One of the things that often gets left out of ‘tradtional seo’ is image search. Not so long ago, you could totally ignore images in your website and blog posts, and not be affected in any real way. Thesedays however, with the preponderance of visual searches for images and photos, it is more important than ever to ensure that you approach images with the same SEO approach you give you precious text and pages. This is a great post about how to optimise images and approach your visual marketing like a pro.
Let’s play a game. I’ll show you an image. You type in the keyword to find the exact product featured in the image online. Ready?
Google her sunglasses…
What did you type? Brown sunglasses? Brown sunglasses with heavy frame? Retro-look brown sunglasses with heavy frame? It doesn’t matter how long-tail you go, it will be difficult to find that exact pair, if not impossible. And you’re not alone.
For 74% of consumers, traditional text-based keyword searches are inefficient at helping find the right products online.
But much of your current search behavior is based on the false premise that you can describe things in words. In many situations, we can’t.
And this shows in the data. Sometimes we forget that Google Images accounts for 22.6% of all searches — searches where traditional methods of searching were not the best fit.
But I know what you’re thinking. Image SEO drives few to no sessions, let alone conversions. Why should I invest my limited resources into visual marketing?
Because humans are visual creatures. And now, so too are mobile phones — with big screens, multiple cameras, and strong depth perception.
Developments in computer vision have led to a visual marketing renaissance. Just look to visual search leader Pinterest, who reported that 55% of their users shop on the platform. How well do those users convert? Heap Analytics data shows that on shopping cart sizes under $199, image-based Pinterest Ads have an 8.5% conversion rate. To put that in context, that’s behind Google’s 12.3% but in front of Facebook’s 7.2%.
Not only can visual search drive significant conversions online. Image recognition is also driving the digitalisation and monetisation in the real world.
The rise of visual search in Google
Traditionally, image search functioned like this: Google took a text-based query and tried to find the best visual match based on metadata, markups, and surrounding copy.
But for many years now, the image itself can also act as the search query. Google can search for images with images. This is called visual search.
Google has been quietly adding advanced image recognition capabilities to mobile Google Images over the last years, with a focus on the fashion industry as a test case for commercial opportunities (although the functionality can be applied to automotive, travel, food, and many other industries). Plotting the updates, you can see clear stepping stone technologies building on the theme of visual search.
Related images (April 2013): Click on a result to view visually similar images. The first foray into visual search.
Collections (November 2015): Allows users to save images directly from Google’s mobile image search into folders. Google’s answer to a Pinterest board.
Product images in web results (October 2016): Product images begin to display next to website links in mobile search.
Product details on images (December 2016): Click on an image result to display product price, availability, ratings, and other key information directly in the image search results.
Similar items (April 2017): Google can identify products, even within lifestyle images, and showcases similar items you can buy online.
Style ideas (April 2017): The flip side