Being incorporated into branded apps and websites as well as improved visual search functionality being built into platforms such as Pinterest, Bing, and Google, visual search is changing the search marketing landscape as we know it.

The emergence of visual search technology is something every search marketers need to know about because this could shape search habits over the next few years and what brands can do to adapt and compete. ASOS is already making it much easier for users to snap an image and either buy the product captured or search for similar items.

Ben Silbermann the Pinterest’s CEO has previously said that “the future of search will be about pictures rather than keywords.”

The improvement of Visual Search

Search engines are getting better at understanding the components of images with help of Visual search the image itself is the query resulting in more reliable results and heightened usage.

As you all know voice search usage has increasing over the last few years, so has visual search. Search can now be done based on part of an image, search with our cameras, and search via augmented reality applications.

In 2017 report by Jumpshot and Moz confirms that visual search is on a high rise, with 27 percent of all searches across 10 major properties being for images.

Pinterest has also confirmed that their users carried out more than 600 million combined monthly searches using their Lens technology in February 2018 and there are now more image results than ever being returned by Google.

Clearly, visual search is growing rapidly.

Let’s explore how people are using visual search, what the technology is capable of, and how it might develop in the future.


Pinterest let its users highlight specific sections of Pins to find visually similar Pins to a selected area since 2014, two years ahead of Bing, before Bing introduced that functionality to its mobile image search in July 2016.Pinterest Lens lets you use the camera in your Pinterest app to discover ideas inspired by objects you see out in the real world.

Pinterest is using this technology to help build its user base and thus boost its ability to make more money as an advertising platform. To capitalize on this demand, Pinterest has released ‘Shop the look’ pins for advertisers to list fashion and home décor Pins, which users can find by selecting specific parts of an image and ‘shopping the look


Bing’s visual search is still a useful tool that has significantly enhanced its image search offering over the past couple of years compared to Google’s current offering. Through the development of the smart web-based image search and image search based on photos taken by your camera.

Allowing users to select portions of images and focus in on specific items to further refine their search. For example, a search for “dining room ideas” returns this image

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When shopping intent is detected behind a query they provide related products with pricing information, however having tested this feature extensively I’ve still not managed to trigger the option to buy an item I’ve selected!


Google has made a series of moves designed at making image search less difficult and more accessible, which include launching its own camera-based search, Google Lens.

The ultra-modern model of Google Lens (May 2018) will be native to several Android smartphone cameras, meaning it won’t need to be operated inside a comparable app. Presumably, this will expand the usage of this in contrast to Pinterest and Bing enabling Google to further monetize their image results.

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Google Lens will have a ‘Style Match’ feature, comparable to Pinterest Lens, and in line with the different big players in visible search, the emphasis on shopping will give users a link to buy what they’ve snapped or browse related items.

Google has also updated its app and mobile results to include badges for image search as well. Now, in searches made inside the app, users see a badge in the bottom left nook of an image.

For example, badges such as “recipe” or perhaps the most considerable badge – “product” – shown if the item is reachable for buy online.

How Can Brands Leverage Image Search?

1. Focus on Organic Image Visibility

Visual search means that competing in image search results needs to receive a greater SEO focus. Where previously optimizing images has been an afterthought, it may now receive increased attention.

2. Build Image Search into Web Inventory

Pinterest rolled out its visual search technology into Target’s apps and websites. As part of the deal, Target will reportedly increase ad spend with Pinterest and test new Pinterest ad formats.

Recent research found that only 8 percent of retail brands have built visual search capability into their web inventory and I’d certainly expect this to grow over the next couple of years.

3. Advertise on Pinterest

There are reportedly 600 million Pinterest Lens searches every month, a figure which has seen sustained growth since the technology was released.

 The stat that half of Pinners have already made a purchase after seeing a Promoted Pin and Pinterest advertising seems a no brainer for ecommerce retailers.

Thanks to Pinterest’s core visual search technology and advanced image recognition, brands will get the benefit of their ads automatically showing up next to visually related products.

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