You may already be familiar with the arrival of the Google Lens and Pinterest Lens as introductions to a new way of using search engines, but while the concept of visual search is still in its infancy, eCommerce businesses are starting to question what this might mean for SEO.
What is visual search?
Visual search could completely change the way consumers make purchasing decisions, introducing a “snap and search” method of finding the relevant product listing. This type of visual search is when an image is uploaded and the consumer can focus their search on a particular part of that image on a pixel-by-pixel basis. The idea is to replicate the way a human brain recognises shapes and patterns in order to produce results that match those in the image. If someone showed you a picture of a pyramid, you’ll immediately be able to pick up on the triangular shape and grainy texture in the image; the idea is to get machines to do the same.This type of optimisation for eCommerce websites could improve user experience massively and therefore increase conversions.
How will this affect your business?
Have you ever walked passed someone in the street and admired something they were wearing? Take a photo, conduct a visual search and it could take you to the online store where you can purchase that exact same item you saw on that passer-by. That is exactly what this technology could do for your eCommerce business, turning casual encounters into purchases, right there on the spot.
There’s no doubt that visual search will improve user experience, but SEO will still have a place in gaining visitors to your site. Consumers might not know exactly what it is they’re looking for; they might be looking for a party dress but not have a specific style or item in mind, so they will revert back to a text search of ‘party dresses’. Some consumers like to browse different options before they buy, which is where a text query becomes more useful than a visual search.
Even if you implement visual search, keywords are a huge part of how search engines source out and catalogue your images, so it’s still important you use these, along with metadata. Make sure you’re adding descriptive alt-text to images and that all images are optimised to render on different displays.
There’s no doubt we’ll see the technology improve and more consumers using visual search to make purchases, after all our brains respond and engage with images faster than text. Visual search won’t be the end of SEO, but we will see more businesses adapting their strategies to work alongside it.