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Seeing is Believing: Why You Should Be Optimizing for Visual Search

You probably already know that visualization is vital to social media marketing, but it’s equally important in the customer journey, especially during the product discovery process. This is why visual search technology has become one of the most sought-after marketing trends in recent years. So, what does visual search marketing mean for your small business?

Wait, What is Visual Search?

You’ve heard a picture is worth a thousand words. Let’s change that to an image is worth a thousand hashtags. Visual search is an artificial intelligence technology. Instead of using text such as keywords or hashtags to search for something, you upload an image into your search engine and it provides you with hyperlinked images in return that match your image.

You might have seen this in use already in Pinterest’s mobile app. You snap a picture through the app and Pinterest offers you suggestions that resemble what you’re looking for based on pins. Pinterest reported that users have conducted more than 600 million visual searches using their lens tool every month!

The e-commerce potential of this is enormous, whether you’re looking for home décor, a dress for a special event, or even information on what food you’re eating, which is why your business should start taking advantage of the growing market of visual search.

Google Lens is another popular visual search engine that allows you to upload an image of clothing, décor, nearby buildings, and even animals and plants to help you identify them. A popular feature that restaurants should be interested in is the menu scanning option. Integrate your business and menu into Google Business so customers can easily scan a dish, then read reviews and see photos of just how delicious the food looks.

Let’s try this feature out with a menu from Melzingah Tap House. A snap of the menu through the Google Lens app allows you to tap on any item on the menu and find out more about it.

How Can My Brand Use Visual Search?

It’s All in the Name

When you upload a photograph of an image it usually has a generic file name: img1053.png, for example. Uploading it this way isn’t going to help your visual search rankings or garner any traffic on Google.

You can start by naming your images accurately and making sure they all have proper title and alt-tags. Getting SEO fundamentals right is critical to your images popping up in visual searches. The file names of all of your images should be descriptive of the image and the titles and alt-tags should contain your target keywords. This may seem simple enough, but it’s important to help search engines understand the content and context of your images so they can index them properly.

Don’t Ghost Google

Billions of new content surface on the internet every day. Be active and post several images of your product including multiple angles and perspectives to maximize your chance of appearing in visual searches. When taking pictures of products, make sure the images are shown clearly and there is no distracting clutter in the background. The images should be as focused on the product as possible for the visual search AI to process them.

Pro tip: You can also submit your images to XML image sitemaps. Doing this will make sure that search engines can easily access your images and show them among results.

Integration is Key

It’s worthwhile to utilize the visual search engines that are already in place until you can incorporate this into your business’s own website. Consider posting your images as pins on Pinterest. Pinterest offers “Shop the Look” pins where users can select specific parts of an image and are directed to websites where they can make a purchase. This is especially useful for fashion and home décor. The tags appear as small white dots and when tapped, these dots reveal more information about pricing and availability.

Can My Brand Have Their Own Visual Search?

The biggest obstacle many small businesses face is having the technology and know-how to incorporate visual search marketing into their own websites. If you’re optimizing your images for the search engines already in place and want to go further, take a look at these businesses that invested in visual search for their specific brand.

Look and Book

EasyJet is the first airline to offer customers the ability to search for a flight using just a photo. Their Look&Book app allows you to upload a picture of a European destination you like and it will tell you where it is and which flights will get you there. You can check out this awesome visual search engine in this video:

Pic and Pair

Glasses USA, an online prescription eyewear company, launched its mobile visual search tool called “Pic & Pair.” When customers see glasses they like, they can upload a picture and Pic & Pair will find matching pairs available to order from Glasses USA. This brings direct traffic to the eyewear website and increases sales of their own products over competitors.

Your consumer is intelligent, multifaceted, and on-the-go, not just with their devices, but also with their decision-making. Prioritizing visual search can better serve their needs and further your goal to make your brand a part of their life.

Looking for more tips to increase your brand’s digital footprint? We’re here to help.

Author Details


Carissa K.

Social Media Intern at Tipsy Social and a student at Marist College in Poughkeepsie studying journalism and sports communication.