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Blake Smith

By Blake Smith

Apr 23, 2019


Search Engine Optimization
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Search Engine Optimization

What Does Google’s Visual Search Push Mean for You?

Blake Smith

By Blake Smith

Apr 23, 2019

What Does Google’s Visual Search Push Mean for You?

We all know of the amazing voice assistants created by Amazon and Google, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and let’s not forget, Siri.

As astounding as these products are, there seems to be an up-and-coming shift in the search realm.

Visual search is carving out its own space, especially amongst investors, retailers, everyday consumers, and most importantly, Google.

One might ask, “What is visual search?”

Well, it’s similar to how most of us would find things before the digital age -- with our eyes.

Visual search enables users to discover products on their mobile devices using cameras or browse their favorite social or lifestyle sites.


With about 60% of total online searches happening on mobile devices, it’s no surprise that visual search is making a strong push, especially with cameras readily available.

If you think about it, how quick are we to pull out our phones to capture real-time moments to display on our Instagram stories? How often are we searching for a video tutorial on “how to” do a task via YouTube?

Also, how much more often do people prefer to communicate via tools like facetime and Zoom versus just hearing the other person’s voice?

Visuals provide a more personal connection that is wholeheartedly being embraced.

Visual search is entering more and more mobile shopping environments to allow people to find products online similar to those they might find in the real world.

Simply snap a photo and push it through an app or to a platform and you’ll be presented with many (hopefully relevant) search results.

Here are just a few companies taking advantage of visual search:

  • Forever 21
  • Wayfair
  • Target
  • Home Depot

As you can see, there really are no boundaries as to which industries can take advantage of a visual search tool.

Now, as far as actual visual search platforms go, I’d like to mention some of the heavy hitters in the game, thus far:

Google Lens


There's no way the traditional Internet search leader wouldn't be on board with visual searching. In fact, the search giant has recently been making a stronger visual search push even on desktop, revamping image SEO.  

That aside, there’s Google Lens. Users can take a picture of an item or upload an existing one with it, and have relevant information delivered by Google.

Currently, Google Lens can:

  • Search menu items, add events to your calendar, get directions, call a number, translate words, copy & paste, and more.
  • Explore nearby locations: relay information about popular landmarks, find ratings, hours, etc.
  • Identify animals and plants

Bing Visual Search


With so many companies turning the smartphone camera into a discovery tool, Microsoft had no choice but to follow suit. Bing’s visual search tool is very similar to Google Lens. You upload a pic of the desired object and allow Bing to provide suggestions for similar items to the one in the photo, along with locations that sell it.

Bing Visual Search has these capabilities:

  • Find items and/or similar items: Clothes, furniture, and other products
  • Analyze and work with text: copy/paste, recognize/manage phone numbers and emails, visit websites, get directions, and solve math problems
  • Identify plants and animals

Pinterest Lens


This popular platform for social media has its own visual search tool, Lens, embedded in the Pinterest App.

Lens is a point-and-shoot discovery tool that evaluates and interprets images (specifically from smartphones) to find related Pins and ideas. Once these related Pins and ideas are found on Pinterest, they are then suggested to the user.

Pinterest Lens is available on iOS and Android and aims to inspire you on the basis of photos taken in your device or saved.

While it isn't almost as feature-rich as Google Lens or Bing Visual Search, it links visual search to Pinterest's world — which is unique and useful on its own.

Snapchat Camera Search


Now, Snapchat has its own visual search functionality built into the app thanks to a partnership with Amazon.

What began in early 2018 as a rumor has evolved into a full-fledged, Amazon-powered feature that gives Snapchat more eCommerce flair.

With this feature, users can point to an object or barcode, press and hold the item, and Camera Search scans the item and delivers Amazon cards directly linked to the item and/or relevant results.

Amazon Camera Search


Amazon's visual search was originally limited to Flow, a standalone tool that Amazon developed and powered. However, this tech wasn’t alone for too long, as Amazon quickly integrated this into its mobile app.

Amazon's visual search rendition, currently dubbed Camera Search, adds a little more functionality to an already phenomenal shopping platform.

