WideRange Galleries websites have a built-in photo search feature that displays the results in an image thumbnail grid format, visually similar to a normal gallery. Taking this one step further, the WideRange software enables you to create a "search index" page - basically a list of suggested search terms, like a glossary of your photo archives. Check out the Search page on my own photo website to see how the Search Index page looks and functions. This is a very useful feature that offers numerous advantages:
Photo Archive Glossary
The obvious usefulness of a Search Index is that it serves as a glossary of your image archives, allowing people to quickly see the range of photo subjects and/or locations that you have available on your website. Search terms can be organized in hierarchies of sets and subsets up to 6 levels deep. This type of organized index could be especially helpful for photo editors browsing your site looking for certain desired images to license, or for customers searching for certain prints to purchase.
This is also an efficient way to manage large archives of photos without having to create and manage individual galleries for every single subject or location. For example you can create a hidden "Misc" or "Archive" gallery to hold large batches of misc photos, then as long as the photos are keyworded and captioned correctly, those photos will be available via the searches and the Search Index.
Separation of Galleries and Stock Archives
Another powerful advantage of setting up a Search Index page is that it allows us to make accessible large archives of photos which we don't necessarily want to include in our galleries.
Generally speaking it's recommended to keep our galleries are tightly edited as possible, to only showcase our very best work. Well-edited galleries look much more attractive as a whole and more inviting to browse through since each photo is a worthwhile treat. On the other hand, galleries that are full of lesser "filler" photos or redundant similar image variations usually don't look as impressive overall and can overwhelm and discourage viewers from browsing. But then, if we keep our gallery collections tightly edited, what do we do with all the other photos that we still might want to display on the website?
The Search Index solves this dilemma. You can keep only your best "fine art" photos in your galleries, while simultaneously having large archives of additional "stock" photos available via the Search Index.
Search pages can rank highly in Google
A key feature of the Search Index is that when you add a search term to the index, it gets its own URL address and you can also enter page text and meta keywords and descriptions. Plus, unlike normal user input searches, the Search Index pages are linked on the site and added to the Sitemap, so search engine spiders will index these search pages and they have the potential of ranking highly in Google.
Search Index "Aliases" improve search results
When you add search terms to the Search Index, you can also enter "alias" terms. These are alternative words that will be used to expand the search results. A search for a search term or its aliases will return results that match any of those words.
For example, a search term for "Great Sand Dunes" could have aliases of "Great Sand Dunes National Park, Great Sand Dunes NP, GSDNP". Then a search for any of those terms will return return results for photos matching any of those terms.
Not only does this improve the photo search results but it makes it easier to manage your photo keywords without having to enter keyword variations for every single photo.
How to build a Search Index
To start setting up your Search Index in the admin control panel, head over to Searches > Add, and start adding terms and aliases there. You can use the "parent" selection to nest search terms underneath other existing search terms to form a hierarchy in the list. Or, alternatively, you can just add a bunch of search terms then go to Searches > Rearrange to drag-and-drop the search terms into the desired sequence and hierarchy.
You can also enter some search terms to use for the sole purpose of organizing your search terms into categories; in this case if you don't want the category name to be searchable, just set its "Linked Search" setting to "no".
The final step, if you haven't done so already, is to ensure that your photos have the proper keywords to match the search terms. Photos are searched by their titles, locations, keywords, search tags, and (optionally) captions.
The WideRange admin also allows you to control a variety of settings for the photo search results pages, including the number of thumbnail columns, thumbnail sizes, number of thumbnails per page. Personally, I prefer my search pages to have a higher number of columns and smaller thumbnails compared to my galleries, since the search results may include a huge number of photos.
Also, you can select if you want the photo search engine to search the photos' captions or not. Enabling caption searching can expand the search results and is useful if you are a bit lazy about your photo keywording. On the other hand, if you are meticulous with your photo keywording you may get more accurate results by disabling the caption searching, so as to avoid any mismatches.
As we've seen here, the Search Index is a very powerful feature for WideRange Galleries websites. It improves the photo search results, provide an alternative way of presenting photo archives outside of the galleries, and can be very beneficial for SEO performance.