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How to Optimise Images for Visual Search

  • Adela Belin
  • 5 min read
How to Optimise Images for Visual Search


How much attention do you pay to image optimization?

Most often, traditional SEO tactics focus more on keyword and website ranking that we often forget images can be a massive driver of quality organic traffic.

Especially for e-commerce and retail businesses, image results on Google account for 29% of search queries and often appear on major SERP features for shopping keywords.

Based on a survey by ViSenze, 62% of millennial and Genz Z consumers are calling for better visual search capabilities to identify products on their mobiles for purchase.

Whether on Google, Amazon, or Instagram, search is becoming visual, and it is time for SEOs and brands to learn to adapt.

In this article, we will get you through what visual search is and how you can optimise images to rank better on visual searches.

Visual search refers to searches through taking a picture or uploading an image, rather than text.

The process involves using artificial technology to scan through an image to understand the content and context to provide related pictures and sites that users may be looking for.

Let’s say that a user is looking for a specific handbag design. On Google, she may type the keywords “leather sling bag” or “crossbody bag” but still fail to find what she is looking for.

What is visual search? (Image Source)

Through a visual search on Google Lens, it would now only take her a few seconds to find an exact match and other similar designs.

*Note: Don’t confuse a visual search with an image search where users type in keywords to search for image results.

How does visual search ranking work?

You can’t optimise your images for visual search without knowing how Google Lens works.

Upon uploading a picture, Lens will identify the core object in your photo and compare it to indexed images from around the web, then rank those images based on their similarity and relevance.

When comparing identical images, the algorithm is also affected by several ranking factors similar to Google search.

Based on a Backlinko study that analysed 65,388 Lens results, it is found that there are five potential ranking factors:

  • Alt text
  • Title tags
  • URL
  • Domain authority
  • Responsive design

Based on these ranking factors, here is a list of SEO best practices to optimise your image.

1. Use structured data

Structured data is the standard format to mark up information on your website. It helps search engines better understand what your web elements are about.

Using markup on your website can let Google display your product image as a rich result — showing the availability, price, and review ratings to better attract potential buyers.

It will also show up on Lens’s image results just like below.

Use structured data (Image Source)

Google Search Central has a complete guide on adding structured data and recommends website owners use JSON-LD.

Keyword research is still an essential element of image SEO as Google extracts information about a picture from its data and the surrounding content on the page.

That’s why knowing the exact search terms people are using to find your product can help refine the keyword strategy for your image and content.

As a rule of thumb, use product-defining keywords like “breathable mesh t-shirts” in the textual descriptions of your image, including:

  • Alt text
  • Title tags
  • Page URL
  • Page content
  • Caption

Plus, do the same with your filename. Rename your files using descriptions instead of the default file name like img502.jpeg.

But as with standard SEO practices, avoid keyword stuffing as it can create a negative user experience and may cause your site to be seen as spam.

3. Upload ideal image size and file types

Image file type and size are other important factors as they can affect your webpage loading time and user experience.

Large images can slow pages, while low-quality images can deter your user. That’s why you want to find the right balance between image quality and size.

Google Images supports many formats, including BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, and SVG. Each file type has its own advantages and disadvantages.

For example, while JPEG is widely used among these file types for its better compression levels, it does not support transparent backgrounds as PNG does.

As your website would need various image types for different purposes, what matters is to keep your file size under 100kb or less.

If it is necessary to use a larger file size, it can help to compress your files into Next-Gen formats such as JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, or WebP that can load quicker.

Otherwise, you can also save your images as progressive JPGs where images will gradually display as they are loaded.

Upload ideal image size and file types (Image Source)

Meanwhile, the best practice for dimension is to make your images responsive to the device used to access your website.

Whether it is a photo you have taken or a picture your team has designed, it’s always better to use your own images.

Stock pictures are used across many web sources and hence don’t offer the same SEO impact as a unique, high-quality image.

6. Upload multiple high-quality images

Quality is vital to retaining your prospect’s attention. So avoid taking your product photos using your mobile camera.

Instead, invest in a high-quality camera to get high-resolution shots of your product item from various angles and backgrounds.

Uploading multiple shots of your product will make it more viable for searchers to find your product no matter the angle.

A back-facing photo on your website can lead the audience to your business first, even if it is a picture of the product from the back.

7. Remove clutter from images

Automatic object detection works best when the product is the image's focal point.

Though you may want to create a powerful and emotional image of your product to captivate users, always include photos of your product with a white background.

This excludes the clutter from your frame and helps the machine to better recognize target objects in the background and filter out irrelevant targets.

8. Have an image sitemap

An image sitemap can help your images be discovered and indexed by Google and is essential if you have pictures loaded via Javascript.

More importantly, it lets you provide more relevant details about your images, including the title, subject matter, caption, geographic location, and more.

9. Have a mobile-friendly website

Since visual search often starts with a user taking an image using their smartphone, it only makes sense that the result leads to a mobile-friendly website.

For this reason, your website must look good on all types of mobile devices.

You can check how accessible your pages are and improve using Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool.


Ultimately, visual search is on the way to changing users’ search behavior, considering that it both shortens and extends the search journey.

People can go from image to purchase in just a few clicks, meaning it literally pays that you are optimizing your image for discovery.

If you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to get traffic and sales, start adopting these best practices to improve your image rankings on Lens.

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