how to create a voice search strategy

Voice Search in Your Industry: Our Talk at KBBDigicon 2018

Mark Wheat 2 years ago

Innovation sits at the heart of Zazzle Media's approach to digital marketing and so when we get a chance to share our thoughts on new tech, we are revved up and ready to go!

We were lucky enough to be invited to speak at KBBDigicon - a kitchens and bathrooms industry event, where I shared my advice on how to get ready for the next era in computing, and build a Voice Search strategy from the ground up!

So, if you have any responsibility for marketing strategy please check out the deck for this presentation, and read my transcript from the event below...

The Deck


Good afternoon everyone. Pleasure to be speaking here at KBBDigicon today, especially on something that is so cutting edge and opportunistic for your business.

Emerging tech is at the heart of who Zazzle Media is - we are always pushing boundaries to innovate and lead the crowd, and part of my role is to match our clients with those services that will push the boundaries of their business, and take them to new heights. You can see some of our clients here, that we have helped soar with our services.

But what's emerging tech got to do with it? Well I'm glad you’re here to hear just that! Our recent content marketing survey showed that only 3% of marketers were using emerging channels as part of their marketing strategy, including programmatic, VR and shockingly, Voice search.

So that's what we’re going to talk about today. We’ll de-mystify voice search and show how you can benefit from its use.

Voice assistants are already a huge part of our everyday lives. Hands up if you have used a voice assistant, say, in the last week? A good few of you out there! Well, the big players in the voice industry are constantly being updated and improved, and they are now embedded into our homes and mobiles - things we use and interact with all the time. We’ve all seen the stats that 50% of all searches will be with voice by 2020 - well that’s only two years from being a reality.

So why the fast increase? Technological advancements are constant, and voice assistants are improving their accuracy all the time. It has been said that as accuracy of voice recognition devices goes from 95% to 99% usage will become exponential. As mentioned, they are integrating into our everyday lives, and making things more convenient, and faster for us to use. We can all speak more words than we can type in a minute, so the stats are stacked towards voice being a more streamlined way of searching.

But what is voice search actually changing?

To start with it is changing the way in which we search. By definition searches become more conversation. Searching with your voice becomes like asking another human a question. You would use natural language, and the phrases become longer and more conversational. Google states that 70% of searches on Google Assistant use 'natural language', and voice search keywords are significantly longer than text-based searches.

It is also changing where we search. Google states that 'blank near me' searches have grown by 150% in the past two years. Local searches are becoming more important in this - finding things nearby, and asking for directions in public are very common. One survey even found that people are using voice search in public way more than they were last year - this shows people are become much more acceptant of voice search.

But, most importantly of all voice search is changing the way in which we get results. What do we mean by that? Voice search is changing Google from a search engine to an answer engine with voice assistants only giving you one answer. Google wants to be that ‘star trek’ machine, with an answer for everything - that's always been their goal. And now with the introduction of voice, they are shifting from a search engine, to an answer engine. In relation to this certain types of answer result are being more and more significant.

Perhaps the most important the feature snippet can now be seen on the screen. The snippets on search engines are gold. And they are absolutely key to capturing the searcher’s attention. Google is choosing one answer that is most relevant to the search query. And this is also how Voice assistants get their answers. 40.7% of voice search answers come from the Featured Snippet, and Alexa and Google Home only give you one answer - the most relevant content, and they relay it to the user. Giving your business one shot to be the found answer.

But we need to remember that Google isn’t the only one in the race here - Bing is still used for both Alexa and Cortana, so both need to be considered in a voice strategy. This is particularly the case while Alexa has the majority of the voice assistant market share for the time being.

What do we actually know about featured snippets?

Well, 99.58% of featured snippets already rank in the top ten results in SERPs, with 97% ranking in the top 5. It is not a case of the highest ranking result claims the snippet. However, as you can see from this graph (slide 22) that there is a clear and strong correlation between ranking position and snippet percentage, that clearly drops off after position five.

