How To Use Image Search To Enhance Marketing Strategy

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How To Use Image Search To Enhance Marketing Strategy
How To Use Image Search To Enhance Marketing Strategy

Online search is a routine practice among consumers and marketers alike.  Need some information on a product? Just "Google it": A phrase that people say as easily as they use the word “Kleenex” as a generic term for a product.

Yet advances in search algorithms are creating nuanced search options, tailored to varyious digital media.  Among those nuances is image search, with contextual tactics becoming as valuable to digital marketers as real estate to a New York City realtor. 

The latest image search innovations from Pinterest, Google, and Amazon, are aimed at helping users find relevant information through contextual association. By picking information related to images interest to the users, a visual search becomes a discovery engine for products and services, encouraging conversions as a result.

The image search landscape

Pinterest, for exampled, introduced Lens, an app feature that allows users to aim a camera at an object, and find pins and pinboards related to it.  This is a significant catalyst for consumer sales, since many Pinterest users swap images of products.

Another app, from Amazon, added a similar feature for Prime customers, called Spark.  Users view a feed of product posts and photos shared by other Prime customers. Customers can respond by clicking on the shopping bag icon, or interacting with people by commenting or "smiling" on their posts. The feed allows customers to learn more about products through the images that customers comment on and share, much like a social media platform.

Meanwhile, Google introduced its own features to its Image Search engine. Query results now provide navigational highlights such as text that clarifies the action you can take, and badges that indicate what sites or links are associated with the image. These highlights can direct potential customers to associated materials and aid research behind a product or service image.

Harnessing image search

So how should marketers proceed to leverage these latest image sharing features? Creating good images can sound like a rote by-the-numbers recommendation, despite being an essential tip. (In fact when I consult with small business owners, I usually recommend to minimize use of stock photos – more on that later).

If I were to highlight a single takeaway for a marketer, I would suggest understanding the technical choices to be made about highlighting images on a site, app, and on the media.  Semantic search mark-up has introduced ways to highlight media files, and many algorithms are following those conventions in choosing how images relate to a query.

Here are some tips.

  1. Insert keywords, brand name, or product/service labels Into the image file name. Search engine queries can consider image file names, but many times sites launch with files unchanged to a basic description that describes the images.   That change can incorporate a keyword, or even a hashtag consistently used. Either way, label the file to make image discovery in a search query easy.  This tactic enhances any in search results.
  2. Insert keywords and product/service names into alt tags. Keywords and brand names should be added to alt tags as well. Alt tags are HTML attributes that appear in place of the image when the image is not rendered when a page is loaded. This is meant to address certain conditions, such as the inability to decode an image in the browser, or to provide guidance to a screen reader for the visually impaired.  An alt tag noting a pair of women's shoes can appear like this in the HTML code: <img src=”Jimmy_Choo_pumps.jpg”  alt=”womens shoes”>. Both the image source and alt label offer two opportunities to add a word heavily searched for online.  There are mark-up tools available to help verify attributes and ensure that the description can be identified in a search.
  3. Add contextual information near the image. On top of website elements, search engines examineimages against search queries by the text near them. The verification of text content allows an opportunity to optimize them all and keep your page messaging unified and consistent.

Finally, about that stock photo comment I made earlier.  Cameras are providing better resolution each year, so definitely taking good quality images of products and services is a must. But marketers can also take advantage of machine learning techniques, like image classification, a visual recognition technique that gathers images based on statistical clustering analysis. These techniques discover relevancy with more accuracy between images and content, providing better results to user queries. Thus selecting stock photos over well-planned product or service photos means overlooking an opportunity to meaningfully connect with people.  Image groups like Instagram Stories will underline the need for real photos further.

So if you are a marketer selecting the right images for your product or service, be prepared to plan for more than adding a filter.  Plan ahead with images and their labels to help users complete their product and service searches, thus driving them towards conversion.

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