If you’re a marketer, you’ve probably heard some version of this quote from Andrew Ng: "In five years’ time, at least 50% of all searches are going to be either through images or speech." Ng, then Chief Scientist at Baidu, made this prediction in a 2014 interview with Fast Company, and it has reverberated through the industry ever since.
The combined growth of voice and visual search is difficult to measure, and Ng’s statement was an estimate, not our destiny. But whether or not his prediction proves true by the end of 2019 — yes, it’s been five years — voice search has indeed seen massive growth over the past several years, and visual search is on the rise as well.
The global market for voice search devices grew 187% in Q2 of 2018 alone. And in 2019, there are now more than 600 million visual searches conducted on Pinterest every month. Image-based Pinterest ads reportedly boast a 8.5% conversion rate and Pinterest is now projected to exceed $1 billion a year in ad revenue by 2020. This growth is driven in large part by millennials — an estimated 62% of millennials reportedly desire the ability to search visually over any other new technology. And Google, Amazon, Pinterest and Bing have developed significant capabilities in this area, alongside Google and Amazon’s continued focus on furthering their voice recognition and voice search capabilities.
Optimising for voice search has been a hot topic since 2017. But as exclusively text-based search cedes ground, here’s what marketers need to know now about building a strategy for both voice and visual search today — and making sure their brands are ready for the next big thing in search.
Optimise to appear in featured snippets.
Great news — this is a win-win. Because voice assistants are likely to pull from Google’s featured snippets and the Knowledge Panel in order to answer queries, making sure that your brand information appears in this structured result helps you win in both voice search and no-click search situations. No-click searches, or zero-click searches, happen when a user finds the answer to their query on the search engine results page (SERP), in a featured snippet, Knowledge Panel, local pack or other SERP feature and does not click through to the website that is the source of that answer. This answer is highly likely to be the answer that a consumer hears through a voice assistant as well.
Your brand already has all the answers, but you need to structure your data to help AI-powered search engines and voice assistants understand the content on your pages.
Focus on boosting organic image visibility.
Schema markup and metadata are very important for ranking position in search results which, as discussed above, can help you increase your chances of becoming a voice assistant’s preferred answer. But they are also particularly important for SEO in visual search. Because image searches necessarily involve minimal text, metadata is likely one of the only sources of text-based information that search engines can crawl. Additionally, metadata enhances your brand’s ability to drive traffic to your website as well as to individual products on your site — so focus on strengthening it to stand out in both traditional and visual search.
Build visual search into your web inventory.
As of late 2017, only 8% of retailers had built image search into their web inventory. Here’s a significant opportunity for brands to take a step ahead of the competition. Take Target’s partnership with Pinterest, for example, which integrated Pinterest’s visual search technology into Target’s website and apps. Particularly if your brand showcases clothing, furniture or design, the time to explore building out visual search functionality is now.
To see how Yext can help you futureproof your business for upcoming search trends, request a demo.