Humans are inherently visual beings. From time immemorial, we rely on visual cues for the basic adaptive behaviors, as well as complex behaviors. Most of us process information based on what we see rather than what we hear or read. And this age-old trend of visual learning has evolved into visual search, as the world became more and more digital and Internet-oriented.
In comparison to the speed with which we understand and process pictures, we are terrible listeners and even slower readers. And this happens mostly because of science, as the neurons involved in processing visuals constitute almost 30% of the human brain. We have only 8% of neurons for touch and a mere 3% for hearing. That makes us an entirely visually-oriented species.
And thus, it comes as no surprise that this visual technology has garnered so much attention and popularity in the online realm. And tech-giants are engaging more and more into making this visual search process seamless and hassle-free.
Now, you can just search by opening an app on your Smartphone. And this unique search process has become all the more popular amongst the millennials and the Gen Z. Already, we have seen the surge of visual searches made through Smartphones and similar IoT devices. Not only does this has brought a revolution in the way information and data are gathered. But also are quite instrumental in driving web traffic and sales for your brand.
Owing to this efficacy of visual search, significant technological updates have been made in it, even involving neuro-scientific studies in the process.
What is Visual Search all about, and how does it work?
This is a kind of technology that saw its genesis back in the early 2010s, and over the past decade, have successfully evolved into a full-proof practice amongst consumers. Where words fail, this visual solution fills that gap and identifies objects within an image and then performs a search process.
The two primary components of this technology are Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, which make it dynamic. Constant improvements and updates happen in it, and the precision of visual search engines increases with every number of searches they perform. The search engines consider every visual as individual queries and analyze the color, sizes and shape to find the best identical results.
For e.g., if you capture a photo of a bicycle, the search engines will analyze that image and find you bike shops or gears similar to it. Researches predict that global visual search marketing would surpass $14,727 million by 2023.
However, visual search and image search are two different things and must not be confused together. Searching through images has been around since forever that shows several images of the typed search or keyword. These results can be further filtered from the menu bar.
Several globally renowned brands have realized the importance of visual search and are utilizing it to build their niche and power rapidly, and to get exponential growth.
The Visual Search Adopters
Apart from Google with its Google Lens, we now also have Pinterest with their automated Pinterest Lens. But, it’s odd that even now, only 8% of online marketers have adapted the technology within their eCommerce website feature, whereas 62% of millennials prefer searching through visuals for a seamless user experience.
Several other market feedback agrees that brands must find newer ways to optimize visual content, to boost their SEO factor organically.
Along with the early adopters of voice search, as in Alexa, Google Home, retailers are gradually adopting visuals in their search system. For e.g.; Facebook, the social media monolith, is working on incorporating AI into their Marketplace. They have even purchased a visual search technology start-up, GrokStyle, to expedite the development.
Joining the team, Apple, Instagram, Snapchat are integrating AI, AR into their existing models. With more and more the technology is taking the forefront, the search marketing landscape is evolving drastically. Let’s talk about some of the most prominent visual search tools of the current times.
Headquartered in Singapore, ViSenze comes with advanced Visual AI solutions that help eCommerce markers grow and increase conversions. ViSenze helps in transforming their retail experience into online business through camera lens search tools, thus providing accurate search results.
It comes with a white-label service that can easily be integrated into eCommerce websites, allowing seamless product search and engagement via visuals.
Amazon Camera Search
Amazon is always up for upgradations and maintains a dynamic website feature. Users can avail the visual search solution of Amazon for all kinds of products, using advanced AR that gives a preview of the specific product.
This preview feature is a special boon for the buyers before they make a purchase. All the product previews give a nearly accurate understanding of how the product would look in your home or upon you. As well as are rendered to a standard scale for better viewing.
Syte is the world’s one of the most leading product discovery platform that includes visual search for marketers, primarily for fashion products. This fast-growing Israeli start-up is well-positioned to expand and capitalize on its rapid growth.
