Use speech instead of type! Every second, smartphone users operate their devices via voice.
This was revealed in a recent study by the digital association Bitkom. Voice search is particularly popular among young mobile phone users; it’s already used by 58% of users in the age group 14- 29.
Below, you can learn how Voice Search will impact Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and how you can be prepared.
What is Voice Search?
Simply put, most voice search technologies use a combination of Natural Language Processing and Text-to-Speech, in order to understand a user’s request when using voice to enter a query into a search engine, as opposed to a keyboard. The answer to the query is pulled from the website that the search engine deems most suited for the answer. The answer is then returned to the user directly without presenting a list of search results. The type of search queries entered by voice, range from cooking tips and recipes, geographical directions, shopping and fact finding, to entertainment such as songs and videos.
When do people use voice search?
People use voice search regularly and the frequency in which it’s being used, continues to increase. However, most research suggests that search queries regarding local amenities are highly represented amongst voice searches. A local search query is usually something that returns results which are geographically close to the searcher. Example queries could be “Where is the nearest Italian Restaurant” or “How can I get to the closest train station”. This means that, even though there’s an increase in voice searches across the board, those performing voice searches are often on the go. They need information now and they plan to act on it within the very near future.
For local voice searches it is therefore generally fair to conclude that the searcher is in the lower part of the purchase funnel, and is intending to pull the trigger on booking a restaurant table, grabbing lunch, going into to a bookstore or acting on whatever they’re searching for.
Example: searching for NetBooster Paris through Google Voice Search.
How will Voice Search impact SEO?
The rapidly increasing use of spoken search queries rather than written search queries has already begun impacting the search engine optimisation landscape. With it comes a more ‘natural’, conversational way of formulating search queries. This often entails using more words than you would when writing a search query. Search phrases are thus becoming increasingly long-tail, something that needs to be reflected when planning, creating and hosting website content. Also, local searches are often more direct. For example, search queries like “where can I find X”, “What is the fastest route to Y” are less dependent on context to be understood correctly by voice search assistants like Siri,Google Voice Search, Cortana and Amazon Echo.
Example of Google Voice Search.
Amazon Echo Super Bowl Advertisement 2016
That’s why, until voice search technology becomes more advanced, it is expected to have the largest impact on local SEO. In the longer perspective however, we can expect search queries in general to become longer and longer and increasingly resemble natural conversations rather than keywords. We are also expecting to see more rich website content being created and structured in a way to deliver explicit answers to search queries that are formulated as questions.
What’s the difference between keywords and conversations?
We all know there’s a difference between written and spoken language. The same way there are huge differences in how people formulate search queries depending on whether they write them or say them. For instance, if I were to use voice search technology to research ways to adapt my SEO to voice search, I would most likely formulate my query along the lines of “How do I do voice search SEO?” or “What are the best practices for adapting SEO to voice search?”.
However, if I were to conduct the same searches using a keyboard, I would probably write something shorter like “Voice search SEO” or simply “Voice Search”. That is because I am using a “learned” search engine behaviour that stems from how search engine algorithms have worked in the past. That is matching words and phrases to website content without worrying too much about the actual meaning of those words and phrases nor the intent behind actually performing the searches.
To younger generations, as well as those of us not so young anymore, it will start to make less and less sense to use search engines the “keyword” way and more sense to use them the conversational way. This is estimated to move search towards a more “natural” style of dialogue rather than simply writing keywords in a search box.
What about factors such as pauses, emphasis, intonation and other contextual clues?
These factors are of course very important in defining the context of oral dialogue. To fully include them when determining which search results are the most relevant to a particular query, Google and the other search engines, still have some work to do. How these factors will impact SEO and how to optimize for them is an issue that we hope to return to in the future.
NetBooster is a leading independent European agency in digital performance marketing that makes its comprehensive expertise of digital marketing available to its clients to achieve the best possible performance for their investments. The agency invests in technology and covers the entire chain of online marketing through its European network: search engine optimisation and marketing, data and analytics (DnA), GroundControl Technology, display, affiliation, online media, creation, eCRM and social networks, with a recognised expertise in tomorrow’s digital marketing (Social Media, Video, Ad Exchange, etc.). Shares in NetBooster are traded on the NYSE Alternext Paris.
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On Friday 19th February, Google announced that it will no longer show sponsored adverts on the right-hand side of a desktop search results page. Instead, the page will display a maximum of four adverts at the top of the search engine result page (SERP), above the natural listing, as well as three adverts at the bottom of the page.
A Google spokesperson has confirmed that the change will be put into effect immediately in all languages worldwide.
