The Rise Of Visual Search: All You Need To Know For SEO

SEO is still vital to the success of any website, especially when it comes to improving your Google rankings. It is also always important to focus on keyword research. But it has been met with many changes over the past few years. One of the reasons is due to new technology and algorithms that regularly change to adjust to the online environment and industry market. One such factor that has greatly influenced and changed the fabric of SEO is visual search.

What is Visual Search?

Visual search is the process of fulfilling a search by using AI and machine learning. It does this by analysing all of the components of a visual such as a picture or photograph. The technology that runs this is similar to the same technology that Facebook uses to recognise the faces of friends you’ve tagged on Facebook. Remember the little square that goes over your friends’ faces? The same type of machine learning is employed when using visual search.

The future of visual search looks bright regarding how it will be used in the future. Already, this type of technology is being used to fulfil more extensively searches that people make through visual cues.

In the future, you will be able to view an image online, read labels, and look at features using visual search AI that renders real results that will enhance your shopping experience. Some modern day tools such as Google Lens allows you to see an image of a landmark and give you details about it without having to read paragraphs of information in the text. This will save immense amounts of time for the searcher and will allow them to learn what they need to know with images only.

AI Visual Search

How will the Technology be used?

The new visual search technology will be used in the shopping arena, as well as for events such as sporting events and tickets for concerts, and other things that before could only be presented using traditional text or links within a website. All of these things will improve your Google rankings shortly and will help you focus your keyword research in ways that will enhance visual search capabilities.

Pinterest’s Visual Search Model

Pinterest is an interesting platform due to its highly visual, photo-based platform that allows you to select different parts of a photo to find similar products to purchase. For those who have worked with digital media for a while now, you may remember as I do the old “image maps” that allowed users to click on a specific area of the picture. Each part of the image map represented a different website and had its link.

This is similar to how the new visual search works within online platforms today.

But the technology is much more sophisticated than it was in times past and it is created using AI and machine learning rather than simple graphic maps.

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How Visual Search will affect SEO

Visual search is a great thing, but it may affect SEO, how the internet calls up information and search terms in the future. First, it is important to understand that most visual search will be seen primarily in the retail industry. This format works best with retail due to the inherent nature of the retail business. Images and thumbnails are used to present the customer with a variety of choices that are clickable to other pages for the sales page.

Therefore, the focus of SEO in the future as visual search becomes more popular and commonplace will be to make sure images are optimised for Google and other search engines using traditional tactics. Also, as the technology continues to improve, it will be necessary to create clutter-free imagery and visual search tools that help make it easier to rank in the searches.

The focus of search engine optimisation will be image-oriented, and it will create the need for e-commerce owners to focus more on the quality, size, and aspect ratio of their images so that they can attract customers to their site and their products through visual search techniques. This means having plenty of pictures as well as learning how to optimise it for a target audience.

Tips on How to Optimise for Visual Search

Below are some tips that have worked for many online retailers to optimise for visual search. Look through this list of tips and think about how you can implement some of these ideas into your web content to accommodate visual search.

Offer a Range of Clear Images for Each Product

Since things are swiftly moving toward a visually-oriented search method, online retailers will need to focus on creating excellent visuals for each product. This means taking the best pictures possible and offering a range of different images for each product. By offering a wide selection of images, your visitors will be able to choose the options they want from various choices that you provide on your products.

Providing visuals is an excellent way for business owners with products that have a variety of colour or size options as customers will be able to choose their colour or sizes quickly by selecting a small picture.

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Optimise Image Titles with Target Keywords

Don’t think that keywords will disappear with the advent of visual search. In fact, it will become even more critical. The difference will be regarding how keywords are used. Rather than focusing on text within a written paragraph or description, you will focus on the image titles instead. That is where you will put your keywords that you will use to attract the search engines.

Then when people search for the search terms you have chosen, your image will come up as a result of their search. Keep in mind that, in practical terms, your images will only be recalled when people put in the keywords that you have designated in your image titles so you should focus on making them as good as possible. Also, ensure that you optimise your images for search.

Submit Image Sitemaps

We talked about image maps earlier. The new and improved image maps are known as image sitemaps that work with visual search. Image sitemaps work by using the meta tags and metadata that is available on your site that gets communicated to Google through image sitemaps. Since Google has an “image only” search option on its website, you will be able to utilise image only search that will allow your visual images to appear based on your chosen image titles and keywords.

Set up Image Badges

Image badges are another way that you’ll be able to improve the results you’ll get on your site from visual search options. On August 1 of last year, Google announced the unveiling of image badges. These badges are meant to help smartphone users, and they appear in mobile search results when people on mobile devices search for visual content through visual or image searches.

These image badges let the searcher know what type of content they will find on your website when they click to your page from the search results page. It’s like a quick visual preview of your site that saves time for the user. The visual preview may improve the search results for the user and guarantee that most users who land on your page are truly looking for your content. This may, in turn, improve your conversion rate, as well.

Types of Badges

There are some different types of badges currently available from Google. The most common types of badges now available are listed below:

  • Recipes
  • Videos
  • Products
  • GIFs

These are the only badges that Google currently has available. However, it is assumed since Google has a lot to gain from being involved in the visual search innovation, that they will continue to develop more types of badges shortly.

Image Badge example

Optimise Image Sizes and File Types

There is an old saying: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” This saying applies here in that, as visual search becomes a more commonplace, it will still be necessary to use the old ways of optimisation such as tweaking the image and file sizes for best quality. When we speak of best quality, note that we are talking about creating the best quality for the given situation. For example, if you are placing a large image on your main site to draw attention for first-time visitors, you will want the image to be larger, but you should still focus on download times and image quality. Make sure it will not slow down the time it takes to download your image.

Likewise, if you are placing your images on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll need to be aware of the specifications for optimum image quality for these sites, as well. If you need help, there is a guide for social media image placement available on the Hubspot site.

Run Structured Data Tests

To get more involved in improving the process of your copy that includes visual search content, you will want to run some structured data tests to see how your copy stands up to the test of visual search parameters. Google has an online data tool to test your data that is easy to use and available online.

Structured data test

The Future of Visual Search

One thing to remember is that technology is changing so rapidly that it’s difficult to keep up. This has always been the case, but it was never more true than with the recent developments we see with visual search and machine learning.

Right now, visual search is limited to Google Lens users, which is only available on Pixel phones. Current iPhones, which are the most popular of handheld devices, do not yet have access to this technology. However, you can have a limited look at visual search capabilities by visiting Bing Visual Search, which has been recently released to Bing users.

It is strongly recommended that e-commerce business owners check out the Bing Visual Search tool and others and read up on the changes as they are rolled out. Because there will come a day when the visual search may be the primary way retail sites are made available online.

It is also believed by many of us who live and work in the tech industry that visual search is only a precursor for even more spectacular things such as wearable technology that allows users to ‘search in the air’ or scan real-world objects to find out everything you need to know about them in a matter of seconds.

We shall see what the future holds. In the meantime, current business owners should learn everything they can about the capabilities of visual search so that they will be prepared when these changes roll out and the extreme becomes the norm.

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Going Forward

The visual search may seem to be a paradigm shift from traditional word-based search, but the future is here, so we must all adjust to the changes. The arrival of visual search does not mean that text-based content will soon be obsolete. It means that the prominent use of high-quality images and the optimisation of those images will become more important for website owners who wish to stay ahead of the curve when visual search becomes the norm.

In the words of Shakespeare, “Stranger things there are in Heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies.”