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New Google feature combines text and image search

Magnifying glass views

New Google feature combines text and image search

Google has developed its Lens feature, available on Android and iOS devices, so that users can search with an image complemented by text – a technique described by some sources as “searching for things you can’t even describe”.

Mobile web users might be familiar with the Lens tool, which allows you to take a photo of something – such as a plant, animal or landmark – and perform a kind of reverse image search to find out what it is.

Lens is often astonishingly accurate. I once managed to get it to correctly identify a plate of African vegan food, which was all the more remarkable considering it was my attempt at making it!

With this new update, which is currently in beta mode and only available in the US, users are able to search for text along with their image, allowing them to find out more about an item before they even know what it is. It could be compared to taking an unfamiliar tool out of a handyman’s toolbox and asking him “what does this do?”, yet orchestrated entirely through Google.

Called Google Lens Multisearch, an example of how the tool could be used is to search using a picture of a red T-shirt and include word “blue”, which would lead Google to try to find the same style of T-shirt in blue. Users could also search for a type of animal or plant and enquire how to feed or care for it, without having to first find out what it is.

For online retailers, this makes it all the more important to use images with accurate file names and tags, remembering that although reverse image search is getting increasingly clever, text can still really help Google to understand an image.

For example, for the last photograph I took on my phone, the file has automatically been named IMG_20220329_185018.jpg. A search engine, or a human, might be able to work out that this means the image was taken at 6:50 pm on March 29th, 2022, but the file name would give no clue as to what the image consists of. It would be better for me to rename it to describe what’s in the picture (it happens to be a mosquito, according to Google Lens).

For more advice on how your site can gain more visibility in Google, why not talk to the Engage Web team?

John Murray

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