Tagging: The New 10 Tag Rule & Resistance is Futile

Redbubble’s recent announcement that members will now be limited to only 10 tags per artwork has not gone over well. Some have accepted and embraced it, while many more are angry, frustrated, and/or don’t understand.

Although I wish I could see the study behind the necessity of only 10 tags when many people claim they’d be happy with 15-20… things are changing and as it seems, members will either have to A) get on board or B) get out.

Other Sites Limit Tagging
I belong to another site called Imagekind where members can create free accounts to sell their work in cards and various prints and posters. They have many options both for product printing and for searching. BUT, free accounts are limited to 10 tags… Redbubble’s newly instated rule is not unusual.

But Won’t it Take Too Much Time?!
If you have a lot of artwork on here, the answer is… Yes. Deal with it.

You wan’t Bulk Editing back? So do I. Click here to go to Redbubble’s Feedback/Suggestions Forum. Vote up the Bulk Edit idea. Get Redbubble’s attention… if they even look at that damn site. (If they do, who knows when and why they don’t post updates)

The Silver Lining
If you do have a lot of artwork on Redbubble and you’re bellyaching about having to go through and re-tag them, here are some tips to get past your mental mindblock so you can start.

  1. A trip down memory lane… you get to revisit work you might not have looked at in a while.
  2. You can check to see if you haven’t entered a piece into a group relevent to it… surely you’ve joined groups since you’ve added some earlier works. You may have missed some.
  3. If your work has improved considerably, you may want to consider deleting some older work, those old works with little or no comments/views, the ones you’re not so proud of, etc.
  4. Deleting old/unloved work will clean up your portfolio, perhaps inspiring potential buyers to actually look through all or the majority of it. If you look through your portfolio and are afraid to go through 50+ pages of work, imagine how buyers feel!
  5. Deleting work you don’t think you can move or interest people in will limit the number of pieces you have to re-tag! Joy!
  6. Looking through your work might inspire you in your creation of new work!

See, look at that list of benefits! And I’m sure there’s more… just use your imagination!

Now, the Nitty Gritty
Many of you have expressed that you don’t know how to cut back on your tags… or that it’s flat out impossible. I’d say that’s rubbish. While I think 15-20 would be better because it woul appease the majority of the membership, 10 is manageable if you are HONEST with both yourself and others.

You need to be objective looking at your art. You also need to use a bit of common sense.

Ask yourself the following questions

  1. What is the subject of the piece?
  2. What is the focal point of the piece?
  3. What are the MAIN colors in the piece?
  4. Does the piece have a mood?
  5. If I were buying this, why would I be interested in it?
  6. Who will buy this? Is it targeted toward a specific audience? (i.e. adults, children, sport enthusiasts, foodies, a certain ethnicity/culture, etc)
  7. Does my target audience tend to purchase artwork? Am I charging too much? Not enough?
  8. If I were a buyer looking for art similar to this piece, what search terms would I use?
  9. If I wasn’t knoweldgable in the subject matter of this piece, what search terms would I use?

There is nothing wrong with classifying your potential buyers being as detailed as possible… you should figure out your demographic. Sometimes, it will be the same for all your work, but I think many artists on Redbubble have a diverse porfolio that may require some more legwork to determine target audience for each work.

Tagging Clean-Up Example

If I wanted to sell this piece and get as many hits from searches as possible, I might be tempted to add tags that might describe the piece, but not well.

Here’s how one might tag this work given an unlimited number of tags
Tags: horse, horses, pegasus, wings, wing, winged, winged horse, mythology, myth, Helios, Helius, sun god, gods, chariot, story, Aethon, mythological horse, equine, equus, equestrian, fire, flames, flaming, burning, heat, dark, orange, red, brown, sand, beach, shore, coast, water, sun, sunset, sunrise, light, lighting, mood, dark, palomino, fantasy, featured, clouds, cloud, ominous, digital art, photomanipulation, majestic, walk, Victoria DeMore, VictoriaDeMore

Exhausting, isn’t it?! Now… I know this is extreme… but I have seen people tag work like this. Of course if you’re used to doing things that way, you would be reluctant to change all your work to 10 tags.

Now. Go back to the list of questions in the section above.

