For much of its existence, search marketing has been about keywords and marketers making sure (or trying to make sure) their text matched what text consumers would be searching for. But we live in a visual world, and as smartphones — with their ubiquitous cameras and small screens that are less-than-ideal for text — have become the dominant platform for all things Internet, visual or image search is becoming more and more important.
“The next evolution of search will be to be able to process and index images as we currently process text,” writes Flossie Draper, senior programmes executive at the IAB UK, as an intro to its “Search Week 2016” (which will include a presentation from Microsoft on its image search ventures).
The major search companies have been working to make image search part of their offerings. Google has begun listing retailer and product ads in image search results, and recently acquired Moodstocks to beef up its image recognition and algorithms. Twitter is set to introduce a “Stickers” function that will act as a hashtag to make pictures searchable. Microsoft updated its Bing iOS app to enable users to search using their phone’s camera.
Yet, marketers are still catching up. Last week, this column noted that image optimization issues like missing alt links can affect how a search engine evaluates your site’s overall user experience. Such issues affected nearly half of the 100,000 sites evaluated by SEMrush.
Over at content marketer Brafton, Ben Silverman recommends making graphics and images work by using alt text appropriately, including informative captions and using schema markup language to give those images a function.
“You can assign a specific role to your picture using schema,” Silverman writes. “For instance, when somebody searches the term ‘lemon squares’ on Google, proper schema markup can tell the search engine to include the right photo next to a recipe result in a SERP.” That image can make your link more appealing, and increase your traffic.
There’s no shortage of guides about how to optimize images for search marketing efforts, with hints ranging from the use of alt text and captions to size and thumbnail considerations. If you’re not using one already, it’s time to start.
As a general practice, marketing has long been a visual medium, born out by the maxim that clients are always looking to make the logo bigger. Despite its heavy past reliance on text, search marketing is no different. You need to be ready for it.