Over the years, the way we search has advanced by an incredible amount with constant updates from Google. Earlier this week at Google’s 20th anniversary event in San Francisco, they announced a few upcoming changes, specifically changes to Google Images. One of those mentioned at the event is the introduction of stories to Google Images that will be going live tomorrow (27th September 2018). Visuals are becoming more and more important in search. Hence the changes coming to Google Images.
Throughout this post, we will explore what this means for the future of image search. We will also take a look at other changes that have been made or are on their way. Enjoy!
Stories in Google Images
The concept of stories is one that you are most likely familiar with as they are very popular on Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. They are a series of images or videos that you can click through for more information on a specific topic. Usually by linking through to a product page or a web article. In order to bring this feature to Google Images, Google have been working with the AMP Project to release AMP stories to make it easier for publishers to create mobile-focused stories to appear on the web. This new format creates a great, visual way to find out information from searches. To help people easily find this information Google will be rolling out stories to Google Images.
Going forward, Google themselves will begin to use AI to create AMP stories and will show these on search results pages. Google stated that they will start by creating stories about notable people such as celebrities and athletes. These stories on particular people will highlight facts about that person such as age, what they do and important moments of their lives. Accompanying the information will be engaging, visual content of that particular person.
Featured Videos in Google Search
Another new upcoming feature is the introduction of ‘featured videos’ in Google search. It’s well-known that videos are extremely useful way to learn about new topics. However, it can be difficult to find the most useful and relevant videos when searching for information. Google recognised this as a problem and through computer vision can now deeply understand the content of a video. This makes it easier for them to show the most useful information in video form through featured videos in search results. They will also begin to display videos on other related sub topics.
For example, imaging you are planning a hiking trip in Snowdonia national park and want to find out more information about what to expect and things to visit in that area. With featured videos, Google can use its understanding of your search term, and the content of a video to provide you with the most relevant information. Most likely about subtopics of your original search (in this case it would be areas of interest in Snowdonia national park). Sticking to our example, Google may display the most useful videos on Snowdon, Harlech Castle and Pen-y-Pass as these are all notable places to visit in Snowdonia national park. Think of these featured videos as another path to discover more through video content.
Other Changes Coming to Google Images
Unlike 10 years ago, when we search Google Images we aren’t just looking for an image. We’re most likely looking to find more information on a certain topic or find out how to do things. Due to this, Google are rolling out some more new features in the coming weeks, as well as the introduction of stories tomorrow. Let’s take a look at these new features…
Changes to Google Images Algorithm
When you search using Google Images, the web page that the image is published on is incredibly important. When you visit the page from seeing an image, that page should help you in solving a problem. Whether that means finding out how to do something or more information on a topic. To try and achieve this, over the last year Google has made changes to their Images algorithm so they now rank results that have both quality images AND great content on the web page. Imagine you’ve searched for ‘bedside table’. The web page where image was published is now much more likely to be related bedside tables. Google also favours fresh content. Therefore, the web pages behind the images you now see on Google Images are likely to have been recently updated.
Another change that has been made recently in terms of Google Images algorithm is the position of the image on the original web page. If the image appears central to the web page and also above the fold (higher up on the web page), the image is more likely to appear at the top of Google Image results. For example, imagine you’re looking to buy a specific pair of shoes. A product page dedicated to that specific pair of shoes, is much more likely to be shown over a page dedicated to many ranges of shoes. Especially if the image of the shoes appeared high on the web page itself.
Google Will Give More Context to Images
Another change coming this week is the addition of more information to the images found on Google Images. These include captions that show you the title of the page where each image was published. You may think this sounds familiar and that’s because it has already been rolled out on mobile. However, Google are now introducing this to desktop too. This is crucial for UX as it helps the searcher to understand the web page behind the image.
Google Lens is Coming to Google Images
Google launched Google Lens last year on their Google Photos app and on discovery in Google +. Essentially Google Lens uses AI to explore things of interest within an image. For example, imagine you are looking at an outfit online and you particularly like the shoes that are part of the outfit. You can tap on the shoes using Google Lens to see more images of that pair of shoes. The images that you are shown may also be linked to a product page to allow you to easily navigate to a page where you can purchase the shoes you liked the look of. In the coming weeks Google will be introducing Lens to Google Images. Hopefully these changes will make it easier and more visually interesting to search the web, find information and purchase products.
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