There obviously an SEO benefit too, as content with a featured snippet is said to get a two times higher click through rate.

What types of searches are returning snippets? Well as you would expect it is searches which require direct answers. 41% of questions currently return a featured snippet result, with comparisons and preposition searches also returning a significant percentage of snippets.

What is the opportunity within this market? We took five leading sites within the industry and looked at the relevant keywords which they ranked. We then filtered these by results which returned a featured snippet. There is was plenty opportunity for businesses in the kitchens and bathrooms sphere to capture these snippets just across those five sites. There were almost seven thousand keywords that return snippets in their search, and those keywords have a lot of volume - combined at over 1.6million! To give this context, if all these searches were voice that is how many times the result would be heard. There is no click through rate to work out like traditional search.

So, how do we capture featured snippets and make sure we get heard?

The starting point much like traditional search is keyword research. But as we move towards a voice first world we need to change the way we do our keyword research. In addition to look at usual metrics like search volume, cost per click, and seasonal trends we also need to think of natural questions, phrases you would ask another human - voice isn’t conversational yet, but it will be, so keep an eye out for conversational keywords as voice search grows. You want to make sure you are covering long tail phrases that your target audience will be searching for - we saw earlier that keyword length is getting longer and longer, so don’t ignore this. It is also important to look at question keywords, we know they are on a sharp rise and this is attributed towards voice. Think of operations like ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘where’ and so on as you would do with a conversation.

From there we need to produce voice optimised content. We saw a moment ago that many snippets are questions - therefore FAQ’s are an ideal way to claim those all important search positions, and therefore the voice assistant answer.

FAQs already answer natural language questions, so this content can be more important than you think - voice results are 1.7 times more likely to come from an FAQ page, than a normal desktop engine search, so it’s important to see FAQ’s as standalone content, and optimise this.

So how long should your content be to claim this? By looking at your industry snippets, we can see snippet content length is between 45 and 53 words. Wider analysis corroborates this 50 word sweet spot. Answering questions directly in this word count frame, can be a good place to start claiming those all important snippets.

So we talked about convenience earlier. Ideally then, you want your content to give users direct answers to their questions.

It is worth noting though that long form content actually ranks better for voice. You want your content to stretch further - the average word count of a Google first page result is said to be approximately 1900 words, and the average word count of a voice results page is even longer at 2312 words. Pages can rank for hundreds if not thousand of different keywords which return snippets. This shows it is a numbers game and the longer the content the more opportunity of capturing various snippets. So think about what questions your content can answer.

Now, how do you make sure your site is voice search ready? Site speed is key. You can see on the slide the loading speed of a voice search result is 3.8x faster than the average website. This is obviously a key factor when indexing result.

As is mobile optimisation - 27% of mobile searches are already through voice, and industry updates such as mobile first index are making this more and more relevant. Voice search is considered a mobile-driven phenomenon and as a result sites need to ensure they are optimised for mobile.

You also need to ensure your site is optimised for local searches if relevant for your business. ‘Near me’ searches are increasing hugely, and you want to be sure your business is found this way. Voice searches are also three times more likely to be location based than text searches. People are often searching out on the go.

How do we make sure we are optimised for voice search? Google My Business is a great start to this process, and don’t forget to review structured data markup, and directories and citations as well during this optimisation process. We also need to consider review strategies as search engines use these as an indicator when indexing local results. Search engines want to make sure they are giving users the best experience.

So we’ve covered the development of voice search, and how you go about creating your strategy, so let’s wrap up with a summary - there's no denying that voice search usage is growing rapidly. It is changing how we search, where we search, and the search results we get. And the way to capitalise on this is claiming featured snippets. How do we do this? Start by looking at keyword research and create voice centric content like FAQ pages. And always ensure websites are optimised in terms of speed, mobile, and for local search. And there you have it, a formula for starting your first voice search strategy.

Thank you for listening to me today, and I look forward to your questions!


If you've got any questions about your voice search strategy, then please get in touch!

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