The future of SEO: Visual SEO

It seems that just as soon as you’ve got your head around search engine optimisation (SEO) for desktops and mobiles, there’s another curveball. To stay ahead of recent advances in technology, brands need to optimise for visual and voice SEO as well. In this two-part series, we’re going to explain these two new forms of SEO and what you need to do to prepare.

In the eye of the beholder

Visual SEO pretty much does what it says on the tin. At first glance at least. But it’s important to make a distinction between visual search and the kind of image search you do on your computer when looking for the latest cute cat photos. In visual search, the image is the query used by the search engine instead of text. In other words, the objects in an image are identified and then related images are found based on that. So, an image of a girl in a yellow sun dress will find other similar dresses or Summer fashion.

Visual SEO in action

Google Lens is an example of this in action. The app is a visual search engine that analyses a photo that you take and then gives you information on that image. It can identify different plants and animals, for instance. It can also tell you about a certain landmark or place of business, including reviews, opening times and whether friends have visited. Product-wise, you can snap a photo of a product that you like and the app will tell you where to get it or similar items. All of this, of course, is made possible because of the wealth of data that Google has collected. Likewise, Pinterest has a Lens type product that also uses visual search. It offers users the ability to ‘Shop the Look’ and find related items to their pins. Whereas Google Lens is more information focussed, Pinterest is much more commercial in that it actively encourages users to find items to buy.

Visual search is a growing field, especially as the technology behind it (artificial intelligence) gets more advanced. It’s something that some forward-thinking businesses are already experimenting with. Retailer ASOS recently launched its own visual search tool to help customers find the perfect outfit.

Visual search applications

This kind of search is obviously perfect for the image-heavy world of retail. It helps to reduce the discovery problem, for one. That’s where shoppers have so many options available that they simply stop shopping. Because visual search only shows related items, it helps to narrow those choices down. Almost 70% of consumers have stated an interest in making purchases through visual search. In the right retailer’s hands, visual SEO offers an untapped opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

But it isn’t just limited to retail. As previously mentioned, local businesses and places of interest can benefit from the information provided through visual search. Similarly, restaurants can promote menus and offerings through visual search. It’s still a growing sector, so more uses for the technology are bound to spring up. To get an edge, it’s worth checking in with visual search regularly to see what new abilities are relevant to your business.

Under development

Visual SEO is still under development. The instant-snap behaviour of taking a photo and then searching can mean that SEO is a bit of a challenge because the user no longer has to type. Currently, more traditional SEO practices function alongside visual search. Schema markup and metadata still have relevance in visual search, as they are some of the only sources of text-based information that search engines can use.

Because visual SEO is still relatively new, the SEO practices behind it are still developing and changing. However, metadata will consistently play an integral role. Strengthen this areas if yours is lagging behind, as it’ll set you up for the future.

Visual search isn’t going to make our old ways of searching obsolete either. Instead it will sit alongside it. Don’t forget to follow your standard SEO best practice, but stay up-to-date with developing techniques as visual search becomes more popular.

Find your voice

Read the next part of this series that looks at another rising form of SEO: voice SEO.