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Optimising Content for Visual Search

visual search

When it comes to searching online, visual search is being used by an increasing number of people but as a business, are you optimising content for visual search?

Visual search is where the image itself, rather than words, is the query. It’s actually been around for around ten years but it’s only recently due to technological advancement that allows search engines to understand the components of images better, as well as the ability to process vast amounts of images at once, that consumers and businesses are seeing the advantages of optimising content for visual search.

But, why is it an important consideration when a query can simply be typed into Google?

We’re visual people. When it comes to finding what we need, we’re likely to ‘see’ what we want first. Think about something you’re looking for online. Yes, you could describe it but first, you’re more than likely to ‘picture’ it. That’s because our brains are hardwired towards visual selection, and as a business you can take advantage of that and grab the 22.6% (and rising) number of people who use Google Images and the like for their visual search.

That may not seem like a high number at first glance, but it represents a significant amount of users. Optimising content for visual search can offer you a distinct advantage as images really do stimulate us. For example, if someone is searching for a ‘hotel room with a sea view’, a stunning image goes far further when it comes to appeal as it gives us an immediate visual before we’ve even had time to think, or read, a few written words.

Pinterest… Leading the way in visual search

pinterest shop the look

To understand the increasing interest and importance of visual search, look to Pinterest – the online visual search leader that has over 200 million active users of which, 55% shop on the platform. Pinterest understands the appeal of seeing what we want to buy and their investment in visual search comes from an ambitious strategy. Their produced tools, such as their Shop The Look, offers users the ability to select blue dots within a pin to find products that are similar. They also have Pinterest Lens, a ‘real-time’ visual search tool that is embedded in the camera of the Pinterest App. These visual search investments has really paid off for Pinterest, with searches on Lens increasing by a whopping 140% in one year (2017-2018) and an overall 50% year on year increase in impressions. Their commitment to optimising content for visual search has not gone unnoticed, with other social platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat following suit.

Zoom in and visually search, with Snapchat

In fact, Snapchat’s work on their Visual Search tool and how they’re using it in partnership with Amazon is really interesting. If Snapchat users see a product they like, they just zoom in to generate a thumbnail of that product’s page on Amazon.
Amazon also has its own visual browsing and search tool to accommodate its growing number of search categories. Users can glance through a variety of products to narrow down their search to products they’re more interested in. For example, they may be shown a variety of coffee tables if they type this in, but by clicking on a certain style, they can further narrow down and focus their search.

Visual Search, the eBay way

ebay visual search

eBay is another business that leads the way when it comes to optimising content for visual search. Last July, they showcased their new Image Search feature that allows users to search for what they want by just dragging and dropping images into their search bar as they shop.

Selling products with visual search

But what about businesses that sell their own products? Wayfair, a business that sells home and living products, is paving the way when it comes to using visual search as a way of selling. They began by offering a visual search tool that lets users snap a photo and search. Since its launch, they’ve continued to develop the Object Detection tool. Now, it can easily locate a specific object within an image so that users can look for and purchase similar objects. They are also working on implementing real-time object detection.

Google – the visual search engine

Google is of course another pioneer when it comes to visual search, notably with Google Lens that was released in 2017. As a general visual search engine, it analyses and returns results quickly and succinctly and the update in December 2018 means this visual search ability is now embedded in the camera, producing real-time results. It also offers style matching to suggest similar products as well as smart text selection, giving users the chance to identify certain elements within an image to search for other relevant images and product pages.

Optimising content for visual search is a growing trend – and one that users love as it is quick and easy to use, and it gives them the results they want when it is done right. To find out more about how you can use it for your business, get in touch today.

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