Search Engine Optimization

The Rise of Voice Search

Voice Search is Trending Up

As we as consumers seek more and more convenience and instant response, often we opt to rely on the more convenient source of information available as the authority source.  When using voice enabled devices such as mobile phones and internet enabled virtual devices, we interact as if we are having a conversation with a real person.  The conversation is like a Q&A interview and most often the answers are a single result, the result the device (the search algorithm behind the device) determines as the single best response.   The conversation is the key distinction in how these devices are changing the way in which marketers need to think to about their website content and how to capitalize on the rise of devices that act like mobile.

See Siri Told Me to Call You and Internet Devices that Act Like Mobile for the first two articles in this 3 part series.

Implications for Digital Marketers

If the method of search is different, meaning the search query is different, this in turn means there is an opportunity for digital marketers to offer up content that is more appealing to the search.  As mentioned above, the interaction with the device is more conversational and the request for information is typically a question, as compared to the common keyboard search phrase of several words.  This suggests that matching content will be best suited as an answer to that question, with the question contained in the answer.  As a digital marketer, the challenge will be to identify the questions that your website should be positioned to answer.  Hint: Some of these questions are already found in your Google Analytics data.

A New Search Scenario

Imagine it’s the weekend and a group of adventurous friends are gathered at one friends house, reliving past adventures, and planning for their next.  Dave calls out, “Hey Google, what is the top rated outdoor adventure company in Saskatchewan?’  Google answers, “ABC Outfitters has a Google rating of 4.9 and is located in Anywhere, Saskatchewan.” Dave replies, “Hey Google, call ABC Outfitters.”

Here are a few important points about this scenario.  First, it’s already happening.  Second, the search query, the question, was answered with a single response.  There were no alternatives.  Third, the action lead directly to a contact with the outfitter.  Lastly, the searcher never actually touched or viewed the website.

Beyond Mobile Friendly

For digital marketers, we need to start to think beyond just mobile friendly website design (responsive websites) to also consider mobile friendly and voice search friendly content.  A mobile friendly website is a must, otherwise you are losing positions in the Google mobile index, which is now searched more often than desktop.  But this is now just step one.

Using the free combination of Google Search Console and Google Analytics, we can dig into the history of searches that brought visitors to our website and determine which are more qualified and use this to optimize for more search traffic of this type.  That means an investment in time, and investment in data, an investment in analytics.

Internet Devices That Act Like Mobile

It seems that this past Christmas season the commercials on TV were one of three types, Mobile Phone commercials, car commercials, or the new internet enabled home virtual assistant devices such as:

  • Google Home
  • Facebook Portal
  • Amazon Echo (Alexa)
  • and a variety of other emerging devices

These devices, commonly situated on a table, shelf or counter top, act more like a mobile device than a non-mobile desktop computer.  They  are used because they are instantly accessible and can perform functions with a minimum of effort.  Unlike a desktop computer, which they may be positioned directly beside, they do not offer the variety of input methods such as keyboards and mouse clicks.  So input, and output, are somewhat restricted.

 

alexa voice search internet device

Alexa used to access internet via voice search

 

Google Home Internet Search

Google Home Voice Search

Mobile phones were also pushing their many capabilities adding to the ways you can access the Internet and interact with your devices, besides touching the keyboard.  This ads both Siri and Cortana to the list of personal assistants that are changing how voice search and voice commands are a rising trend (see Siri Told Me to Call You).   If you are wondering what Cortana is, it’s search box in the lower left corner of your Windows computer that can be accessed by typing in the box or speaking via your computer’s microphone.  It can be used for everything from putting your computer into sleep mode to requesting an internet search.

Now consider the primary method in which users interact with all these devices, it is your voice, and for most of these devices, interaction is 100% voice, no screen, no keyboard.  So while many of these voice activated virtual assistants offer home automation features such as turning your lights on an off, changing the settings on your thermostat, they are more commonly being used to obtain Internet search results.  A quick query like “Hey Alexa, what will be the weather this afternoon? seems simple enough but it can go well beyond simple and basic information.

As we as consumers seek more and more convenience and instant response, often we opt to rely on the more convenient source of information available as the authority source.  When using these internet enabled virtual devices, we interact as if they were a mobile device we are having a conversation with.  The conversation is like a Q&A interview and most often the answers are a single result, the result the device (the search algorithm behind the device) determines as the single best response.   The conversation is the key distinction in how these devices are changing the way in which marketers need to think to about their website content and how to capitalize on the rise of devices that act like mobile.

Siri Told Me to Call You

I had a recent event that was quite interesting, and an event that I had somewhat predicted just a week prior.  Several weeks ago I was speaking to an industry group on the topic of Websites and Digital Marketing.  During my presentation I highlighted the rise of voice search and how it might be a trend worth considering.  Voice search on mobile phones and tablets, voice search on computers, and voice search on the new internet enabled virtual assistant devices (more on these in a later article).  The image I used in the presentation is shown above.

