In the wave of recent updates, Google introduced a new search feature – search by image. A simple and potentially effective function, this allows you to upload an image to use instead of a keyword. Google then serves up results based on visual similarity.

The potential is huge, but does it work? We’re not convinced.

The Many Faces of Will Critchlow

Will Critchlow is a well-known face in the online marketing world, but this multi-talented guy is also a top British politician and a world-class tennis player by Boom’s reckoning:

Will, Will and Will again

For clarity, the real Will Critchlow is the bloke in the middle – the other two are of course David Milliband and Novak Djokovic.

Given Will’s visual similarity to two high profile fellas, we figure he’s the perfect guinea pig for an experiment into how useful Google search by image really is. And, quite frankly we were disappointed with the results:

Google Search by Image thinks Will Critchlow is bald

What is wrong with this picture?

  1. Call me picky, but none of these people look like Will! Given that I found the pictures of both Milliband and Djokovic using image search, I would have expected to see these in the results.
  2. Google’s image search seems to think Will is bald or balding judging by the high density of receding hairlines in the “visually similar” images chosen. It’s enough to make even the most confident man turn to the hair tonic.
  3. There’s some random matching going on – lots of facial hair, glasses and even a few women to keep things interesting. Good for a laugh, but not the most relevant search results in the world.

Does Search by Image Matter?

Clearly Google have a long way to go to make their search by image results as useful as the old-skool search by keyword results. This just highlights how far away the search engine really is from understanding images, and that means you still need to work on your image optimisation. For now at least.

While there is some potential for search by image to become a really exciting tool, at the moment it’s not. Sorry Google, we’re not impressed.