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Optimizing For Mobile Visual Search

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Google Goggles has brought to the forefront the need to optimize images for mobile search. In December, the Mountain View, Calif., search engine introduced a way to take a picture of an object and search for more information about that image. Google wasn't, however, the first company to design and publish this type of application. There have been many, from those relying on two-dimensional (2D) barcodes to radio frequency identification technology (RFID).

Similar to Google Goggles, Video.ShortSearch points to a ViPR application, a mobile visual search engine on the Apple iPhone, as early as Feb. 2009.

Brands can include logos in images, but some SEO professionals don't describe them in the metadata. Image optimization would help with mobile visual search because it gives search engines more information about the image so they can return it when a person queries the topic. Local search optimization also helps to make sure all listings are accurate and have clean pictures. This lets Google's software more easily recognize when images are relevant to a users query.

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Providing tips for optimizing images, Bryson Meunier, associate director of content solutions at Resolution Media, tells me it's not just the image that's important. Images of logos found on search engines can identify the brand, but Meunier says it's really the metadata on the Web site behind the logo that pushes up pages in rankings.

Agreeing with the strategy to optimize the mobile Web site, not the image, Distilled co-founder Will Critchlow says use the image to generate a phrase, then the search term.

Design plays a role, too. The image needs to pop. Critchlow says to brand the image, because distinctive colors and shapes will likely become crucial in mobile search. Then optimize the test in the image, which should describe the object, as you would normally for search on a PC.

Optimizing for mobile visual search doesn't stop there. Remember, the mobile screen, relatively small compared with a PC or Mac monitor, requires SEO professionals and brand advertisers to make an impact in a small space.

Mobile image search opens a spectrum of opportunity for a variety of content, such as making sure phone numbers appear in clickable ads, according to SEO-Pro's founder Terry Van Horne. Google also pushed tool into mainstream Thursday adding auto-captions to YouTube videos so people on smart phones can find them.

Manny Rivas, SEO account manger at aimClear ran a test Friday morning on this auto-captioning technology. He thinks Google crawls the clips but doesn't index them, and says he "would find it hard to believe they don't take captions into account at some level."

If used properly, though, captions would give "Google a detailed description of the content, but of course it could be easily gamed," he says. "Although captions don't index in Google SERPs, they do in YouTube."

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