Visual search is an up-and-coming tool that’s set to make dramatic changes in the way people shop, search and gain information online. We have already witnessed the progression of voice search tools, and we’ll soon see businesses all over the world place focus on the advancement of visual search as well.
What is Visual Search?
Much like voice search, visual search now allows us to search by image instead of text. Visual search AI systems scan and analyze the components of an image to find similar matches online.
It should be no surprise that Google is already positioning itself as a major player in visual search. Google Lens allows users not only to search for similar photos online but can process information from real life. Input a photo of Disneyland, and Google can give you park hours, ticket prices, and fun facts. The potential uses for visual search are vast.
Other companies have already followed suit. While Google Lens is only available on Pixel phones, Bing Visual Search offers similar functions on any platform.
Visual Search for E-Commerce Sites
Some of the biggest implications for visual search lie in retail. Images are extremely powerful selling tools, particularly on e-commerce sites, where a consumer may never have the chance to see a product in-person.
E-commerce sites rely on images and strong copy. But images appear to hold the most weight. Eye tracking studies from the Nielsen Norman Group found that consumers spend far more time on images than text. Even on a web page where text occupied 316% more space than images, the user being tracked spent 10% more time on photos.
People are also better at remembering pictures. After hearing information, we only remember 10 percent of it after three days. But when that information is paired with relevant images, recall increases to 65 percent.
The impact of images and visual search hasn’t been lost on big-name retailers. In 2017, eBay announced Find It On eBay. This visual search tool would allow users to search for an image and find all similar product listings on eBay.
How to Optimize for Visual Search
While visual search is still in development, you can stay ahead of the game by optimizing your e-commerce site for visual search now. Considering that 93 percent of consumers report that visual content is very influential in a purchasing decision, visual search is positioned to become a valued tool for online shoppers.
1. Use Multiple, High-Quality Images
Use several images on your website to showcase your product clearly. Include photos from multiple angles and perspectives to maximize your chance of appearing in visual searches.
2. Work on Image Text
It’s more than ever it’s important to optimize image-associated text with keywords. Text tied to your images includes alt tags (also called alt descriptions), title tags, file names, and captions. Each of these four areas is another chance to optimize your image for SEO.
3. Include Images in Your Sitemaps
When revising and submitting your sitemap, consider submitting an image sitemap as well.
4. Add Image Badges
In 2017, Google quietly extended image badges to their image search. Badges are simple overlay labels on an image that indicate what type of image you’re seeing. Categories currently include recipes, videos, products, and gifs (animations).
Follow Google’s instructions to add these category “markups” to your page and have image badges show up on your photos.
5. Optimize Your Image Sizes and Formats
Learn and apply image optimization tips, particularly those encouraged by Google. Considerations include choosing between vector and raster images, using scalable images, and finding a balance between image quality and fast load speeds.
6. Run Tests
Don’t rely on sales or other trickle-down metrics. Run structured data tests on your site to get an accurate picture of your performance. There are several free tools available to check the status of your site, including Google’s free structured data testing tool.
Visual search is on the way and fortunately, optimizing your site for success isn’t a difficult process. With a few adjustments, you can position your website to receive new traffic from visual search.
Search methods continue to change and adapt to consumer preferences. If you haven’t yet optimized your site for voice search, or still aren’t sure of the best SEO practices for voice, it’s not too late to get started.