A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

On a quest to explore the old adage, I recently returned from an engaging Image Search session at SES San Jose where I had the opportunity to talk about the Image Search market, share some customer insights, as well as demo some of the ways we’re focused on helping users with images in Bing.   

Since this was the first panel in recent history solely devoted to Image Search, the first question I explored was a fundamental question: How important is Image Search to the overall search market?   What many people may not realize is how big the Image Search market actually is.  In fact, according to Comscore (June ’09), over 60 million searchers generate over 1 Billion queries a month, driven both by the explosion of image content on the web today, and the increasing need of consumers to use images to help them complete tasks.  These were impressive stats, and make searching for images one of the top search engine activities we see today.

Diving a bit deeper, I was interested in sharing some insights into what customers are doing and what they need in an Image Search experience.  Behavioral data shows that consumers engage deeply in Image Search tasks, with nearly double the page views per query on average as we see in the more text-centric core search experience.   Looking at the consumer research, our analyses show that images on a traditional search results page are a big driver of consumer satisfaction, especially for task related queries like buying products, catching up on celebrity gossip, or planning a trip.  This is one reason why we are seeing images both on the main search results page and within the Image Search verticals.    Furthermore, a study conducted by Microsoft Research shows that consumers can process results with images 20% faster than text only results.  So it’s clear that images play a big part in helping consumer’s complete tasks for a variety of search activities where decision making is enhanced by a more visual search experience. 

Images in Bing

OK, since this is an image discussion, let’s show you some cool pics of ways images are enhancing the Bing experience!

Rich Homepage

Search is a daily activity for most people, so at Bing, we wanted to make the home page a great place for consumers to start their search experience.  Since consumers love rich images, we feature a fast-loading, and beautiful picture to enhance the Search experience daily (by the way thanks to all for the great feedback on this feature.) Click here for more cool info on our home page.

Image Search

One of the key areas of emphasis within Bing is our Image Search vertical, which is a great way to access the billions of images on the web today. 

In addition to our massive index, there a host of useful features that make searching for images a great experience within Bing.  Why wait for Images?  Infinite Scroll enables you to have a quick and easy way to view virtually unlimited images by simply scrolling down the page.  Another popular feature is the Related Search images found in the Explore Pane (the pane of tools on the left).  Related Searches in images enables consumers to quickly find other images of interest, based on what is most relevant for that query.  It’s an easy way to explore more about a topic.  Image search also has powerful viewing options (in the upper right), so you can choose how much detail you see on the page, from multiple small images to larger images with image details like the below.  

Also in the Explore Pane, Image Search has numerous filtering tools to help you quickly find what you’re looking for, including the ability to filter by image size, color, style, or body view.   The screenshot below is an example of how a search for Madonna can be then focused down to just the black and white, face-only images of Madonna.  It’s a great way to quickly refine the image you’re looking for.

One of the coolest features is our color detection feature that understands the colors in the query and returns items of the same color – super quick and helpful for many shopping and image related tasks!

We’re constantly adding new image features, so look for more additions soon.  In the meantime, one of the questions we get from webmasters and publishers is how do we ensure the images on our site are optimized for search?  

Here’s what our top image developer recommends:

  • Name image files appropriately – For improved relevance, make sure that the file name describes the image appropriately.
  • Alternative image text (alt text) matters – For increased optimization, make sure photos are properly described with alternative text tags, and ensure that test within any images is also
  • Watch frame breaking – Sites that attempt to break frames make it more difficult for the image to display correctly within search.  Make sure you’re testing your site against the search engines.

For additional information on how to get the most out of the images on your site check out the great post here, or find more information at our resource center called Toolbox.

So that’s the brief recap of the panel presentation and a quick overview of the Image Search space.  Hope you found it useful.   The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words certainly holds true here – all the data supports how significant a role images play in Search.  And with Bing, our focus is to continue to build out image experiences focused on helping consumers complete the tasks and make the decisions that matter most to them. 

So check out our Image Search… I hope you enjoy all the images that make Bing a delightful and productive search experience. 

Todd Schwartz-Bing

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