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BizReport : Advertising archives : December 17, 2010


Are you ready for visual search?

This holiday season some predict that more consumers will use visual search rather than traditional text searches to find products. Why? The old saying 'a picture is worth 1,000 words' may be part of it, but really visual search can give consumers a better idea of the product, business or brand they are researching.

by Kristina Knight

I had the chance to chat with Superfish's Joe Dew about visual search and what it means for online brands recently. The Superfish platform takes any image as a search query, analyzes and converts that image and returns identical or similar matches to the query within seconds. Here is what he has to say.

Kristina: "First, what is visual search?"

Joe: "We define visual search as the ability to use an image--rather than text--as a search query. There are many different techniques for accomplishing visual search. OCR (optical character recognition) and flat-image recognition technologies like from SnapTel have been around for many years. There are also companies such as Red Laser that can perform barcode scanning. Still others can find identical image matches but not similar images.

Superfish visual search technology is a real-time algorithmic process where we can take any product image as a search query and return both identical and visually similar results from our index of over 110 million products. Superfish technology is also served on a scalable platform designed to be easily accessible to third party developers."

Kristina: "For typical search, brands can use keywords and SEO tactics...how does a search campaign work when it's visual rather than keyword based?"

Joe: "If an advertiser wants to make their products more easily "findable" to visual search engines, here are a few techniques:

• Have the product displayed on a white or neutral background.
• Display only one product at a time. If there are multiple products in an image, algorithms will have a difficult time understanding your search intent.
• Keyword tags help but are not mandatory. If the image has accompanying keywords, those works can help in the classification of the product. Visual search works primarily off the image itself, not its tags. So keywords can be helpful but not required .
• If possible, use different images for different products. Some advertisers use the same product image to represent different versions of a product. For example, an image of a diamond ring if often used to describe a 1ct diamond as well as a .75ct. The visual search algorithms will see these two images as identical and may assume they represent the same product.

Kristina: "Do you find that visual search increases at certain times -- the holidays, for example? -- or is it a constant thing?"
Joe: "Our browser add-on product is less than a year old so we don't yet have any good seasonal data for comparison purposes. We do find, however, two basic uses cases. Some consumers like to use visual search primarily as a deal finder. With just one click, they can find identical products from across the web. Other shoppers use visual search for discovery. We find that 30-40% of our merchant clicks go to products that are visual similar, but not identical, to the original query image."

Kristina: "What are your top three tips for visual search?"

Joe: "As a user, we highly recommend you just try it. Download our free browser add-on fromwww.superfish.com and start experiencing visual search whenever you go shopping. For advertisers interested in having their products displayed in our search results, just add us a publisher in your affiliate program and have your products available in a feed."






Tags: 2010 holiday trends, Joe Dew, search ads, search marketing, Superfish, visual search








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  • On a side note, visual search has been evolving the meta search engine space as well, and Yometa.com is worth noting(http://www.YoMeta.com).

    YoMeta.com is a Visual meta search engine that displays results from three search engine Bing, Yahoo and Google in a visual interface and displays the most relevant search results based on a combination of the three search engines ranking determined by the Yometa algorithm.

    Users can see any combination of search results from Bing, Yahoo and Google in one screen and is displayed in a visual interface. The search results are displayed in a Venn Diagram, the results closer to the middle are more relevant.

    Its good to see Visual Search evolving in the internet.

  • While image tags may not be necessary for a visual search, I think they should still be included to help with keyword searches. Why not allow your image to be found in both manners? Now your product can be found regardless of how a user searches. It's important not to cut out one in favor of the other and keep all your bases covered.





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