Unveiling visual search: SEO’s next big game changer

25 July 2023
8 minutes

In short

Welcome to the world of visual search, the next big game changer in the competitive world of SEO. In this guide, we will explore the potential of visual search, how it can help grow your business and reach new and untapped audiences.

Visual search offers a seamless and intuitive user experience, empowering potential customers to find what they need with just a photo or image upload. It enhances engagement, boosts conversion rates and increases user satisfaction, making it an indispensable tool in your SEO arsenal.

This search type goes way beyond providing a convenient and streamlined search experience. By optimising images and utilising long-tail visual keywords, you can attract niche audiences, build brand loyalty, and improve search rankings, helping you gain and maintain a competitive edge.

So, grab yourself a refreshing beverage, and let’s uncover the strategies and tactics that will lead your business to sustainable growth and success with visual search.

an image of a person using visual search

What is visual search?

Visual search is a revolutionary technology that allows users to search for information using images instead of text-based queries. With the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, search engines can now “read” and understand the content within images and provide accurate and relevant search results.

Picture this: as a customer, you have the power to snap a photo and ask a search engine to identify relevant product offers or gather information to aid your decision-making process. Now, imagine the opportunities for your brand when using visual search to enrich the buyer journey and transform your lead generation strategy.

For businesses, visual search presents an ideal chance to optimise visual content, harness long-tail visual keywords and stand out from the competition, ultimately improving search rankings and brand visibility.

How does visual search work?

Visual search relies on sophisticated algorithms that analyse images to identify objects, patterns and other visual cues. When a user submits an image query, the search engine matches the visual elements within the image against a vast database to deliver accurate results in an instant. To achieve this, search engines use advanced image recognition technologies, such as convolutional neural networks (CNNs) and deep learning models, to process and understand the content of images.

What are the benefits of implementing visual search for SEO?

The implementation of visual search can yield a variety of benefits for your business, particularly for SEO. Let’s explore some of these advantages.

You can provide an enhanced user experience

Visual search provides a more intuitive and user-friendly experience, enabling searchers to find what they’re looking for with just a few clicks. This improved user experience can lead to longer on-site dwell times, reduced bounce rates and increased user satisfaction, all of which are vital signals that search engines like Google and Bing use to evaluate a website’s relevance, domain authority and overall quality.

You benefit from improved engagement and higher conversions

By making product discovery and information retrieval more accessible, visual search drives higher engagement levels. When users can easily find what they want, they are more likely to convert into customers after all. In turn, this increased engagement and conversion rate can positively impact a website’s SEO performance, as search engines favour sites that convert well.

You can harness the combined power of voice assistants and visual search

The combination of voice assistants and visual search further reinforces SEO benefits for your business. As voice search becomes increasingly popular, users are more inclined to turn to their smartphones or voice-activated devices to perform searches. Visual search complements voice search by providing a seamless and interactive experience that encourages users to explore further, which builds brand loyalty and boosts user retention.

You increase SEO value

With visual search, image optimisation gains even greater significance. When images are correctly optimised, they become more likely to appear in visual search results, providing valuable opportunities for website visibility.

Top tip: Don’t forget to add proper alt tags and descriptive file names to your images and to create and update your image sitemaps. These are crucial aspects of image SEO that should not be overlooked.

You can target long-tail keywords

Visual search enables businesses to capitalise on long-tail keywords, which often have lower competition and higher conversion potential. Users are more likely to use specific visual queries, providing businesses with valuable insights into their target audience’s search intent and behaviour. So, incorporating these long-tail visual keywords into content and metadata can boost a website’s visibility in organic search results.

You stand out from the competition

As visual search is still a relatively new phenomenon, embracing this technology should give you a competitive advantage. By being early adopters of visual search in your SEO strategies, you can differentiate yourself from competitors and establish your brand as innovative and forward-thinking.

You can increase high-value mobile web traffic

In today’s mobile-first world, visual search gains even greater significance. When searching on smaller devices, the convenience and time-saving benefits of locating what you need through a simple image upload and a few clicks are remarkable.

To cater to your entire audience and enhance search rankings on all devices, including mobile, optimising websites for different screen sizes and integrating visual search capabilities is essential. Embracing visual search ensures a seamless and efficient search experience for all users, regardless of the device they use.

Who are the main players in visual search?

Several platforms have integrated visual search technology into their services. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key players:

  • Google Lens: Google Lens is an AI-powered visual search tool integrated into the Google Photos app and Google Assistant. Users can take photos or use existing images to search for products, landmarks, and much more.
  • Pinterest Lens: Pinterest Lens enables users to find ideas and inspiration by snapping photos of objects or scenes. The platform also provides related pins based on the image content.
  • Snapchat Camera: Snapchat Camera allows users to search for products on Amazon by pointing their camera at the physical item or its barcode.
  • Amazon StyleSnap: Amazon StyleSnap lets users discover similar fashion items on Amazon by uploading an image or taking a screenshot.
  • Bing Visual Search: Like Google Lens, Bing’s Visual Search offers users the ability to search using images and find similar images or products, recipes and so forth.
  • TinEye: TinEye is a reverse image search engine that helps users find the original source of an image or similar images across the web.
  • Clarifai: Clarifai is an AI platform that offers image and video recognition capabilities, empowering businesses to leverage visual search technology.

