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AlamySearch Explained

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Alamy’s search engine explained

How our search engine works

The Alamy search engine finds images that match the search terms entered by the customer. If a customer searches for ‘dog‘ then all the images that have the word ‘dog‘ will be returned. Currently, these words may be in any of the Caption, Keyword, Location fields, or in the pseudonym/agency name.

In order to return the most relevant images to customers, there are three keyword fields carrying different weights – Essential (50 characters), Main (300 characters) Comprehensive (856). The search engine views each Keyword field in descending significance with the Essential keyword field having the greatest relevance.

Note that the search engine does not search the Description field.

The Pseudonym field is searched but has a lower relative significance than the Caption and Keyword fields. This helps ensure, for example, when a client searches for "fish", a contributor called “David Fish” does not have his images returned before images of fish (which contain the keyword "fish" in their Caption or keyword fields).

To further improve relevancy of image results the search engine returns exact word matches only, i.e. it does not "stem" words, so a search for "Dog" will not return the same search result as for "Dogs".

Words in sequence that match phrases entered by customers will carry more weight than words not in sequence. For example, if a customer searches for "blue whale", an image with the Keywords "blue" and "whale" next to each other in the Keywords or Caption will have a higher relevancy score than an image containing the string: "blue, sea, humpback, whale" in its Keywords.

What can contributors do to improve their AlamyRank?


Alamy advises that contributors check their keywords carefully to ensure that they are both spelt correctly and are relevant to the image concerned. This will work towards gaining a high CTR score. Keywording both literally and conceptually is still advisable, but contributors should be careful that their captions and keywords are entirely relevant to the image. It is useful for contributors to put themselves in the buyer’s position to see if they would be interested in an image for a particular search term. As a simple example, if keywording an image of a cat it would be best not to add a caption saying ‘Cat which is afraid of dogs’. Each time this image is returned on a search for ‘dogs’ it will be viewed by a client and, in the majority of cases, not clicked or purchased resulting in a low CTR. This will negatively affect the AlamyRank for the Pseudonym that is associated with this image. Finally, if the plural and singular applies to your image, then you should add both. You can use AlamyMeasures to give valuable insights into keyword, CTR and search data.


Alamy has always stressed the importance of editing images before submitting them. For a series of images, it is best to submit a portrait, a landscape and an obscure/conceptual angle from each shoot/subject area to reduce image redundancy and improve the visual quality of results when a client performs a search. Supplying too many similar images will be off-putting to clients and may result in a lower AlamyRank.

Using pseudonyms to group images

Pseudonyms allow for those contributors who represent multiple photographers or for those who wish to segment their collections to reflect one or more areas of specialisation in their work. As an AlamyRank is assigned to a Pseudonym, the rank is the result of client activity across a collection of images. An individual photographer may therefore have had more than one AlamyRank assigned if they have more than one Pseudonym.

If all images are grouped into one Pseudonym this could, in some circumstances, lower the overall rank. If a contributor is an excellent wildlife photographer but their travel imagery is not as strong as the competition, it may be advisable to split their collection into two Pseudonyms. The reason for this is that the comparatively low number of Sales and Clicks in proportion to views for the travel images may bring down the overall AlamyRank. If a photographer were to split his/her Collection into different Pseudonyms, they can use AlamyMeasures to track the performance level of each one.

Search Engine Glossary

The following definitions may be useful;


This tool allows you to see activity, including searches, views, zooms and sales for customers who have spent money on Alamy within a specified date range. This activity can be applied to either all images on Alamy or just your images. To access AlamyMeasures follow the link within My Alamy.


The score assigned to a Collection (pseudonym) based on the number of times images from a Collection have been clicked or purchased in proportion to the number of times they have been viewed by Customers. AlamyRank is one factor that decides how images are returned in the ‘Relevant’ search option.


The click of a thumbnail by a Customer to zoom the image.


Any group of images assigned the same Pseudonym.

Combined Score

The score that is calculated from Relevancy of the search term + AlamyRank + Diversity Algorithm which decides how images are returned in the ‘Relevant’ search option.

Customer Data

Information attached to a specific image which relates to positive activity (click or sale) from customers for a particular search term.


Any signed up individual client who has spent over a certain threshold with Alamy.

Diversity Algorithm

The mechanism to ensure that no single Pseudonym dominates the results. It disperses the images evenly among suppliers of similar AlamyRank and relevancy.


The name used to group a Collection of images. A contributor can have one or more Pseudonyms associated with their account. This is to allow for those contributors who represent multiple photographers, or for those who wish to segment their collections to reflect one or more areas of specialisation in their work.


Any image purchased by a Customer who has spent over a certain threshold with Alamy. Both the quantity of Sales and the value of those Sales are considered. Not all Sales are necessarily included in the calculation of AlamyRank.

Search Engine

The system that identifies which images on Alamy contain the words searched for by a Customer. These words may be in any of the caption, keyword, location fields, or Pseudonym/agency name.


The thumbnail of an image being presented in search results to a Customer (on a page that is viewed by that Customer).


Click through rate. The figure that indicates a Pseudonym’s rate of Clicks per View.


Further help

How customers find your images?