Users searching for products could simply upload photos, and Syte’s API would show them search results for similar products.
eBay’s Visual Search Features
eBay allows you to drag and drop images to find similar products. What more could online shoppers desire for! This amazingly handy feature was a true gift for mobile shoppers to find products aligned with their preferences and interests.
When the new search engine rolled out in their mobile app, eBay’s claim was to make the whole Internet shoppable for their users. And needless to say, as of now, they have been quite successful in their venture. There were two kinds of visual searching options on eBay- Find It On eBay and eBay Image Search.
The former option allows users to search on any social platform, be it Facebook or Instagram, or any Blog. Once the user shares the image with eBay mobile app and it will come up with similar product listings. While it is one step easier with the Image Search option, where you just click a photo or use a pre-saved photo from your camera roll/gallery and share the same on the eBay search bar. There you get the matching items as search results.
With these two advanced search features leveraging AI, Computer Vision, and Deep Learning, eBay has truly made it easier and precise to find products to buy.
Bing Visual Search
Microsoft Bing, formerly known only as Bing, has been pretty much active in the visual search landscape. As it rolled out, the Bing Visual Search refined the search queries of the users through data-grouping images. With time and several dynamic updations done in the app, their functionality has expanded to provide information beyond images.
Image Optimization is the Key to Seamless Visual Search Experience
This is a great opportunity for the new-age marketers conducting their eCommerce business in the present digital era. But, to reap the awesome SEO benefits of the visual search feature, marketers must find better ways to optimize their visual content and images to augment brand visibility on the SERPs.
Therefore,to understand the function of visual search and how to make the most out of it, to let a wider audience discover your content/brand/products, keep optimizing your visual content. And if you wonder how, we do have a number of tips to share with you. Let’s dig in.
Give Accurate, Relevant Names for your Images
As we all know, Google cannot crawl or ‘read’ images. But they do read between texts and crawl the most suitable content. Given that theory, naming your images with SEO-rich keywords is one of the most crucial steps to improve search results ranking. The name or title for an image is as important as it is for a Blog post. A genuine SEO-role is played by the names and titles.
You may use either a long-tail or location-based keywords, but never upload the images with generic names, as in flower123.jpg.
Long-tail keywords immensely help in website ranking. So try to add relevance and value to your images. Such as if you have a women’s fashion boutique in Ohio, try uploading your images with names like ‘trendy-ladies-jumpsuits-in-Ohio’, or ‘female-evening-gowns-Ohio’.Whatever be the case, be relevant and precise while naming your images.
Never Forget to put Alt Texts/Alt Tags
Simply put, an alt text (aka, alt tag) or alternative text is a brief description of an image that appears onscreen, in case the image fails to load on the user’s screen.
If the user is using a screen reader, alt texts help in describing the images. Not just deciphering texts, alt texts also have great SEO significance, as search engines crawl these texts to rank your content.
Keep the character count maximum to 125, so better accuracy. The better Google understands your content, the higher is the chance of your visibility.
Have Clear, Precise Image Descriptions
Image descriptions are mainly textual information that give more in-depth details than alt texts and have explicit SEO qualities. If a user wants to learn more about a specific visual content, an image description exactly does that while providing vivid details about an image.
For e.g.; if the alt text says the image is about a puppy, the description will say it is an image of a Golden Retriever with a red collar and is taking a nap.
This truly helps people with visual impairment, as well as increases content visibility.
So if your CMS platform allows image descriptions, then never forget to add a compelling description to your visual content that includes keywords and stays within your brand guideline.
Use Only High Quality Images
High quality pictures and photos in your visual content guarantees that Google will crawl it, based on a certain search query. Usually, visual searching engines identify different objects in images, so the onus is upon you to make your visual, ‘readable’.
Ensure the images have a contrasting background, are not blurry or grainy, and are clearly visible. Low-resolution photos repel the onlooker and make you appear unprofessional, which is in itself a big blow to a brand.
To appeal and attract an audience, and get better search results, make the image processing easier for the search engine crawlers.