  1. What is the subject of the piece? Aethon, a horse of mythology
  2. What is the focal point of the piece? the horse
  3. What are the MAIN colors in the piece? orange/brown
  4. Does the piece have a mood? kind of…dark
  5. If I were buying this, why would I be interested in it? If I liked horses, fantasy art, or was a kid who loves horses, the colors maybe
  6. Who will buy this? Is it targeted toward a specific audience? (i.e. adults, children, sport enthusiasts, foodies, a certain ethnicity/culture, etc) adults or children, those into fantasy art, horse lovers
  7. Does my target audience tend to purchase artwork? Am I charging too much? Not enough? Maybe, I don’t know enough about purchasing habits. Base on other similar fantasy artwork on Redbubble, I believe the price is fair
  8. If I were a buyer looking for art similar to this piece, what search terms would I use? horse, pegasus, fantasy
  9. If I wasn’t knoweldgable in the subject matter of this piece, what search terms would I use? horse

Notice how trends start appearing? Once you have a little worksheet put together, you can EASILY limit your tags. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Really, is someone looking for work like Aethon’s Rest going to search for sand and be interested in my piece? Chances are, they’ll be annoyed that their search term plays such a limited roll in my piece that they’ll just overlook it.

Our tags now become more targeted and descriptive of the piece
Tags: equine, fantasy, horse, mythology, orange, pegasus, winged, orange

We went from 53 tags down to 8! If we really wanted to, we could throw in the type of artwork or our artist name, or even if we categorize our own work with custom tags (i.e. VictoriaDeMore_equineart).

Benefits? Well honestly, A) doesn’t that look better? and B) actually better describe and lead those who are most likely to buy your work to YOUR art?

Another Note
I have seen some people post replies to RB’s announcement arguing that their pieces need descriptive tags.

Take a photograph of a car for example.

These member argue that they need to use the following for seperate tags:

  1. Make of the Car
  2. Model of the Car
  3. Year of the Car
  4. Color of the Car
  5. Body Type (i.e. 4 door, 2 door/coupe, convertible, etc etc)
  6. the word Car
  7. the word Automobile
  8. the word Auto
  9. Where the photo was taken
  10. Any slang terms for the Car
  11. Maybe words describing any detaling on the car
  12. Time of Day or Season or Month etc etc
  13. Name of Car Show if taken at a Car Show
  14. Words describing anything else in the photo
  15. The artist’s custom tags to categorize their images (i.e. VictoriaDeMore_cars)
  16. The artist’s name
  17. Media (in this case, photograhy)
  18. Plurals of words regardless of if they’re applicable

By using the questions I introduced in earlier sections… are all of these really needed? Do you really thing someone looking to buy your photo of a ‘69 Mustang is going to search the name of the car show you saw it at? If the photo is a close up shot of the car, do you think they’re going to want to buy your piece if they’re searching Los Angeles, CA? If there’s a dog standing next to the car, will they search dog and buy a picture that is really of a car?

Again… you need to be honest. Keep in mind I am not suggesting that you are dishonest with your potential customers by overzealous tagging, so don’t take it personally. I mean that you need to be as true to your image as possible. Remove your attachment and undying desire to share it with as many people (whether they are actually interested or not) as possible.

There is More to This That We Don’t Know Yet
From what I gather based on trolling the RB announcement, there are more changes in store. We aren’t privy to all of it for some reason. They don’t have to let us know… they don’t have to include us in any decision. It’s a free site, they provide us with a lot of services for free, only charging when we sell work. It’s actually a pretty good deal when you think about it.

I believe the whole way we search within Redbubble will be changing. Some glimpses into it include that searches will incorporate words in your artworks’ titles. I’m guessing this is to discourage people from having untitled pieces… but it also hurts those who like to have rather abstract titles to their pieces. I’m not all on board with that idea, but maybe there are other things we don’t know.

Main point: Until Redbubble actually says anything (and hopefully when they do, they’ll actually EXPLAIN it fully)… we don’t know what they have up their sleeves.

I hope this has helped you. If you are still frustrated and just HAVE to tell Redbubble how you feel, go right ahead. Just realize that things will go according to planned, whatever Redbubble’s unannounced plan is.

