How Visual Search is Changing SEO

How Visual Search is Changing SEO

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but these days it’s worth a whole lot more when you consider the increasing value of visual search engines.

While it’s unlikely that visual searches will completely takeover standard text searches, the eCommerce industry is already benefiting from the new technology.

Think about it– have you ever been out and an item someone had caught your eye? Maybe it was a pair of shoes, a watch, or a handbag that had you thinking, “I just have to know where they got that!” Well, with the emergence of pixel-by-pixel visual search technology, you can simply snap a photo of those cute shoes and find them instantly online.

This is significant for eCommerce because, through visual search, buyers can find brands and products quickly and easily, without having to scour the web using hit-or-miss keywords.

The Emergence of Visual Search for SEO

Remember that infamous green Versace dress that Jennifer Lopez wore in 2001? If you do, then it might not come as a surprise to know that the desire to find images of her in that dress is what prompted the demand and concept for Google Images. 

Ten years later, Google introduced a Search by Image feature, which allowed for reverse image searches. This feature makes it possible for users to search for an image by either dragging and dropping a photo onto the search bar, uploading a saved photo, or copy and pasting a URL that points to an image into the search bar. 

So why is it just now changing how we approach SEO?

Well, another ten years of technological improvements have had a lot to do with it. Visual search has evolved to the point where technology can identify and compare every pixel of a picture. This enables the visual search engines to refine results according to color, size, shape, and other distinct details.

Currently, the major players in the visual search game are Google Lens and Pinterest Lens. But with the advancement of pixel-by-pixel technology, offering a visual search tool is becoming more accessible for others. Bing, TinEye, and ASOS are among those companies that now feature a visual search tool. And we can expect even more companies to follow suit.

Visual Search Strategies

According to the Search Engine Journal, only 35% of marketers plan to optimize for visual search through 2020. And yet, the technology is rapidly improving. That means that the companies who do optimize for visual search will have a leg up on their competition. Plus, when optimizing for visual search, some of the most fundamental SEO practices still apply. 

Here are some strategies that can help your business capitalize on the increasing value of visual search tools.

  • Use descriptive alt-text for indexation
  • Submit images to an image sitemap
  • Focus on boosting organic image visibility
  • Use unique images, not stock photos
  • Add captions when appropriate
  • Optimize image titles and attributes with keywords
  • Optimize for ideal image size and file type
  • Optimize images to render on mobile and desktop displays.

A simple way to lean into visual SEO is to start by ensuring you have several images for every page. You’ll also want to host your images on trusted pages and ensure they are saved with file names that contain related keywords.

It’s also important to note that images should be displayed clearly and have a single focus so that visual applications have an easier time processing them.

The Future of Visual Search

The future of visual search involves a more sophisticated way of deciphering images. When we look at images, we see beyond a sea of pixels. Instead, our minds automatically identify patterns and shapes based on past experiences. 

So, while visual search technology has improved, it is still far from capable of organizing images in the same way we do. Thus, the advancement of visual search technology is primarily focused on recognizing different shapes, sizes, and colors in images in the same way the human brain does.

For example, companies such as Google are investing a large number of resources to understanding neural patterns that expose how our brains interpret visual information.  

In the near future, the retail industry is expected to gain a significant edge with the use of visual searches, as this makes finding products easier than ever. 

Though it’s hard to predict exactly where visual search will take us, we know for sure that it’s not slowing down. Considering Gen Z’s preference for images over text, we should anticipate a rise in both the development and use of visual search technology.