Maintain Correct Image Formatting
To boost the organic visibility of your visuals, try to optimize your images in the best possible way. Use specific image formats and file types that are compatible with the different devices your audience use. Ensure that they look equally high quality across Smartphones, PCs, and tabs.
Remember, the optimum desktop screen resolution is up to 2,560 pixels in width. And based on a global perspective, the screen resolution for Smartphones is usually 720×1280 pixels.
Keep these dimensions in mind. Also, if needed, compress your image to an optimum ratio. Use the right image compression tools to reduce the file size without compromising on the image quality. JPGs are the best to maintain steady image quality. For images with transparent backgrounds, go for PNG file type.
However, along with these set image formatting guidelines, consider the target medium and ensure the images match them.
Incorporate XML Sitemap for Better Indexing
An XML sitemap helps the search engine spiders easily extract important information about your website. XML site-mapping is especially targeted to the search engine bots, which gives clarity on a site’s navigation, content, and the number of pages the site contains.
That’s why, it is of paramount importance to list your images with an image sitemap to ensure the indexing of all the images you utilize on your site or in any visual content piece.
eCommerce sites can avail the most from a well-defined XML site map to simplify the navigation and provide a greater user experience. Also, with a sitemap, you can define the quantity and quality of the keywords you have used in each of the pages and then further optimize the web pages.
Google now supports extended site-mapping syntax, that allows you to add context in each image, for better indexation. Check out a few XML sitemaps:
– implies the title of the image
– implies the image caption
– denotes the geographical location of the image
– shows the URL of the image
– shows the URL to the image license
Don’t Neglect Social Media Promotion of your Visual Content
Being active on social media channels is the number one requisite for any brand to establish brand presence and create awareness.
Likewise, to harness the visual search technology, online marketers must promote their brand visuals on social media platforms. Not just content embedded with images get 40X more shares, but they significantly boost engagement. To make your life easier, share visuals from your Blog posts on social media, so that they are crawled and indexed easily.
If we talk about Infographics, they are the best kind of shareable data visualizations available on the Internet, to promote your content on social media channels. With social media becoming a prominent marketplace for online shoppers, visually searching for products has increased significantly. Thus, promoting your visual content on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest could bring a major boost to your eCommerce site. Already Pinterest’s CTR stats say that the clicks on the products showcased on their site, that go out to retail stores have shot up to 40%.
A Sneak-Peek into the Future of the Visual Search Technology
Now let’s discuss what’s there in store for visual search in 2021 and the years beyond, and how online marketers can make the most out of it.
Though content is the absolute king, visual content is the ‘queen regent’. And this regal metaphor is all the more true in digital communication, where content supported by visuals are viewed 94% times than the ones without. After all, 78% of marketers utilize visuals in their marketing communications and strategies. And 80% of marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing efforts.
Hence, there are so many reasons for marketers being interested in this technology.
Visual Search will Thrive!
Though visual search automation is still in its early development stage, a lot of collaboration with AI tools and machine learnings are being done to embellish the technology further. The more it is used by consumers and marketers all alike, the perfect it would get.
And visual search in 2020 has already seen some heights. Now, it is even possible to web-check in your cabin luggage by just scanning it with your Smartphone. In the retail sector, as in home decors and interiors, one may get a preview of furniture matching to one’s room through advanced AR.
So it is plain as day that in the near future, there is a lot more scope for visual search. As we have already entered 2021, we have got to witness more sophistication and perfection in visual marketing technology.
Long story short, visual search is all set to stay and dominate the eCommerce world. The world is going visual, and whether we want it or not, the future of visual search is shining. This notable technology of the 21st century does have an exceptional potential to change the way people interacted, and online businesses were done.
Customers are growing a natural preference for visual content, and new industry players are already harnessing this trend. Professional graphic design and data visualization agencies are keeping up with the trend to produce quality graphics and visuals.
However, voice search and visual search both complement each other, so there cannot be one default search method. Instead, if brands develop a mix of both the search experiences, there’s no looking back!