If you want to access the Feedback/Suggestion Forum, go here
To see Redbubble’s announcement regarding these newly introduced changes, click here
And, for Redbubble help on tagging, click here

Want Tagging Help?
If you’d like to, I’d be more than happy to look at your work and current tags to help you whittle them down. I only ask that you don’t get defensive. If I make a suggestion, realize it’s only that… a suggestion. Sometimes it helps to have an outside view on your work, but only some people can handle having some constructive criticism. I know I don’t handle it well, although I appreciate it when it’s put the right way… which in and of itself is an artform (the ability to provide constructive criticism with the right amount of tact, honesty, respect, understanding and humility). So, only ask me to help tag if you can take it the right way and I will try to put it the right way :-) Deal?


  • JanT
    JanTover 4 years ago

    Well expressed and written! Excellent examples, too. You’re right; all will be revealed eventually, but things take time. RedBubble is a business, and their business is to make money. If we have the chance to make money, too, then all the better.

  • JanT
    JanTover 4 years ago

    Thank you for posting a link to your excellent article from the alphabetized and indexed Tutorials Library group. We hope more people will find and benefit from your journal article and tutorial.

  • Thank you Jan! I hope this can be of help to some people. I’ve been wanting to write this for a while :-)

    – Victoria DeMore

  • onefourseven
    onefoursevenover 4 years ago

    Nice work!! There are a few over here who could do with reading this and stop having childlike tantrums!! :o)

  • To be honest, I don’t believe Redbubble has done a good enough job explaining things. While I don’t agree with those members throwing tantrums (I mean really, once that happens what is the likelihood of RB listening to anyone), I think that what needs to be done is that journal needs updated with a fresh one… just about the tagging. And Redbubble needs to address the Bulk Edit issue. People don’t seem to understand that this is a free service… but at the same time Redbubble needs to be responsive to its memberships needs.

    Idk… I was just attempting to fill that gap until RB wakes up and teaches people what tagging is supposed to do and how the new search is going to run…. with a few injections of sarcasm now and then to keep it juicy. :P

    Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    – Victoria DeMore

  • Mitch Labuda
    Mitch Labudaover 4 years ago

    I like the entry. In the old days, many tags/keywords was the norm. Cast a big net and draw in lots of hits, related or not.

    Now, it is relevancy. Is the tag/keyword relevant to the, in this case, art.

    Search Engine Watch is a great site to learn from, also.

  • Thanks for the comment Mitch and thanks for the reference to Search Engine Watch.

    Actually, I’ve been working for about 2 1/2 years in Research Marketing as a student assistant, so I’ve picked up on the whole SEO thing and other fun tools of the trade. It hurts to hear people upset thinking that this is going to hurt them when really, they will still be grabbing people, just people more likely to be looking to buy their work (instead of just anyone and everyone). Number of views might not be helped, but number of sales may.

    Time will tell, but I think RB is doing the right thing… just wish it was better explained by RB so members weren’t so upset and confused.

    – Victoria DeMore

  • Tiffany Dryburgh
    Tiffany Dryburghover 4 years ago

    Very nicely put, Victoria! Really well thought through and clearly communicated. Not to mention very kind of you to do so!

    My only gripe with these changes is the fact that have brought them in without working on the tools we need to make the changes without such labour!! (ie. the bulk edit thingy – and yep, sure have voted for it in the feedback forum – and a method for grouping images such as we have for the bubblesites) But, as you say, we just need to do a Pollyanna and put a positive spin on the whole ordeal!

  • Tiffany, you have hit the nail on the head. Sadly, I think many companies tend to put someone’s pet project ahead of bolstering or maintaining the infrastructure… Bulk editing should never have been let go this long, and they definitely should never have expected this news to go over well without giving members the tools to do it in a reasonable fashion.

    But, it is Redbubble’s site. If they want to conduct their business this way, they may lose members for it. Who knows.

    I have always been happy with the quality of product Redbubble produces and I’m not going anywhere. They stop doing anything to progress forward and I might, but I figure they provide me with a service I’m unwilling or incapable of doing myself… for free (until I sell something). What more can I ask for? :-)

    Thanks very much for your comment! I’m so glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate your kind words!

    – Victoria DeMore

  • Debbie Robbins
    Debbie Robbinsover 4 years ago

    Very well put Victoria!!! As a newbie, I have always struggled to COME UP WITH TEN or more words to describe my pieces… LOL so maybe there are newbies out there, such as I who aren’t very upset… :)))

  • lol Good point! There are many people out there not upset. But there are many who are. Who knows what will happen. People will either leave or swallow their pride and settle for RB’s changes. I remember when they introduced the new card format… people were PISSED. Excuse my language. They didn’t understand, they argued, they wanted square cards, they wanted their work to show up correctly, they wanted the option to make cards full bleed or not, they wanted the option of backgrounds. Sadly, RB isn’t a democracy, it’s a business. RB went with what they felt was best, what would sell. Maybe they lost some members bc of it… but considering they kept the new card format, I doubt their sales of the new cards has been aweful. We just have to roll with the punches. Learn as RB changes.

