Google’s new “similar items” feature has been unveiled and is gaining in popularity (although it was actually released in December and just not announced until recently). It shows an effort on the search giant’s part to utilize machine learning to make their site more user-friendly. It appears they are taking a break from advancements in voice technology to further improve their photo capabilities, and no one is complaining.
The feature gives users the ability to click on an image that appears in a search to find similar products that they might be interested in purchasing. Google isn’t the only company that seems to want to incorporate machine learning to make their business run more smoothly, so we can assume this new feature is only the beginning of a trend that may result in other search engines and web platforms using algorithms to further increase their product intelligence. Other sites like Amazon and Pinterest have already adopted this idea to improve their shopping search experiences, but given that Google has over 1 billion users, they have the potential to make a big splash in the product world.
Plain and simple, it is imperative that your business gets on board with similar items now, so you know how to best optimize your product pages to get your items featured. Read on to learn more about the similar items feature as well as how you can take advantage of it for your company’s marketing purposes.
What Exactly is Similar Items?
The Google Blog released a statement saying that the purpose of similar items is “to help users find products they love in photos that inspire them on Google Image Search.” Machine vision technology is used to locate products within images and then generate matching products that users can purchase. This technology is extensive and includes the ability to find individual faces and objects within images, among other capabilities. Users are also given pricing and availability information for the products.
Right now the feature is limited to handbags, sunglasses, and shoes, but Google hopes to expand the feature to include more clothing items as well as home and garden categories in the near future. The feature is already popular enough that we can assume it will grow even further in the coming months, especially as other companies and search engines begin unveiling similar features to increase the competition.
The feature is currently available in mobile browsers and the Android Google Search App, and Google plans to expand to more platforms in the future as well. Google says that the similar items carousel currently gets millions of views and clicks a day from all over the world, and judging from the usefulness of the feature, we can understand why. Who doesn’t want to view a beautiful photograph and immediately be given information on how to purchase the (previously unattainable) products that are featured?
So How Can You Make Sure Your Products are Featured?
According to Google, to ensure your items are featured in similar items, you need to:
- Ensure that the product offerings on your pages have schema.org product markup, including an image reference. Products with name, image, price & currency, and availability meta-data on their host page are eligible for Similar items.
- Test your pages with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to verify that the product markup is formatted correctly. To use this tool just add the URL of your product page and review any errors the tool may find. We used Keurig as an example, and as you can see they have two errors, both requiring them to improve their Image so Google can recognize it as a product:
To reiterate, including schema.org’s product metadata on product pages will ensure that Google can find your products as well as its pricing and description information; these are key details to ensure the success of similar items. It is also imperative to include the requested information, ie, an image reference, name, price, currency, and availability information. If this isn’t available, Google will not be able to use it in similar items and your product will be overlooked (pricing and availability information was some of the top Image Search feature requests from users).
In addition, you will absolutely want to use the Structured Data Testing Tool to ensure you have correctly formatted your product markup data. We also recommend using the “site:yourdomain.com” query to see how your images appear in search. If you have done everything correctly, your products will appear and display the necessary information when clicked on. Just remember, Google said it could take up to a week for the Googlebot to crawl your site, so if the change doesn’t happen immediately you just need to be patient.
Taking Google Similar Items One Step Further
While writing this article, Google released another feature related to similar items called “style ideas.” Now, when a user is searching fashion product photos the Google image search will provide a grid of lifestyle images and outfits to serve as inspiration and show users how products can be used and worn in real life. You will still see the extensive carousel of similar items, and you can use both features to choose the best items and determine how a product will look and fit in with your existing style. It appears that Google is trying to become a fashion consultant, and with their innovative thinking and accessible features, it’s not surprising that the search engine might become your closet’s best friend.
It goes without saying that both these features have the potential to revolutionize the shopping experience for users, and you don’t want to be last in line to start using them. Follow the instructions above, and you are sure to have your products featured in no time! How do you anticipate this feature changing your company’s marketing strategy? Comment in the section below!
Photo Credit: webmasters.googleblog.com, androidpolice.com