Future of SEO: Visual Search Has Landed; But Where is It Going? (Part 2)

How Marketers Can Grab Their Share of this New ROI Driver Today

Last time we reviewed the state of visual search and looked forward to the search methodology of the future. Our cell phones may become even more important to us, as we might be using them to photograph items, then search using pictures or parts of pictures, which would then be matched to a universe of product or informational images.

But in the years to come, will this be only one way that people submit queries? Voice search is already becoming well-entrenched in the digital landscape. With the rise of smart assistants such as Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Google Home (plus challengers by Apple and Microsoft), the possibilities skyrocket. Could there be some combination of voice and visual search on the horizon, and how should marketers get ready to compete in this new world of search?

Marketers need a roadmap to help them optimize images and get the most from precise keyword descriptions, now, and in the future. Visual search exists now, with image search and the new visual platforms. The tips we’ll explore can provide immediate and future visibility payback – let’s go!

Keywords in the New Search Framework

With all the changes in SEO over the last 20 years, each time keywords and keyword research come into question – will they still exist and will they remain relevant? The expanding world of visual search will make keywords and keyword research more important than ever. The artificial intelligence that will make the correlations between images we submit as a query, and the resulting feedback (what we call a search engine results page, or SERP, today) will rely on language that tells it what the images are about. Keywords will continue to help Google and other entities match queries to a selection of recommended image results.

This makes sense – if you take a photo of a flower and submit it to the visual search index (engine or whatever the new answer bank will be called) that will at first glance, seem to be too general. There are many thousands of flowers in the world. But, the AI will be able to note that your pic is an orange flower, with short square petals, and black outlines along the edges. It’s with keywords that the AI will match your image with that of the one that most closely resembles it, as the results image will be (ideally) tagged with precise keywords.

Expanding keyword research to include specific long-tail keywords should provide new opportunities to increase image visibility via search. If, for example, one is optimizing for ‘black basketball shoes,’ the long-tail version of that phrase opens up a lot of new possibilities, such as:

all black mens basketball shoes


all black basketball sneakers

Plus, if relevant, there are many branded keywords one append to the end, like this:

all black basketball shoes nike

all black basketball shoes adidas, etc.

In this long-tail world of user intent that we are currently living in, the more precise one can be with keyword description, the better.

How Do Images Figure In?

When people build an optimization strategy they often think of optimizing text and code. Images are a vital part of content and they need to be optimized as well. Sometimes when a website contains hundreds, to thousands of images, the task seems Herculean, and it can get pushed to the back burner. If a site’s images are neglected in the optimization process, this can leave some great opportunities on the table to increase search visibility.

Armed with the expanded keyword list described above, a marketer can get busy with image naming and tagging, using precise descriptions so human users and Google can determine what an image is about. Start with image file names. Instead of IMG009, or some such random image name assigned by a camera, create descriptive file names, such as:


Create descriptive file names that aren’t too long (a few words maximum), and separate the words using hyphens.

In the CMS, tag the images with keywords. Keyword stuffing isn’t the goal; the keywords should be highly relevant. Also use the main keyword theme of the page as the focus of the image alt tag.

Introducing Google to Your Site’s Image Catalog

Most marketers have heard of xml site maps and how they help Google discover the pages on your website. Per Google’s instructions, image information can be shared with Google in two ways; it can be added to an existing xml site map, or one can create a separate image site map.

With various CMS’s such as WordPress and Shopify, one can use a plugin to create the image site map. It’s a good idea to monitor the image submission process to Google. With large sites that contain thousands of images, it can take several weeks for the plugins to continuously feed the images to Google and for Google to index them. A plugin is a great way to keep this process on autopilot, so no opportunities are missed with Google discovering images (which it could do on its own, but creating a specific process for this provides the best chance for Google to find every image on the site in a timely manner).

Dominate Visual Search Now & In the Future

Like other SEO tasks, image optimization can be a DIY activity. It is time consuming and when the stakes are always changing, especially now, it’s wise to work with an expert SEO agency that can deliver ROI for this and all optimization strategies. Image optimization ideally needs to be folded into the SEO campaign, so it becomes a key driver of online visibility. Engine-IUS Marketing is ready to provide the expertise that can make image optimization a powerful SEO weapon.

Ready to win with image optimization? We’re ready to make it happen. Contact Engine-IUS Marketing today.

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