Traditionally, Google and other search engines are used to find specific text within the world wide web. However, sometimes that may not bring the results you are looking for. Visual searches are a great alternative to traditional web searches and often enhance user experience. Recent studies have found that the majority of Generation Z and Millenials prefer visual search capabilities over any other technology. However, there are a few things to consider when optimising your website for visual searches.
What are visual searches?
Visual searches work in 2 different ways. You can undertake a traditional web search and then navigate to the ‘image’ button within the search result menu. The more advanced way is to use a picture as your query input – by either choosing an image from your computer or pasting an image link from another website. With the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and visual recognition technologies, specific elements within the image are then analyzed and the user is provided with relevant information related to those elements.
How it began
Google has introduced stages of visual searches over the last 2 decades. The first version of Google Image Search was born in 2001 after the search engine was overrun with queries about a particularly interesting green dress worn by singer and actress Jennifer Lopez at the Grammy Awards the previous year. Later, in 2009, Google launched Google Goggles, an app that allowed users to search for information after taking a picture with their mobile phone camera. Discontinued in 2018, the app was then replaced by Google Lens which can recognise and analyse objects, animals, plants, landmarks, products, logos, artwork, text and more.
Since then, visual searches have gained immense popularity and are part of most online platforms, including Google Lens, Bing Visual Search, Pinterest Lens, Amazon StyleSnap and Snapchat Camera Search. Google Lens alone now denotes more than 8 billion visual searches per month, an increase of more than 2.5 within just one year.
Visual Search vs. Image Search SEO
While visual search optimisation and image search optimisation can both influence the general ranking of your website based on the pictures you are displaying, they are not the same thing.
Image search optimisation is more relevant for users that undertake traditional web searches, then look at pictures relating to that search. Best practices here include using modern file formats, including alt text and alt tags, and giving your pictures meaningful file names so that Google knows which images to present.
Visual search engine optimisation
In contrast, visual search engine optimisation (SEO) is relevant when users perform search queries using an image rather than text. For example, you can take a picture of a plant you would like to know more about. You upload this picture into the Google visual search console and as a result, you will most likely be presented with websites providing information on this specific plant as well as places to shop for it.
In order to make the most of visual searches and ensure that you are maximising the benefits, there are a few things to consider. As with adding any kind of content to your website, information is key.
Your website should offer multiple pictures of the products and services you are offering, showcasing different colours, angles and features where applicable.
Rather than just using the file name your camera has automatically assigned, make sure that each picture has a unique file name that also holds information about the actual image.
The higher the resolution, the more likely search engines will pick up your images. Ensure that your pictures are sharp and well-lit. Anything blurry, pixelated or otherwise distorted significantly decreases your chances of being noticed.
Image format and size
Just as important as your picture’s resolution are image size and format. Certain formats will impact loading times and performance of your entire website, thus interfering with user experience. Choose web-friendly formats that allow image compression without compromising on quality.
Just as for traditional web searches, keywords are a major factor when it comes to visual searches. Research which keywords your target audience will most likely use, and add those keywords to image titles, file names, descriptions, alt text and captions. However, avoid keyword spamming or stuffing. Instead, use the natural flow of language, be clear and concise.
Also known as ‘alt tags’ or ‘alt descriptions’, this is the text that will be displayed on your website if the image should not load properly. Use alternative text to give a brief summary of what your image is displaying. This will also help search engines better understand the meaning and context of what you are showing.
Captions are a great way to add keywords as well as provide additional information. Furthermore, they provide space for calls-to-action or can link to other relevant pages.
Visual search technology is particularly valuable for eCommerce stores. Not only can visual searches help attract more traffic to websites and online stores. They have also been shown to produce more conversions – turning website visitors into paying customers – and enhance user experience by matching services or products people are actually searching for.
Effective – users are more likely to find products and services that meet their needs as pictures reduce the frustration of typing search queries with the wrong keywords or browsing irrelevant results.
Conversions – sales are boosted because users find products faster and easier, they can compare prices on the spot and make a purchase with just a few clicks.
Convenient – users can take pictures on their phones anywhere, anytime, this saves time and reduces the hassle of typing on small screens.
Informative – through visual searches, users are provided with rich background information about their query, gaining knowledge about the world around them.
Enhanced shopping experience – visual searches bridge the gap between online and offline shopping by allowing users to find online products that are similar to those they find in-store and vice versa.
Locality – users can easily find local stores selling the product or service they are looking for.
Using images is a great way to attract new customers to your website or eCommerce store. How you incorporate those images into your website and your SEO strategy will have a significant impact on how well you are ranked among search engine results. Contact the friendly team at Energise Web today for more information. We specialize in web design and website development and offer a wide range of services including copywriting, SEO and digital marketing.