Case study

Creating the world’s first GIF search engine.

There’s a GIF for that

The debate over how to pronounce GIF remains unsettled, but it’s indisputable that GIPHY is the default platform for finding and sharing the perfect animated GIF for any moment.

Before GIPHY, there was no unified way to discover, search, or share the emerging media format. Individuals created and shared animated images, primarily on the microblogging platform Tumblr.

One weekend in 2013, GIPHY’s founders launched a web bot to find and archive all the GIFs it could scrape, along with associated hashtags and metadata. That same weekend, co-founder Alex Chung engaged AKDM to define and execute the nascent startup’s product and growth strategy with a hyper-focused approach to SEO in order to ensure that GIPHY would dominate Google’s organic search results for GIF content.


First, AKDM created a tagging and search strategy to help people discover thousands of unstructured pieces of data. We defined GIPHY’s naming conventions, structured the detail and category level pages, and created an automated metadata tagging system. Our work ensured optimal discoverability for every search query, ongoing refinement, and indexing to win on SEO.

We also defined an editorial strategy for curating collections and optimizing shareability in partnership with GIPHY's VP of Communication. Our focus was proactively identifying times of increased traffic related to holidays or (New Year’s Eve, e.g.) big cultural moments (Super Bowl, e.g.), and developing content strategies around them. At the same time, we helped define an evergreen strategy to fuel SEO growth.

Lastly, AKDM collaborated with GIPHY leadership to define a roadmap and set annual goals for growth. With continuous organic growth, GIPHY outperformed the competition. As traffic and mindshare grew, so did GIPHY, raising $150M in venture capital funding prior to its acquisition by Facebook for $400M in May 2020.

What we did

  • URL taxonomy structure
  • Metadata and landing page strategy
  • Editorial strategy
  • Audience research
  • Search and App Store keyword strategy
  • Metadata tagging automation
  • Paid media strategy & execution
“AKDM was instrumental in defining—and executing—our foundational strategy to become the go-to destination for GIFs. Over the last seven years, they have continued to be an exceptional partner in shaping our growth and long-term roadmap, helping us to evolve and build our market position. AKDM not only brought strategic expertise, they truly felt like they were part of the GIPHY team.”
Alex Chung
Founder & CEO, GIPHY

By the numbers

Google search result for GIF
Years in partnership, since GIPHY's founding
Daily user reach
GIFs available on the platform

3 big takeaways


Automation can unlock SEO at scale

SEO readability

Readability is critical for good SEO, but this makes automation tricky. GIPHY added millions of pages and thousands of new pieces of content daily. Relying on humans alone to index, tag, and update GIPHY’s ever-growing library was not going to scale.

AKDM teamed up with GIPHY’s technology team to scale our SEO strategy. Together, we defined an automation process with clear, consistent naming conventions. Investing in custom technology gave GIPHY the power to organize content for SEO and a better user experience.


Grow responsibly

Quality over quantity

As the platform grew, so did searches for not-safe-for-work (NSFW) content, which GIPHY did not want to be known for.

We helped GIPHY identify higher-quality audiences, like early adopters, to feed long-term growth. Together, we developed a strategy to de-prioritize NSFW and other low-value content while promoting downloads and engagement from more advertiser-friendly content categories. We also implemented accessibility guidelines to make content easy to discover for more people.


Borrow the best across industries

Finding the right GIF

Not only did we want to help in build a superior product for GIFs, but also a superior product for users. We leveraged our e-commerce experience — where product category and list pages are common ways to browse and find items — to optimize GIPHY's SEO to allow people to find a "shopping list" of possible GIFs available for the very moment or feeling they were looking to express. Capitalizing on social moments, we curated pages for holidays and other traffic-spiking moments.

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