    – Victoria DeMore

  • Marjolein Katsma
    Marjolein Katsmaover 4 years ago

    The whole idea of forcing us to reduce our ‘tags’ to 10 while STILL not defining how they are actually going to be used, is plain ridiculous. What ‘Backstage’ is talking about now is ‘selectors’ (which is not at all the same concept as tags!) and claiming they know how to do SEO (without any evidence for it and only evidence against it – to start with, the position on the page of our tags.)

    I have no idea what is needed to create a good list of ‘selectors’ (I’ll call them that for want of a better term), but I DO know what is needed to properly tag – and that does include synonyms, and (with few exceptions) location (for which you need 3-4 tags to be in line with the IPTC standard). But the ‘selectors’ are clearly meant for ‘selecting’ inside of RedBubble, which I’m not all that interested in. People are not going to search in RedBubble unless they find the site first, and for that you need real tags (as many as possible and relevant) as well as incoming links.

    So, I’, not bothered by what RB intends to truncate my tags to – I’m spending my time to make a full inventory of my work on RedBubble, including all tags*. And then. later, my tags will appear in my descriptions, where search engines will actually be able to find them.
    (And all this will be done with the magic of scripts! RedBubble doesn’t give us any tools – but I will.)

    What RedBubble is doing right now is incredibly stupid, and really, really destructive. Many people will leave, and sales volume will go down.

  • I think we need to be patient and get RB some time. Yes, they may lose members. If anyone is that disgruntled over this then they should leave. But the way I’ll continue to view it is that it is a free service. They’re doing work for me that I don’t want to do myself.

    You clearly know a thing or two about SEO. I liked what you had posted on the Backstage at RB announcement in regards to how Google and searches find pages. People need to understand that to ensure they are found, they have to make sure there are sites linking into their work.

    Maybe SEO is understood by RB. I believe in the staff to be knowledgeable and constantly trying to improve the site. BUT, they’re trying to talk to a large audience. Not everyone does understand SEO and the associated terminology and processes. I’d rather see them continue to develop whatever they have going on than make sure they explain it 2 ways (one being dumbed down for the rest of us and the other being a more informative high end language understood by less people).

    I think many people on RB are on here because they aren’t known well. RB gives people like me the opportunity to have work viewed. Who views it? I don’t know that, but I do get views and the occassional sale. If people knew me and said ‘Hey! I want to by her stuff!’ then I wouldn’t need people to find RB first and search for my work. If the case is that a person wants people to find his/her work high up in the list when they search Google for say ‘fractal art’ then maybe the artist should have his/her own website. That way he/she could better control the SEO, view better analytics, etc.

    I’m betting if it really really matters that much to someone, they probably already sell or at least market their work elsewhere. Seems like a lot of vested interest for just a the casual Redbubble only user (where they provide free accounts to anyone who wants one, no fees, no subscription costs, and no applications to be a member).

    – Victoria DeMore

  • Marjolein Katsma
    Marjolein Katsmaover 4 years ago

    One thing: I’m not patient to wait for them to destroy my tags! I’m going to rescue them first because I will still need all of them.

  • plunder
    plunderover 4 years ago

    I have built and designed webpages in the past and one thing that is done is “meta tags” which helps users find our webpages when they are loaded and people are searching for something specific. In essence it is the same as tagging your work here. I have never heard of limiting the tags used to identify your work, and belong to several other art sites that prefer you add as many tags as possible. I have nearly 700 images uploaded here and do not have the time, good internet connection, nor the patience to re-do work I have already done. I think it would be easier if I just deleted my work.

    I am not trying to be negative here, but practical. Perhaps a lot more warning would have been appropriate for those of us with large galleries.

  • Mitch Labuda
    Mitch Labudaover 4 years ago

    The refined system is adding page views for me, which is what, I am, after.

    Google picks up the tags and descriptions of my works in the title.

    Now, the experimentation can begin, to see what works and what does not, with titles and tags.