How to optimise your images for visual search

To make the most of visual search, it’s crucial to optimise your images effectively. Here are some essential tips to help you get it right the first time.

  1. Always start with high-quality images: It may sound obvious, but always begin with high-resolution, visually appealing images that are relevant to your content.
  2. Optimise size and file types: To improve visual search and enhance user experience, compressing images without compromising quality is crucial. One effective best-practice approach is to use image formats that offer better compression. By optimising image size and choosing file types like WebP or JPEG 2000, loading times can be significantly reduced while preserving image quality. This ensures faster and smoother visual search results for users, making the overall experience more seamless and enjoyable.
  3. Choose the right image titles: Use descriptive and relevant titles for your images, incorporating targeted keywords where appropriate. This helps search engines understand the context of your images and improves their discoverability in visual search.
  4. Include optimised, user-friendly alt tags: Alt tags provide alternative text for images, making them accessible to users with visual impairments. Including relevant keywords in alt tags also contributes to image SEO.
  5. Add keyword-rich descriptions: Accompany your images with descriptive and informative text that complements the visual content. This not only aids visual search but also enhances the overall SEO of your webpage.

Top tips and best practices for visual search

Now, let’s move on to some guidance on how to get your overall visual search strategy in great shape.

Use structured data and sitemaps

Incorporating structured data and image sitemaps can significantly enhance the performance of your images in visual search. Structured data provides additional context to search engines, and image sitemaps help search engines discover and index your images more efficiently.

Leverage influencer marketing

Leveraging influencer marketing with visual search can amplify your brand’s reach and engagement. Collaborate with influencers who can showcase your products through visual search, which should help you to attract more potential customers to your business and increase your brand reach, generally.

Use chatbots at key touchpoints

Integrating chatbots into your visual search strategy can improve user interaction and provide speedy assistance to customers and leads seeking product recommendations based on images.

Adopt image-controlled browsing

As you know, visual search allows users to navigate websites by clicking on objects within images. Make it as easy as possible for these valuable leads by ensuring your website is optimised for image-controlled browsing to enhance user experience and boost engagement.

Combine visual search with text

While visual search is powerful on its own, combining it with traditional text-based SEO can amplify your website’s discoverability. Use relevant text and image content to reinforce each practice so you can make sure you provide a comprehensive and engaging experience for all your website visitors.

Infographic about how to leverage influencer marketing to expand your brand's reach

The future of visual search: MUM

Visual search technology is developing in leaps and bounds. As you can imagine, Google is at the forefront of innovation in this field.

The search giant’s latest technological marvel, MUM (Multitask Unified Model), promises to revolutionise search experiences across languages and formats, which could benefit both B2B and B2C businesses in a variety of ways. As a search technology, MUM is already 1,000 times more potent than BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), Google’s previous algorithm that sought to understand users’ search intention. MUM aims to surpass the work of BERT, getting to grips with search queries with exceptional precision and reducing the need for multiple searches.

MUM’s multimodal search capabilities enable businesses to cater to various content formats, including video, voice and visual content. As these formats often lead to better engagement, companies can now deliver content in the preferred format, enhancing user experiences and interactions.

MUM operates as a multilingual and multimodal system, combining a T5 text-to-text framework and Transformer architecture. It boasts an impressive ability to comprehend at least 75 languages and can handle multiple variables simultaneously. This makes it a groundbreaking development in search engines — a truly multilingual model.

For businesses, MUM’s impact is yet to be fully measured, but the possibilities are enticing. The introduction of multilingual search results means increased international traffic, potentially exposing brands to new markets beyond their native language region. However, this kind of exposure might not always lead to relevant traffic, as users seeking local products and services may prioritise businesses within their own countries.

an image of a vector that is using visual search

Embracing the future of SEO with visual search

As you can see, visual search offers some exciting opportunities to grow your business online in 2023 and beyond. However, to tap into visual search’s full potential, it’s crucial to get your strategy and tactics right to ensure you leverage its advantages. Taking the above guidance on board will certainly set you off on the right foot.

It’s important to remember that even with the power of visual search, great content remains the foundation of any successful SEO strategy. Before embracing visual search, ensure your website boasts compelling, informative and engaging content to entice users and keep them coming back for more.

If you’d like to find out more about how the talented team of freelance experts at Contentoo can help you produce the content your brand and customers deserve, get in touch today. We would love to help.

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