The other day we were leaving a soccer game for my 6 year old boy. My 2 year old wasn’t quite happy with her perceived lack of playground time, and she expressed her upset quite loudly, while she thrashed around. I calmly (kind of) chased her down, picked her up and lovingly wrestled her into her car seat. She reacted to her entrapment with unrelenting, ear-pearcing screams. Over this outburst, I couldn’t hear myself think, let alone my car’s reverse alarm, and we subsequently backed straight into a light pole. The bone-jarring thud caused instant silence, which was quite nice, but I dreaded getting out to view the damage. I slowly walked to the back of the car, and to my complete surprise and extreme delight I had hid that poorly positioned pole dead center. The only damage was to my trailer hitch cover, it was completely shattered, but it costs less than $100 so I was happy. I went from total dejection to total elation in just a few seconds. What a relief.
Now I really love that trailer hitch cover, and in honor of its fine protection, I wanted to replace it with a new one. Unfortunately I couldn’t remember where I purchased it, I knew it was online somewhere, but it was over a year ago and I can’t even remember my kids names from day to day. So I went to Google and searched “Jeep Trailer Hitch Cover,” which seemed to be a pretty good description. But, while I love search, and I love the amazing supply of products online, I do get a bit frustrated with all the information we get back in the SERPs, it can be way too much. With so many of the sites just being unhelpful noise, much of which is caused by all this Adsense craziness. It makes efficient searching more difficult, and the SERP I was looking at was too much. Fortunately, because I knew what I was looking for, I just clicked on the Images link at the top of the page, and was happy to find an image of the hitch cover I was looking for at uhaul.com
I went to the page, determined the formal name for the product, and searched again, to find other suppliers of the hitch cover. I quickly figured out the best deal, which happened to be at uhaul.com anyway. But going through all this, I became curious as to why U-Haul’s image of the product showed upon the first image SERP, but the image from the other online stores did not. I assumed it was due to U-Haul wisely naming their image well, and using the description tag to inform the search engines about the image, but I was wrong. It turns out U-Haul needs to thank Google for this particular sale. U-Haul’s images are actually served up from a image database, and no image names or descriptions are passed through to the product page, leaving the image without direct description. However, Google knew there was an image on the page, and wisely assumed it was related to the first 3 words on the U-Haul product page, namely “Jeep Hitch Cover,” so Google decided to return this page with my query. People can bang on Google all they want, but in this situation, they performed well.
So what could the other online stores done better to insure they are being found more readily through image search? First let’s look at stores which use the same product image as U-Haul, and see what how they named their images:
First, neither store used the image description tag, so it would be very difficult for any search engine to match my particular query by virtue of the image name alone. Both pages were also full of content, obviously trying to show their authority on the topic Jeep accessories, but Google couldn’t seem to figure out what they were selling in their text. Now if both stores were to name their images a bit more descriptively and add “Jeep Trailer Hitch Cover that is also a step” or something similar in the description tag, they will do better in the future for queries similar to mine. It is very important for us to think about what our customers will type in the search engine, which combination of keywords they will use to find us, and make sure our product images are labeled accordingly. The search engines are smart, but they are looking for some sort of relevance, and if we provide them this information, we will be rewarded with qualified traffic.
One final note, due to the shear volume of web pages being added each day, Image search will continue become more important. Image search allows us to narrow some searches more quickly, to find what we need more efficiently. I use the Image search function quite a bit, if I know what I am looking for, or I am not familiar with an online store for a particular product type. How important is image search to you? How often do you search via images?
Oh, and as a note, my daughter did stop crying… eventually.