How to Optimize Your eCommerce Site for Visual Search

There’s only one thing that’s perpetually true about SEO: It’s always changing.

Google constantly releases new updates and algorithms, and it’s up to eCommerce brands to be on top of the latest changes if they want to reap the benefits.

Here are some fun visual search stats for you:

Pretty convincing figures. But only 8% of retail brands have incorporated visual search into their eCommerce experience. Hello, opportunity!

What is a visual search?

Visual search is the broad term for queries made with images or about images. There are a few ways users conduct visual searches, one of the most common being a Google Image search. You can enter words to find images that match your keyword, or search by image files to find the original source and where that image is published. Bing also has its own image search.

But that’s just the basics. Visual search is continuing to get more advanced as technology improves. The Google Lens app is a seriously improved version of the basic image search. You can find recipes or directions, add events to your calendar, and translate words from a photo.

Ecommerce brands take note: Google Lens also allows users to find where to buy products online. They snap or upload a shot of the coveted piece and Google will tell them where to get it.

Social media platforms, especially image-driven ones like Pinterest and Snapchat, have also launched their own versions of visual search. Snapchat users can take a photo of a product within the app to instantly search it on Amazon.


And with Pinterest Lens, users can upload an image to receive recommended Pins based on the content of that image. The site sees more than 600 million visual searches each month, and Pinterest Ads convert at a rate of 8.5%.

eBay also has its version of visual search, functioning in much the same way. Take a photo, find similar products.


And many brands are taking visual search into their own hands. Neiman Marcus, for example, has a visual search tool that gives users product suggestions based on images they take/upload to the app. It’s a great cross-sell and bundling opportunity.

Why visual SEO is important

Visual SEO isn’t just a buzzword that we’ll forget about when the next one comes along. It’s important to incorporate it into your SEO strategy now so that you’re prepared for the future. As Google, social networksAmazon, and other online platforms continue to bolster their visual search experience, we can only predict that the tech isn’t going anywhere soon.

Improving the overall SEO of your images will usually lead to a faster website, images that are easier to read for both Google and the visually impaired, and improved voice search optimization,” says James McMinn, digital strategist at Matchbox Design Group.

The visual search itself is being used more and more. According to one 2017 report by Jumpshot and Moz, visual search is on the rise. 27% of all searches were for images.

Visual content is also more likely to resonate. Eye tracking studies confirm that consumers look at images more than words.

Plus, users conducting visual searches are often more primed to buy.

How to optimize your eCommerce site for visual search

Understand how consumers are using visual search

Before you can begin to understand how to optimize your site, you need to understand what you’re optimizing for. This starts with putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and considering the context of their search, as well as the desired outcome of their search.

Use multiple images for each product

Using more than one product photo to represent your merchandise isn’t just good for the user experience, it’s also good for visual search optimization. Multiple images allow you to provide a positive user experience, which Google has repeatedly said it prioritizes when determining rankings. Plus, you have different opportunities to plug in keyword variations for each of your image files.

Make sure your images are high-quality

High-quality product photography is good for users after they’ve hit your site and started browsing products, but they’re also effective in aiding product discovery. “Visual search bots scan for colors, patterns, and shapes that it can recognize and match to similar or complementary colors, patterns, and shapes from other images,” says Wulfe. If the images are of poor quality, Google won’t be able to get a good read on them.

Put images in your sitemap

Your sitemap is essentially a “map” of your website — it houses information about the content on your site (text and images) and how each of those elements is related.

Here’s how Google breaks it down: “A sitemap tells the crawler which files you think are important in your site and also provides valuable information about these files: for example, for pages, when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and any alternate language versions of a page.”

Search engines use the sitemap to learn more information about your site. If you create an image sitemap, you’ll give crawlers more information about the photos — and make them more primed to show up in search.

Add image badges

This one’s a little more technical, but Google has also put together a handy guide. Essentially, image badges “help you discover and take action on Image Search.” The badge tells users what logical actions they can take by clicking through the image to the site.

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