Visualise, visualise, visualise!

Adrian Rowe 4 mins

Work your imagery on Google to win more clicks

There’s a lot of chatter and excitement right now among marketers about the growth of voice search, but I wonder if we are in danger of ignoring a powerful established feature of the Google SERP?

The days of ‘ten blue links’ on the search interface are long gone for most types of search – including on mobile devices – and consumers are increasingly drawn to Shopping carousels, Image packs, and Knowledge Graph results. What’s more, when you add in searchers who choose to search first on the ever-so-helpful Images and Shopping Tabs, we’re seeing a real explosion of interest in visual search results

Our most recent research study – we eye tracked over 60 consumers on more than 400 search tasks and forensically analysed the results – suggests that while you can certainly buy a presence for your brand on the SERP, you can earn visibility too. By working your images harder you’ll not only make your brand more visible and accessible, but you can win more clicks too.

Pictures worth a thousand words

For some search tasks in our study, especially in ecommerce sectors like fashion and home furnishings, we saw respondents zoom in on the visual search results on the page. When we asked them what prompted this, it quickly emerged that image results provided useful inspiration and often opened up new avenues to explore.

“I like to find new websites in this way, and then you can have things that other people might not have…I’ve never heard of that brand before but I liked the image of the dress.”

Female – Pre-family Lifestage

What’s more, we discovered that visual inspiration is most useful early in the purchase funnel, whether it comes from Organic images or Shopping thumbnails.

 “I’d normally scroll through the images until I find a style I like, then I would Google that style and see what brands do something similar…”

Female – Family Lifestage

“As a quick overview, I quite often use the images to look for some ideas and then I click on if there are any that are good…if not, I’ll go back to Google and get on the sites that I know.”

Female – Family Lifestage

A pie chart showing share of clicks on Google for fashion search phrases
Clickshare by result type for men’s and women’s fashion search phrases

When we drilled down to look at fashion searches – where the Google SERP is typically much more ‘image-rich’ – a full 8% of our respondents chose to switch to the Images tab. And this was a slightly more prevalent search behaviour for women (9%) versus men (7%).

Another 8% chose an alternative image search route by switching to the Shopping tab, and again women – of all lifestages – were more likely to take this approach than men. Altogether, 18% of our female fashion respondents chose to switch tabs for a more visual search option.

“It saves time to use Google Images instead of going through 300 jumpers on H&M. In fact, you’ve always got an idea of what you want, what style…so Google Images makes it easier to see what comes up.”

Female – Post-family Lifestage

Gazeplot of female viewing little black dresses on Google Images
Close attention to little black dresses on the Google Images tab

Millennials and Gen Z driving visual search growth

And with Google’s mobile experience becoming especially visual in the way it returns results, it’s no surprise that our findings echo other research studies. A recent survey of Generation Z and Millennial shoppers from AI company ViSenze found that more than 60% of those interviewed were most likely to buy on a mobile device, and almost two thirds (62%) said they would like to use visual search.

And US clickstream data from Jumpshot, assembled by Rand Fishkin for his SparkToro blog, shows that by February 2018, Google Images added a healthy 22.6% of clicks to the 62.6% that it picked up from Search.

Develop a visual search strategy to boost your SEO performance

And it is not just in winning direct clicks that image results deliver. Our research suggests that achieving visual success for your brand on the SERP will influence other clicks too. Especially if your shoppers are younger and more digitally savvy.

And on mobile devices, image results are even more prominent…and easier to tap!

In short, imagery is a key asset in your brand’s online marketing strategy. So ensuring that at least one strand of your SEO planning is focused on tagging, compressing and optimising your images is going to pay dividends.

Because for some searchers, and for some search types, a visual search offers a way of cutting through – a shortcut to a more relevant and useful search result.

 Over this series of articles, and in our new white paper on the full results of this landmark study – The Secret Life of Search – you will learn how to make the most of your Paid and Organic search marketing…how to win the battle for first click…how to attract more eyeballs to your copy…and much more. With findings from more than 40 search terms and 100’s of search journeys, no matter what your market sector, you will uncover strategies for search success. Download your free copy here!


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