Google Image Search gets more like Pinterest by connecting you to recipes, products and more

A day after Pinterest rolled out an update that put its visual search feature in the front-and-center of its app, Google announced it, too, is giving its visual search engine an upgrade. The company is today updating Image Search with a new feature that aims to connect web users with more than just a list of photos, as before – its results will also now highlight when there’s more to discover from the image in question. For example, it will inform you if there’s a recipe available or if the photo is of something you can buy, among other things.

These newly augmented search results will be labeled with a badge that categorizes the image you’re viewing, and includes text that clarifies the action you can take. If you sought out a recipe, the badges will indicate if clicking through will take you to a page that has the recipe for the dish in question, or if the resulting page includes a video.

Other queries may include badges for things like products you can shop or GIFs you can share.

The company says its algorithms will automatically identify and badge GIFs with no other further action needed on the part of the website owner. However, it’s advising publishers to add Recipe markup on their page for recipes; Product markup for shopping sites; and Video markup for sites with videos. Many publishers are already marking up their pages, as it allows Google to provide more detailed information in its other search verticals.

For instance, video content that’s marked up with structured data like this is used to power the video carousel in Google Search results, like the Top Stories carousel with AMP (Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project).

Google is offering a Structured Data Testing Tool that will verify publishers’ web pages are free of errors, which will then allow them to be badged in new Image Search. A Rich Cards report in the Search Console can also provide aggregate stats on the markup, Google tells webmasters.

This is not the first time that Google has responded to Pinterest by upgrading its Image Search results to help users do more – like shop. It also recently launched a “Similar Items” feature on mobile web and the Android Search app that uses machine learning technology to identify items in photos – like handbags, sunglasses, and shoes – to find places to buy those products and learn their pricing.

In April, it expanded that functionality to also include apparel, effectively turning Image Search into Google’s own take on Pinterest.

Pinterest today highlights its ability to help users find things they like by searching images – often including products you may be inspired to buy, recipes or crafts to try, trips you want to take and much more. The larger goal is to shift a portion of users’ more exploratory searches – those where you’re looking for ideas, and don’t have a specific product or item in mind – over to Pinterest, and thus away from Google.

Pinterest over the years has advanced its visual search prowess by way of acquisitions and tech talent, and has rolled out clever consumer-facing features like live camera search and other search and saving tools. It then opened up visual search as a means for advertisers to reach consumers earlier on their buying cycle.

Google, meanwhile, is preparing to roll out a hefty upgrade to its own search capabilities with the launch of Google Lens, announced at this year’s I/O developer conference. The technology, which will be available via Google Photos and its mobile assistant (and likely its main Search app at some point) understands what it’s looking at in the camera’s viewfinder, then allows you to take action.

But that won’t necessarily stem the shift in users’ attention away from Pinterest and back to Google for searches that are now associated with the popular visual discovery site, like recipes or fashion.

Google says the upgraded Image Search with the badges feature is available now on the Google app for Android and mobile web.