When someone talks about search, what do you think of? Does the Google search bar pop into mind?
For years, Google has been at the top of the heap for search engines. Since its inception, Google raced to the top and has stayed way ahead of other companies, maintaining its 86 percent dominance ever since.
What matters most in gaining traction in search results is content. The more content you have, the better you’ll rank in Google. It’s directed by keywords and phrases, pulling up the most relevant documentation depending on what the searcher searches for.
But what about visual search?
What is visual search?
The adage states: one picture is worth a thousand words.
At a mere glance of a photograph, it can transport you miles away to a different place and time. Memories are formed with the touch of a camera button. Even some of the most iconic photographs in the world are remembered in infamy, you don’t even need to see the photograph to know what it represents. How about the famous V-J in Times Square photograph of a sailor wrapping his arms around a woman and kissing her? Or the equally powerful image of a Saigon Execution?
But let’s say you didn’t quite know what you’re looking for. You have a vague memory of something, but you can’t quite figure out how to describe it. So you type out a long phrase trying to achieve the right results.
And what comes back is disappointing at best.
Visual search pieces together all the details of an image and uses that to help generate ranking capabilities. When you upload photographs into Google, the search engine analyzes every component of the picture, using things like place, landmarks, colors, identifiable marks, and more.
That makes photos and words interconnected. In fact, if done right, it can make images even more powerful because of the number of words associated with it.
Images are an important part of your SEO strategy. People are visual learners. Depending on what you’re selling, they often want to view photographs first.
Words may be necessary, but only after you hook them with a photograph.
The biggest visual search providers
When you’re talking about search, Google always jumps out in front. And Google makes it easy to put your focus on searching images. Just type in a word and click the “images” tab. This will take you to Google Images search.
You can also use Google Lens right from your camera. It gives you a different way to look at the world around you. Through Google Lens, you can snap a photograph anywhere to help you out. Focus in on a train ticket – it can help you translate it. Love the couch in your best friend’s home? Use it to find similar sofas in the marketplace. It can even point you to complimentary home decor.
Google may be a big player, but they aren’t the only ones. Bing has a search tool similar to Google’s. Use the search bar to take a picture, and upload it to find something similar. Bing gives you the opportunity to draw a box around the image, so you can focus only on what you choose. It makes generating search results even more relevant.
And we’d be remiss to leave out Pinterest. The Pinterest app itself is created specifically to highlight photos. People Pin ideas to different boards, to dream, plan, and highlight things that matter in their lives. Of course, they make it easy to search based on photographs too. Pinterest Lens allows you to search any idea you capture using the Lens tool. This works perfectly for the things Pinterest is great at – fashion, decor, and cooking.
But no matter which tool people are using, you have to be findable in order for it to do you any good.
And if you aren’t focusing on beefing up your visual search capabilities, you’re losing potential customers to your competition, who is.
How to optimize for visual search
If you’ve been using web sites, blog posts, and social media to promote your business in any way, chances are you know how important content and images are to your bottom line. Changing one small detail can make all the difference.
But as you focus on building a stronger visual search strategy, there are key ways to add content to help it boost your rankings.
Add numerous images
This isn’t a time to skimp on good photography, trying to shoot your products with a cell phone camera. To optimize for visual search, quality is key to attract a prospect’s attention. You should also have multiple photographs, from different angles, and in different situations. Multiple images ensure searchers can find your product no matter what angle they search from.
This also means using high resolution images, with high quality lighting to ensure a great image. Resist using blurry images in dark situations. This isn’t appealing to your audience, and can make them turn faster to your competition. When in doubt, leave it out, and opt for investing in better quality photography.
Do your keyword research
Keyword research for photographs is different from what you would use for content. For a simple keyword search on Google, a searcher might start with “women’s dresses” and be rewarded with lots of content. But as she narrows her search and hones in on images, she’s going to refine what she wants. A “red cotton summer dress” may be just what she’s looking for. But she’ll only find it in your shop if you’ve taken the time to add the right keywords to your images.
Don’t forget about the proper metadata
When you photograph an image with your camera or mobile device, it has a generic file name: img5230.png, for example. Uploading it this way won’t help your visual search rankings or attract any attention in Google. It’s best if you change the file name, create a descriptive title, and add details that speak more clearly to the audience looking for the image.
Let’s talk sizes too
When you shoot an image with a camera, it can be a very large file that will bog down the search results. Yes, there is an optimal image size and file type too. Size the image appropriately for whatever devices your audience uses the most. They should look good on smartphones, tablets, as well as PCs. Be sure to compress the file size too. The key here is to reduce the file size without distorting the quality of the photo. That way, it can be viewed on any device in the highest quality possible.
Remember, Google always rewards for being high quality, for giving searchers what they want most. If that’s you, you’ll be rewarded with higher placement in visual search results, and have a healthier bottom line because of it.
The future is coming fast. Are you using the right tools to get there?