It turns out that consumers rely on images in search engine result pages more than Google and Microsoft execs thought. Knowing this can help SEO professionals better optimize sites, according to executives from both companies who spoke at the Search Engine Strategies conference last week in San Jose, Calif.
It also turns out that image search is very important. Todd Schwartz, group product manager of online services division for Bing at Microsoft, shed light on the types of queries that consumers search for on Bing, he says. Following “Web search” categorized as a “vertical,” images took the No. 2 spot.
Not surprisingly, R.J. Pitman, director of product management for global search properties at Google, believes that image search as a vertical sits at No. 1, rather than No. 2. The growth comes from the “more than 1 billion” camera phones being sold yearly, and the ability to share pictures. Google sees “hundreds of millions of searches daily across billions and billions of images,” he says. Images are no longer a “nice to have, but a must have” piece to promote businesses online.
Pitman says Google has begun to rank images based on the quality of the image. People need to stop thinking about the photos as images and look at them as digital bits of information, where pixels in the frame actually mean something. Google considers more than the sitemap feeds, title tags and attached metadata when ranking images. The search engine now looks at what’s in the image. It helps Google find and serve up similar images through object and facial recognition, according to Pitman, who says to consider these facts to better optimize “when building next-generation Web sites.”