The Rise of Visual Search in 2020

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The Eyes Have It

Keeping on top of SEO is kind of like keeping on top of a rolling ball. It takes a particular kind of dedication and skill to ensure that you keep that delicate balance while maintaining momentum. Nowhere is this truer than when looking at and adapting to the numerous changes that occur within search engines every year.

One such change is the increase in visual search across search platforms.

With continuously improving technology behind it visual search is becoming a greater and greater part of the search algorithm atmosphere. Especially on platforms like Pinterest, whose CEO has stated that he thinks “The future of search is going to be about pictures instead of keywords,” there is a lot buzz about image searches.

No one knows for sure just how they will impact the future of search engine optimization or search rankings. However, Google has already implemented some changes to give a higher priority to images in content, so it is something to pay attention to moving forward.

This also means that there are new and exciting opportunities to take advantage of, especially for ecommerce websites to boost their search presence.

How are people using visual search?

The first, and one of the more important questions to ask is how are people using visual search in the first place? This is important as it can help and providing a kind of snapshot of how visual search can impact and benefit your content and your business.

In research released in 2018 by Pinterest after introducing Pinterest Lens, their visual search algorithm designed to help users find similar results based on photographs taken, these are the categories they found people were searching for the most using the new visual search tool:

  • Fashion
  • Home décor
  • Art
  • Food
  • Products
  • Animals
  • Outfits
  • Beauty
  • Vehicles
  • Travel

While search habits change and are going to shift over time, its important to take notice of data released to better utilize and understand how certain technologies are used. Just like how voice search primarily is used for answering questions or getting quick results on how to do things, there are going to be niches that search types fall into. As it stands retail, particularly for clothing, the homestead, and recipes are looking to be among the primary targets for visual search.

By understanding how people are using visuals search, you can better integrate it into your SEO strategies.

Where are people using visual search?

Another big thing to know is what platforms are being utilized the most for visual search. This way you can focus efforts on maximizing your search presence and better utilize these search engines and websites. It also lets you know where to pay attention as these platforms make changes to their image searches, so that you can keep as up to date as possible.


Though it isn’t as revolutionary as other image search offerings as some of its contemporaries, Bing has none the less developed and implemented a visual search that has been enhanced over the years in comparison to what search giant Google has on offer.

Bing allows people to select and focus on parts of images specific to what they are looking for, rather than just the whole of the image itself. It also boasts the ability to determine whether the search was made to shop for an item and will try and display pricing information.

All that said however, Bing still has a long way to go. Compared to some of the other platforms listed here, it is a little hit and miss, and can often fail to recognize the actual item, basing its results instead on color.

Microsoft is always iterating though, and continues to make improvements to Bing Image search to get it up to speed with its contemporaries.


While it may come as a surprise to some, Yahoo also has a solid visual search engine. While not as popular or widespread, Yahoo none the less has a powerful visual search system that while structured like Bing and Google’s visual search, is structured to allow for easier access to similar content.

Its parameters allow for users to narrow down to certain details pertaining to usage licenses, color, and other parameters. While that is simila to other visual searches, its ease of use makes it is a useful tool for those looking for alternatives to other image-based platforms for their content.

Yahoo visual search does lack a certain depth that is found in some of the other search engines, but it is none the less a stable place for people searching for what they are looking for. Despite that it has not been the titan of search engines it once was, it is a reliable platform and one that still has many users globally today.


Google Lens is another visual search system that is part of an initiative at Google to make image search simpler and easier to used.

With native availability across most major phone types, Google Lens has integration into Google’s search engine, making it a powerful tool. Through use of things like badges and style match, it is designed to assist search users.

The badges in particular are a big feature, as for people searching for recipes, or looking to make purchases based off of the item they are searching they will have quick access to be able to do so.

This gives immediate access to users, which in this era of instant results is great for both users and content creators alike.


Probably the most sophisticated and advanced of the visual search systems out there in terms of accuracy, Pinterest has been on the forefront of image search for years now. With the ability to highlight images as early as 2014, the image based social media platform has been an innovator in image searches through use of Pinterest Lens.

With a snap of an image, you are able to search through lists of similar items, items of the same brand, and in some instances even be able to click through to the shop the item is listed at to purchase it.

With the addition of the ‘shop the look’ pins for advertisers, users can also take advantage of the ability to highlight parts of an image to get recommended items for purchase based on that selection.

Of themany forms of visual search, Pinterest is the most advanced. This is almost entirely due to its focus. Google and Bing both are search platforms with a variety of features and services to update and maintain, where Pinterest can focus fully on its visual search engine.

How can my business take advantage of image search?

There are a few key ways to take advantage of this technology and provide benefit to your business.

  • Implement schema markups onto your images based on what they are. For products this includes name, price, currency, and availability.
  • Validate URLs through Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool and ensure user friendliness.
  • Build your web inventory to include image search if possible to leverage the emerging technology.
  • Consider advertising on Pinterest to utilize its visual search systems and take advantage of Pinterest shopping.

While it is not necessary to use all these features all at once, it is advisable to look at your business and determine which would best benefit you. Taking the time to update your online marketplace and improve your data for Google and other search engines is a valuable asset in ensuring your content is as primed for visual search discovery as it can be.

What is the Future of Visual Search?

No one can know for sure, but as the technology evolves and becomes more useful, integrated, and wide spread, more possibilities will undoubtedly open up new roads. Visual search will likely never fully replace other search methods like text or voice, but its pretty clear to see that visual search is here to stay.

Especially for fashion and home décor retailers, use of image searches seems poised to take over. Taking steps to better implement these features can better position your business and your products to enhance their discoverability, and bring more eyes to your brand.