstock and Adobestock with the search term ‘Tropical forest’. The image has a good ranking on both agencies. The reason I am presenting this image is to display the variation in ranking position over time. I have a few assets that have a firm first position in the ranking, however most of my assets show a similar variation. Thereby, I am attempted to say that the more specific the search term is, the smaller the variation in ranking position.

Search ranking of assets
Search ranking of assets at Adobestock and Shutterstock. Purple line is Abobestock and black line is Shutterstock.

My thoughts

I am not going to analyze the data in depth, rather I just wanted to show the search-ranking over time. If you want to read more in depth about revenue half-life time/general I recommend reading this blog of Xpiks  in which data from Steve Heaps has been analyzed.

Sudden jumps happen with almost all eight images that I am following at the moment. Those jumps can be either good (rising in search ranking) or bad (going down in ranking). If you are planning to live off microstock, make sure you keep those sudden movements in account as they can have a large impact on your monthly revenue.

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