Visual search is the newest search method that perfectly suits the needs of the modern online world. A world in which we don’t know what we’re looking for and where virtual assistants and machine learning are used more frequently. When we think about it, visual search being the next step isn’t that hard to believe. But what does visual search mean, and how can you benefit from it? Let’s take a look in the world of visual search.
What Is Visual Search?
Visual search is searching for more information using images. This can be any kind of image, from real-life photos up to screenshots. A visual search engine like Google Lens uses this image to find a matching pair. The engine does this by labeling the image with keywords, so Google understands what the image shows and can find an image that matches the label keywords. To find out how Google labels your images, you can use the Google Vision API1. The image below shows how Google labels our header image:
Visuals search is mainly used when you’re not sure what you’re looking for or when you think ‘I’ll know it when I see it!’. This makes the intention of the search a whole lot different than the other search methods who aren’t that new anymore or who are just like visual search on the rise!
Searching Your Way
Since the beginning of the simplest way of searching called text search, more and more different search methods were introduced. Visual search is part of the sensory search, which contains text, voice, and visual search. However, the new techniques, like visual search, still can’t replace the old ones. Because every search method is used in another way, and they each serve another purpose as you can read about below:
It all started with typing a few words into a search field, also known as text search. This is what makes text search the oldest and most popular way of searching. Not particularly strange when you think of all the people using this method every day, besides the existence of new techniques. Text search is used for every purpose. However, it isn’t the fastest and, in some situations, the easiest method to use. For these purposes or goals, some new search methods are invented, like voice and visual search.
Image search and visual search are sometimes mistakenly mixed up. Image search already exists for years and only consists of searching for an image by using text. Meanwhile, visual search helps you find something by using every kind of image and shows you the information in writing or visuals. Image search is used when you know what you’re looking for.
Not only visual search is on the rise, but voice search is also making its entry. Voice search can be used for searching things or as a virtual assistant that maps out your route, adds groceries to your shopping lists, or helps you in any other virtual way.
With this in mind, voice search is used somewhat like text search, but because the intention of the question is known, it is a lot faster and easier. Besides that, voice search is used to find things locally. Want to know more about voice search? Read our article we wrote about earlier.
The Rise of Visual Search
Although visual search exists for a while now, machine learning causes it to make a considerable rise. It all started with Pinterest. Pinterest is a visual platform used to find inspiration and to create boards, like mood boards.
Because you only use Pinterest for searching images, and the main focus is for finding inspiration, visual search was a logical step for Pinterest. Pinterest came out with Pinterest Lens, a visual search tool used for finding out where to buy an item using just an image.
Features of Visual Search
Ever since Pinterest first started, visual search has grown a lot. That’s why you can use visual search for many other things than just searching nowadays. You can translate texts, recognize logos, icons, and celebrities, and only have to point your camera to a business card. It’ll automatically add the contact details to your phone. Besides this, you can use visual search to get more information about essential statues and buildings or reviews about a book.
Social media is starting to get the hang of it too. More and more social media use the camera to help their users with shopping. Instagram and Snapchat can send their users to an item in Amazon, by only using the camera in the apps. Facebook is working on a similar tool for its Marketplace.
Visual Search SEO
This new search method can also impact your organization. It’s important to understand that every organization is different, and your target group finds your organization differently than others. That’s why you need to look at your target group and website visitors’ behavior. Do they find your website using Google Images, then it is vital to take a good look at the images shown on your website.
You are already more visible for your target group by only using relevant and qualitative images. Besides this, it’s essential to check this checklist:
Create Pages Focused on What the Image Shows
Research of Backlinko2 shows that 32,5% of all pages that rank in Google Lens have a keyword in their page title and URL that matches the keyword that Google Lens labels an image. This means that when you create a page about the image you use, it will rank higher than when you use an image that matches the keyword but shows on a page that is about something entirely different.
Place Images at the Top of the Page
Google shows3 that they prioritize an image at the top of a page over other images. An image that is placed high on a page and is relevant to the other content will have a ranking benefit to other images. Research of Backlinko shows that a third of all Google Lens results are images that are placed in the top 25% of a page.
Create a Responsive Digital Platform
The responsiveness of your platform is crucial to Google Lens. It makes sure your platform functions and shows on every device, such as desktop, tablet, and mobile. Since most visual searches are done via mobile devices, it makes sense that Google Lens prioritizes responsive platforms.
Create Pages Made for Speed
Speed has always been a crucial ranking factor for Google. More than half of the online users will leave a website when loading takes longer than 3 seconds. Google also advises minimizing the loading speed when you want to rank in Google Images.
High time to optimize! Sadly, optimizing pages that are loaded with images can be a difficult task. That’s because images are huge and heavy compared to other content.
What you can do to enhance your page speed is to use Google’s image format Webp. This format is relatively small and, therefore, takes less effort to load fast. You can also only load the images that are visible on the screen, and let the other images load after that. This will enhance your page speed, so your online visitors can immediately view your content.
Use Descriptive File Names
Your file names are also crucial when ranking in Google Lens. Before Google used AI to understand images, file names and alt tags were crucial to see what the images were showing. Although AI is implemented for a while now, Google still uses file names to better understand what the image shows. So give your images a descriptive file name, so it will match the thing people are searching for with Google Lens.
As opposed to file names, alt tags don’t seem to be as crucial to rank in Google Lens. Alt tags is the text you assign an image after placing it in your web platform. Alt tags are read to people that are visually impaired, or when images aren’t loading right. Although Google still thinks alt tags are important for its Google Images results, research of Backlinko shows that just 11.4% of Google Lens results have a corresponding alt tag.
Create Long, Relevant Texts
Though most pages that rank in Google Lens results contain loads of images, they also contain a lot of text. On average they contain 1,631 words! That’s because Google uses the text around the image to better understand the content and context of the image. Google, therefore, advises users to place images close to text that is relevant to the image.
Create Pages With a High Authority
Pages with a high authority rank higher in search engines. The same applies to visual search engines. Your pages get more authority when more relevant pages link to your page. You only get more links to your page, when your page shows high quality content. And good content has always been a ranking factor of Google4. As Google puts it: well-written content is as important as visual content.
Backlinko researched this, and looked at the Domain Authority calculated by Moz. To rank high in Google Lens, your Page Authority needs to be at least 35 and your Domain Authority 64. Which is fairly high authority.
Look Outside Your Website
Although we’ve only talked about optimizing your digital platform, social media and external websites can also play a role. Backlinko shows that a tenth of all visual search results are from Pinterest and Amazon. Both platforms are loaded with images, load fast, are mobile-friendly, and have a high domain authority. When you want to rank in visual search results, these platforms are crucial.
Pinterest is a super visual platform, where people go to to find information. It’s no surprise that many visitors use this platform to get to know more about the thing they are looking for.
Amazon, on the other hand, is a webshop that B2C organizations use to sell their products. If you want to sell your products online - through your own webshop or Amazon’s - it’s essential to use high quality images that clearly show the product from every angle. Amazon is a great platform for any vendor, because it looks like Amazon is taking over the world. We’ll save this story for another time ;)
Visual Search for Your Organization
More and more organizations implement visual search into their company to help their users finding items of clothing, to recognize and watch out for animals in national parks, or as a translator.
But visual search could be used for scanning food or a menu and offer a recipe or a list of ingredients showing allergy information too. Or give more information about a concert or festival after scanning a logo/sticker or poster. There are plenty of ideas for using visual search. How are you going to implement visual search into your organization?