Visual search is on the rise.

Last week, Pinterest announced that it has updated its app to put search front and center. According to Pinterest product manager Audrey Tsang, "We're making it easier for people to search for ideas on their phones because that's what an increasing number of people are coming here to do. Monthly mobile text searches are up 40% over last year."

Tsang also revealed that "Thanks to our visual discovery features, monthly visual searches have increased nearly 60% over last year. And our search returns 20% more Pins, with nearly 4bn ideas getting served up each and every day."

Pinterest's focus on visual search is part of a bold strategy bet that has been in the works for some time. While the popular social platform, which boasts some 175m users a month, is far from a dominant ad player, it's looking to change that.

"We're going to be the company that helps you use your phone to search the real world using images," the company promised at the Cannes advertising festival in June. If it can pull that off, its ad business could boom.

But the world's largest search engine, Google, has its own visual search plans too.

On Tuesday, the search giant announced that its Image Search on mobile devices now supports badges that indicate when an image is associated with a recipe, video, product or animation (GIF).

According to Assaf Broitman, a member of Google's Image Search team, the badges will help Google users who turn to Image Search not knowing exactly what they're looking for. He offers an example:

When you want to bake cupcakes, but you don't know what kind, Image Search can help you make a decision. Finding an image with a recipe can be challenging: you might end up on a page that has only pictures of these delicious things, or a cupcake fan site that doesn't have recipes, but everything else about them.

Badges address this issue, and to help Google identify content so that it can apply badges where appropriate, the search engine is encouraging publishers to add Recipe, Product and Video structured data markup to their pages using schema.org markup.

Google launched schema.org with Yahoo and Bing in 2011. While there is debate over structured data's effect on search engine rankings, evidence suggests that use of structured data can help publishers achieve greater clickthrough rates.

As Mary Bowling, co-founder of digital agency Ignitor Digital, explained, use of schema.org markup is "not a ranking signal, but a clarity signal." By helping Google better understand the content of a page, publishers can increase the likelihood that their content will be displayed in the SERPs via a rich snippet, which can in turn increase the likelihood that users click on it.

By using schema.org markup to apply badges in Image Search, Google is giving publishers a new reason to add schema.org markup to their pages if they're not already doing so. And because Pinterest also supports schema.org structured data, publishers can take advantage of Pinterest's growing focus on visual search at the same time.

To learn more on this topic, book yourself onto our SEO Training Course. Subscribers can also download our SEO Best Practice Guide.

Patricio Robles

Published 7 August, 2017 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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