Visual search will become a viable alternative to text or voice search. It’s wise for companies to learn about visual search optimization as much as traditional SEO. This new method probably won’t replace text-based search engines completely. Rather, it will be used in tandem. Online marketers should consider how this new option will change SEO, and how SEO will evolve as visual search develops to more popular. Visual search marketing is here to stay.
Humans like images. In fact, our brains evolved to recognize images instantly. This means we can look at a picture, and in less than 13 milliseconds, know exactly what we see. The task of creating technology that mimics the human brain in understanding images is a huge task. The technology must be able to quickly process images, and identify objects within the image, to generate similar results.
Visual Search Explained
How does visual search work? A visual search is not the same as image search. Image search is where a user inputs a word into Google or another search engine, and the search engine gives related images. Visual search is when an image is used instead of a text term. It’s also called reverse image search.
The machine learning program must then look for objects within the image, and search for images related to those objects. This means if you have an image of a specific desk you’d like to buy, you can simply pop it into Google and find a similar one for sale.
If this sounds too good to be true, in a way it is – it’s still limited. The program must be able to recreate a human mind’s image processing ‘software’ before searching. It has to be able to recognize colors, shapes, sizes, and patterns, just like the human mind.
Nonetheless, in the not too distant future, visual search will improve and become commonplace in our collection of internet tools. At the moment, the main options are Google Lens, Pinterest Lens, and Bing Visual Search. Companies like Amazon may start to enter the visual search space soon.
Visual Search and SEO
So, what does this mean for SEO? First, you should optimize your pages for images. That is, have several images on every page. Hosting your images on trusted pages, too, and ensure file names are keyword optimized for the best SEO results.
Search engines can already index images and videos, and rank them. That’s why videos and images already have to be optimized for SEO. With the rise of images and videos popularized by YouTube and Facebook, a lot of this process has already started. But everything will change once this process becomes more mainstream.
Imagine if you could simply take a photo of a product, and then search for it on a retailer’s website. This cuts out many websites and online business in the process. For example, you see an old blue plate. With one click, you may learn it’s an antique, who made it and when, its value, and its price. What if you come across something confusing? Snap a picture. Then, upload and learn how to use and maintain that product.
For example, I found a liquid level indicator in my grandparents’ house. I initially though it was some kind of joke electric shock device, or an important component of some other machine. I used Google Lens to investigate. After adjusting the angle of the image and moving to a white background, Google Lens took me to Amazon. I learned the device’s metal prongs were for the inside of an empty cup. You’d then then fill with coffee or tea until the dangerously hot liquid reaches the level of the prongs. At that point, the device sounds a quiet alarm.
If I hadn’t had access to this information, I might have just disposed of this product. But because of visual search, I was able to understand and give the product to someone who could use it.
What’s Next for Visual Search?
Visual search is still in early stages when it comes to accurately recognizing what it sees. However, visual search should empower consumers because of the easy access to knowledge of the best prices, for example. In the future, visual search could have the ability to accurately identify fake versions of a product.
SEO marketers can catalogue images with microdata. This may seem tedious, but the enhanced description paired with optimized images will help your page rank higher in visual searches. Use metadata for your website’s images in addition to your site itself. Increase your images changes of turning up in a search by using microdata and metadata.
Visual search relies on algorithms to match content for online users. SEO marketers can use this to their advantage by structuring data to make images easier to process for visual applications.
You should also optimize images for mobile use, submit images to image sitemaps, create alternative attributes for images with target keywords, and set up image badges to run through structured data tests.
SEO changes fast. Visual search engines like Google Lens will revolutionize how we look for things online. However, it will be possible to adapt to the new SEO practices.