Amazon is on top of this trend from scanning barcodes, all the way to recognizing and suggesting items to AR.

eBay Image Search

eBay Image Search allows users to use the in-app camera and/or existing photos to search for products. The tool returns listings that are close or visually similar to each other.

How Can Advertisers Stay Ahead of the Shift and Be Successful?

It’s apparent that visual progress is revolutionizing how users engage with digital channels and product discovery is a real-life example of this change.

To be successful, retailers need to be aware of how they need to change their cross-channel content such as product information, availability, store directions, reviews, and more.

Here are a couple of tips to help with that success:

1. Take advantage of sitemaps and inject images


It is important that images are clearly displayed and free of clutter, making it easier for visual applications to process them. Optimize on-site images for the ideal size, the ideal type of file, and choose titles and alt text carefully.

Adding images to a sitemap is simple but be aware of these common mistakes when adding images to your website.

2. Optimize on-site copy

 Following a visual search tool that leads searchers to your site, they will start consuming your content to see if it meets their needs.

That's why on-site copy remains important.

For conversions to occur, is ideal to incorporate copy that is detailed and engaging, satisfies the needs of searchers, contains rich keywords, and aligns with the visuals on the page.

Ultimately, keyword search engines are still written in text for processing and finding related images.

3. Implement image search into your website


Data shows that only 8% of retailers currently have built image search into their web inventory.

This means that very few retailers have a visual search tool in place that produces search results based on their available products. By integrating a visual search tool onto your website, you’ll be able to access those consumers who are deviating from the text-based search and are adopting visual searches.

4. (I’m sure you all saw this coming) Advertise on Pinterest!


Can you guess who’s a leader in the visual search field?

If you guessed Pinterest, you’re correct! Pinterest is a big player in this realm and has contracts with some global brands to feature its visual search technology in their apps and websites!

With Pinterest being a primarily visually-stimulating platform, it’s no surprise that they are leading the march with the uprise of visual search. Pinterest’s visual search doesn’t just identify what something is, it shows you how it can fit into your life - from ways to style an outfit to how to decorate your first home.

So, if that’s doesn’t tell you how huge this visual search ordeal is becoming, then I can only wish you the best of luck!

The huge market impact of Pinterest and its well-developed visual search capabilities makes it a smart bet for the future.

To take that a little deeper, when evaluating whether or not it’s worth the investment to optimize for Pinterest’s visual search platform, take into account its top ten Lens search categories:

  1. Travel
  2. Fashion
  3. Home décor
  4. Vehicles
  5. Art
  6. Beauty
  7. Food
  8. Products
  9. Outfits
  10. Animals

Consider advertising your products alongside similar items for maximum impact if it is a good fit for your target audience. If you need help on getting started, check out this great resource on creating a successful roadmap to increasing engagement on Pinterest!

So, What Does the Future Look like for Visual Search?

While visual search technology is still in its infancy, it promises a lot to marketers for the future.

Planning for this growing market is a must for brands that want to remain visible.

As far as the future of visual search versus text-based, I personally don’t believe it will surpass text-based search (at least not anytime soon), but they will work together.

Here are some notable supporters who support that claim:

“I don’t foresee visual search replacing text-based searches altogether anytime soon. But it certainly opens up a ton of opportunities, mainly for fashion and home decor brands – it’s certainly safe to assume that the future of visual search will be retail-dominated.”

“That’s why voice and visual will never be the default search experience: they build on the others strength and weaknesses. Combined with good-old text search, you have every possibility to search the way you want!”

All in all, even though visual search is not expected to replace search queries and text-based searching completely in the near future, it will inevitably disrupt the SEO industry in a big way in the years ahead.

Visual search definitely opens up a multitude of opportunities for, but not limited to, home-decor and fashion brands.

Here are a few tips that can help your brand to start capitalizing on this rising visual search world:

  • Include image sitemaps
  • Make image URLs keyword rich
  • Add very detailed product descriptions and alt-text

So why not get ahead of the curve while you can?

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