Search engines are a key component of marketing efforts across industries, for both B2C and B2B businesses. An estimated 93% of web traffic is generated via search engines, and the average click-through rate (CTR) for the first result in Google is 19.3%. Given the immense amount of competition in today’s market and a finite amount of consumer attention, brands dedicate significant resources to increasing their chances of appearing in top results for relevant searches.
Central to a successful search engine marketing strategy is the understanding of how search engine providers rank websites and their associated content to determine which website will earn the top spots in both paid and organic search. The goal of any platform is to attract users with the best experience and the quickest access to the information they are searching for, which is why search engine optimization (SEO) is key to driving quality traffic to a site.
While Google is the most recognizable for its place as the most used platform, as well as the one with the most frequent updates, it is important for brands to understand how their content is scored by each platform and the opportunities (and challenges) that exist to appear as a top result.
As technology has advanced, web platforms have evolved to be able to track more than keyword matches and bounce rates; they are able to track factors that measure overall site experience. They have also begun to integrate some of the more desirable website attributes into their own experience. Search engines are, after all, businesses in their own right, and their goal will always be to retain users by providing the best experience available.
Brands too, must now compete on experience, as 80% of consumers view the buying experience as important as the product itself. With that in mind, the opportunities to win in search and in sales through immersive technologies such as 3D and augmented reality (AR) are compelling, and quickly being adopted across industries.
How is AR Used in Search?
When Google first released AR-enabled search results a few years ago, the capabilities were largely limited to educational or entertainment content. Users could search for an animal and view it in AR on their desktop, or bring a NASA astronaut to their living room. In 2019 Google Swirl was released in beta, allowing brands to launch interactive 3D Video and Display ads. Brands such as Purina, Adidas, Nissan, and Belvedere took advantage and saw significant results. Adidas Latin America saw 4x the engagement of their benchmark rich media ads, while Belvedere drove 4.9x higher purchase intent compared to category norms.
Google has continued to develop immersive ad capabilities, expanding into AR powered campaigns and more product-related search results. AR Beauty Try On, which originally launched through FameBit and YouTube, was added to Google Shopping in 2020.
AR and SEO: a Match Made in Mountain View
3D and AR are not ranking factors for Google’s quality score, however having these tools positively impacts user experience and relevance, which are considered by Google’s crawlers. Additionally, content on a brand site that promotes virtual try-ons or view in AR capabilities can be crawled and taken into consideration as Google determines which sites are most likely to fit a user’s needs. This is particularly true as the adoption of AR capabilities across verticals increases, and consumers come to expect immersive experiences as opposed to finding them novel.
Interest in virtual try-ons has increased significantly in the last several years, so the ability to optimize a brand website for discovery of 3D and AR-enabled shopping features can lead to higher quality rankings and greater organic and paid search results.
3 Tips for AR and SEO
Synthesizing all the above into concrete action items, how can you use AR to optimize search rankings? Here are three tips to get you started…
1. Generate High-Quality Product Images via 3D/AR
3D and augmented reality features are not necessarily ranking factors for Google, but high-quality imagery that enhances the user experience is. Use a 3D configurator or AR experience to create high-resolution images of products that translate the quality of the brand and capture the user’s attention. Make sure that your images are properly sized to reduce effects on load times and page performance.
2. Include AR and Virtual Try-On Language In Descriptions and Alt Text
Search volume for brands that offer virtual try-ons and AR-enabled shopping is growing at exponential rates. Studies show that 71% of shoppers say they would shop more if they could experience products in AR, and 61% say that they prefer to shop with brands who offer 3D and AR-enabled product experiences. Help shoppers discover these tools by promoting that capability on product pages, in ads, and in the alt text of images on the page.
3. Optimize CTAs to Encourage AR Discovery
Finally, make sure that users who come to a product page are aware of the ability to view products in 3D and AR, and how to access them. 82% of shoppers activate 3D experiences on product pages, leading to increased time spent on the page and higher conversions, all of which signal better experiences to Google and drive higher quality scores.
In the near future, 3D and augmented reality will no longer be novel, nice to have features for many e-commerce brands. They will be key factors in how consumers choose to shop and which brands they decide to shop with. Making these features easily discoverable aids not only in customer conversion but in discovery and acquisition as the improved experience increases SEO value at the page and site level.
Translation: AR should be on the radar of any brands or websites that have SEO strategies. And SEO should correspondingly be a consideration for any brands using AR to demonstrate their products in 3D. Together, these technologies can be an impactful one-two punch.
Justin Scott is CEO and co-founder of Dopple.