Preparing for a Future with Visual Search

If we’ve told you once, we’ve told you a million times: the search landscape is always changing. If it’s not an algorithm update, it’s a new technology…like visual search. Camera-based visual search is already available and is likely to take the internet by storm. Here’s what you need to know and how you can prepare for the future.

What Is Visual Search

Camera-based visual search is pretty self-explanatory—it’s using your camera to capture an image of something you see and employ that image as your search term. So, instead of typing or talking into your mobile device, you simply snap a picture to look for relevant stuff—products, information, ideas, etc.—related to that image.

Underlying camera-based visual search is sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that allows search engines to recognize, categorize and make associations between images.

Early Applications for Visual Search

Camera-based visual search is already available through Pinterest, Google and Amazon apps. These visual search frontrunners demonstrate the technology’s ecommerce capabilities. Users snapping pictures can easily find exact matches and related products from a wide number of retailers. Of course, Google’s visual search results also feature informative content, often in the form of Knowledge Graph cards.

Expected Future Applications for Visual Search

Search Engine Watch contributing expert Clark Boyd asserts that “ecommerce [ ] really only scratches the surface” of the potential of visual search. As the technology develops, camera-based visual search will deliver broader, more associative results, helping users construct “bigger pictures” from a single image. For example:

  • A single image of a piece of clothing will deliver image results that can suggest an entire ensemble
  • An image of a focal home décor piece will deliver image results that can help create an entire interior design scheme

Visual search may also be used as a substitute for voice and text commands. For instance, a picture of a wi-fi password may allow your mobile device to join a new network.

Visual search could facilitate widespread implementation of checkout-less shopping as well as automate inventory management.

Many of the potential visual search applications that go beyond individual users’ cameras may be or border on surveillance; their acceptance will warrant further discussions before they are implemented in the public.

How to Keep Your Business Relevant in Visual Search Results

Visual search is still in its infancy as a search technology, but search technologies grow up fast. However, you can make visual search work for you even now…and without abandoning your textual content and trying to say everything about your company in pictures.

To improve your potential to show up in visual search results, make sure your existing content (text, images, videos, links, etc.) appropriately implement structured data. Structured data tells search engines exactly what your content is and has to offer. That makes it easier for text-based algorithms to associate your content with images detected and interpreted via camera-based visual search apps.

(By the way, clients don’t have to do anything different to boost visual search ranking potential. We already implement structured data, so you’re set! But, if you’re not a client and your current internet marketing agency can’t give you the same assurance, contact us. We can help ease your transition into the world of visual search marketing.)