Search engines now understand the human language with up to 95 percent accuracy, with Google being the market leader. And by now, you likely think that there is nothing new that can be done with search. Well, visual search from Google, Bing, and Yahoo is the new trend, and it looks as though it is here to stay. 

It started in 2017 when Google Lens and Pinterest Lens were launched. The move toward visual search AI was growing even then. The common feature of these apps was that users could snap a photo or upload an image of an object to the application in order to find out more information about it or find similar images. Pinterest alone saw over 600 million searches every month!

What is the takeaway of these visual search numbers? You should be looking into visual search for your digital marketing strategies in order to stay up-to-date with your audience. But you are likely wondering what visual search is, exactly, and how you can possibly optimise for it. Below are some of our thoughts on the matter. 


What Is Visual Search?


Simply put, visual search is a technology which allows users to look for information using an image as a query. Search engines can return visual results to text-based queries. There is a variety of techniques that are used for visual search too, including image-meta search, reverse image search, as well as snap and search. 

Image Meta Search

Image meta search can be understood as an information retrieval system that allows users to search for content that is visual using a text-based query. This can include anything from images to illustrations to animations. 

The search engine will return thumbnail images in order of relevance. The image metadata is used to show the results. Metadata is a technical term for the alt-tags, file names or descriptions attached to the image.

Reverse Image Search

Reverse image search has become a popular method of discovering the original source of an image. In this technique, an image is used to formulate a search query. Users will upload an image or insert a link to it, after which a search engine will answer with the same or similar image as a result. 

This is highly useful for researchers and marketers who need to clarify the source of their images that they might be using for their websites and content. This image search method uses content-based image retrieval, which retrieves images that are similar to what a user is searching for by analysing content similarity. 


Arguably one of the more unique visual search features, snap-and-search is powered by image recognition technology. Image recognition technology identifies the different objects in images, such as places, logos, people, or even animals. 

The search engine or application will scan, match, and filter images to provide results that best answer the search query. Users will also be shown similar images if the exact match is not possible. This type of machine learning is what makes snap-and-search so popular, and has seen it being used for multiple applications. 


How To Optimise For Visual Search


Make Metadata Work


Having a descriptive image name is important, but you should also focus on using relevant keywords in your image name. The filename of the image adds extra context for search engines which can improve your search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts. These keywords help to signal to search engines what the image includes. For example, if you are selling cat toys, your image file should read something like, “cat-toy-pink-scratch-pad.jpg”. 


Excellent XML Sitemaps


Search engines love XML sitemaps, so it is risky to rely on them to find your pages and images through internal linking alone. This will help search engine crawlers to be able to easily access your images and index them correctly. It also provides further context for your images, such as the type of image, their subject matter, their caption, as well as the location. This can improve search results for your website, too. 


Always Have Alt-Text


Alt-Text is an important part of naming any image. An alt-tag accurately describes the image and aligns it with the file name and any keywords that are being used in the content it is related to. Alt-text tags can be understood as HTML tags that are added to images to describe the image to search engines. This is also used for those who might have vision impairment and who have their screen read to them, as it can help this tool to describe the image accurately. 


Open Up To Optimisation


Optimising your images is important for improving your results in visual search. This is because images can drastically slow down the performance of websites due to the image size and quality. And the speed of a website is considered to be an important ranking factor. You need to find the optimal size and quality that can maintain the speed of your website. This will also help to improve your website rankings on search engines. 


Final Words


Visual search is becoming a part of consumer’s lives, which means that businesses need to start optimising for it. This might sound like a tricky process, but if you start by writing metadata that includes keywords, make use of an XML sitemap, have alt-tags and optimise images, you will find that soon your visual search rankings results improve significantly. 

If you want to build your online presence and improve your search rankings, reach out to NetMechanic today to find out how we can help you.