As a result, adverts will not appear on the right-hand- side of desktop search results, with two exceptions:
Product Listing Ad (PLA) boxes, which show either above or to the right of search results
Ads in the Knowledge Panel
The elimination of right-hand-side adverts will impact all desktop searches worldwide; the addition of the fourth advert above the search results will be for “highly commercial queries”, for example if the consumer was searching for a hotel or car insurance. The changes mean that Google now has a similar desktop User Experience to that of a mobile device where you can only see the adverts at the top or bottom of any search results page, meaning the User Experience is consistent across both channels.
Important changes to note:
The changes to the Google search results page will be effective immediately
Adverts will now only appear at the top and/or bottom of the results page. This will be split so that there are a maximum 4 adverts at the top of the page and a maximum of 3 at the bottom
Organic results will be pushed further down the SERPs
What is the impact for advertisers?
The change in SERPs will instigate a new ‘click behavioural’ pattern from the consumer that will need to be evaluated and addressed accordingly
A position 4 regarding “highly sales-driven keywords” can show a better CTR in the future. Ad texts with a position >4 will show significantly lower CTR, because from now on they will be displayed below the fold
Google Shopping results might possibly obtain a higher CTR
Increased competition at top positions can lead to higher CPCs on desktop device
Advertisers targeting positions > 7 on generic keywords will see a drop in impressions
Increased competition for top positions can lead to higher cost-per-clicks (CPCs) on desktop devices, lowering the cost effectiveness of this channel
Any advertisers targeting a position higher than 7 on generic keywords will see a drop in impressions
Advertisers with ads in in position 5-7 (bottom of the page) could suffer from lower CTR, the same number of impressions, lower quality scores and therefore higher CPCs
Brands with a high level of competition for their own brand terms might be forced to be more aggressive in protecting their brand space as a result of organic listings being pushed further down the rankings
Retailers will need to pay particular attention to their product feeds to ensure that they can make the most of the Google Shopping ads still appearing on the right hand side of the SERP
Businesses could see a potential loss of traffic from organic searches as a consequence of these natural listings being pushed down. Ranking will become less and less ‘the key factor’ to consider when evaluating SEO performance, so marketers will need to put more emphasis on looking beyond that metric alone.
At NetBooster we have seen a drop in impressions in the UK, French and German markets
Our data shows CTR is generally stronger, with the exception of our French campaigns. This is no surprise considering the positions with the lowest CTR, i.e. 8-11, are not available anymore
We are also seeing slight increases in CPC, but no dramatic change here
What should marketers focus on going forward?
Back in 2013, the launch of Google’s Enhanced Campaigns forced businesses to re-evaluate their entire approach to paid search, from account structure to bid management and device strategy. In 2016, Google is now forcing businesses not only to re-evaluate their search strategy once again, but also re-examine their entire approach to digital. With the number of ads visible going from 10-11 down to 4, businesses will need to carefully evaluate their bid management strategy and see if it is commercially worth appearing in top positions and how other activities (i.e. remarketing, outreach, conversion rate optimisation and so on) can help brands to maximise their advertising spend with a healthier Conversion Rate and more cost effective traffic.
Being smarter at engaging with consumers has never played such a key role in digital advertising. As such, marketers will need to bear some fundamental lessons in mind:
Simply increasing the bids in order to maintain the same level of impressions and clicks will not deliver the desired result. You need to re-evaluate the way you think about digital and broaden your field of action in order to bring traffic in at more cost efficient levels and convert at a higher rate
Paid search is not the only effective channel to bring in relevant traffic and performance. Companies should diversify what they do and put new emphasis on activities that might have been underestimated to date, such as conversion rate optimisation (CRO), outreach, remarketing
Now that the mobile and desktop SERPs are similar, learning from desktop devices’ click behavioural patterns can help you to further optimise your mobile marketing strategy and approach. Mobile traffic and transactions keep increasing, so this area can no longer be ignored, even if does not generate direct conversions
Make a bigger effort to move from traditional ‘silo’ thinking to proper cross-channel strategy. Consumers shop to find a solution to their problems. They do not mind whether they find it on Paid Search, through a Social Ad, or a remarketing ad; they just want to find it
On average, websites tend to convert at a 2%-4% rate, which means that 98% to 96% of users leave the site without buying anything. Why should you bring these users back to the site through search when you could do it via remarketing at a fraction of the Paid Search cost? It’s a better idea to start remarketing and make sure your approach is as personalised as possible
What will NetBooster do next?
At NetBooster, we will analyse the effect of these changes on CTRs and CPCs over the coming months and produce a follow-up article with comprehensive results and a summary of how advertisers can best approach the new rules. These results will also showcase how well adverts in the new format are performing.
If you wish to discuss how these changes will affect your digital marketing strategy, please get in touch.