A couple quick stats I shared in my presentation is that web search activity on mobile devices is now greater than 50% of all web search activity (since 2016).

  • The younger demographic of 18 to 34 uses their phone as their primary device
  • 55% of Millennials use voice search at least once a day
  • In the 35 to 50 demographic, 49% search the web on their phone at least occasionally

The main point I was making on the topic is that search activity is changing, the devices are changing and the way that people respond to search results is changing.  In my example, I described how I am seeing more people contacting Netnotic Marketing from their phones ( and other non-desktop devices) as ever before but also that the search strings resulting in traffic to my site is changing.  The example I used talked about a recent customer who called me because “Siri told me to call you”.  This new customer was looking to improve the Search Engine Optimization for their website in Saskatoon so they queued up Siri on their mobile phone and asked for “Saskatoon SEO”.  Siri returned a list of results, of which my website was the top results, so the customer called me.  In the following conversation, I asked the customer what brought them to Netnotic and their response was, “because Siri told me to call you”.  I always ask customers (and new leads) what lead them to contact us and we are definitely noticing a upswing in the interaction with new search devices.

So the key point for digital marketing here, in my case for Saskatoon SEO, is that we need to be very aware of how devices lead to new behavior, and new behavior may be changing how we optimize our websites to capitalize on these new trends.  We will be talking about both the rise of new devices that act like mobile (sort of) as well as the rise of voice search in a couple of coming articles.

SEO and SEM for WFO

We have deployed combination of SEO and SEM projects for Wilderness Family Outfitters as a successful example of bringing quality paid advertising with Google Ads traffic to a client and then working to add organic traffic over a longer period of time for a dual source of traffic, leads, bookings and revenue.

See more information in our SEO and SEM Project Portfolio or visit the Wilderness Family Outfitters website.

SaskatchewanGooseHunting.com Responsive Website

A new site for goose hunting enthusiasts.  The responsive website SaskatchewanGooseHunting.com is a new web site for goose hunters to find Saskatchewan goose hunting Outfitters.

View the details in our portfolio or see more at SaskatchewanGooseHunting.com

Saskatchewan-Bear-Hunting.com Responsive Website

A new site for bear hunters enthusiasts.  The responsive website Saskatchewan-Bear-Hunting.com is a new web site for moose hunters to find Saskatchewan moose hunting Outfitters.

View the details in our portfolio or see more at Saskatchewan-Bear-Hunting.com

SaskatchewanMooseHunting.com

A new site for outdoors enthusiasts.  The responsive site SaskatchewanMooseHunting.com is a new web site for moose hunters to find Saskatchewan moose hunting Outfitters.

View the details in our portfolio or see more at SaskatchewanMooseHunting.com

Skill Shark WordPress & SEO

SkillShark.net is our newest client.  They have built an app that runs on iPads and soon on Android devices to automate the collection and reporting of athlete evaluations, from baseball to hockey, as well as custom uses.

We are helping them take their website from a single page placeholder for their logo to a full blown marketing site to attract organic search traffic and facilitate the sign up process for new clients.

See more about Skill Shark in our Portfolio

Google SERPs are Now Wider

What does Google Has Wider SERPs Mean?

It means that the Search Engine Results Pages are now being displayed in a wider format on your computer and tablet. Previously, the view able width of Google SERPs was about 55-60 characters, depending on the actual characters used, as some characters, like w are much wider than others, like i.  The actual increase is best measured in something more fixed, pixel width.  The previous Google SERP display width was 500 pixles and is now 600 pixels.  Google has made up the difference by resizing some other areas on the page.

What Does a Wider SERP Mean to Me?

This wider display format changes some of the recommendations and guidelines regarding the meta data that you should be using on each of your pages.  The immediate conclusion is that you can now include more text content in your meta title tag and in your meta description.  Title length is increased from 10 to 15 characters (before Google adds the … at the end of your title) and description length is increased from 15 to 20 characters.  However, a more significant result may be organic search results currently positioned in about the 4th through 6th spots in the search results.  Guess what, you might now appear on the first screen, without scrolling.  This will happen if some of the multi-line listings end up needing one less line.  That is, descriptions in the current length, that were wrapping over to 3 lines now might fit within 2 lines of text.  If these listings are above you, they will be less tall and your position will shift up on the page.

Should I Re-Write all my Titles and Descriptions to be Longer?

Not necessarily.  First lets deal with meta titles.  Just because you have more space does not mean you need to fill it.  If you have painstakingly worked to craft precise meta titles to fit within 55 characters, then you have done important things.  The first is you have adhered to the old guideline.  The old titles still fit within the new available space so there is no NEED to re-write based on this.  Secondly, good titles are highly focused on the key topic of the page and by keeping a current title in place, you maintain that focus on what’s important.  The temptation will now be to add another keyword variation into the title, or similar thoughts.  Resist the urge to add more to already good titles.

Descriptions on the other hand I would take full advantage of the increased length, especially if an additional two to four words can deliver a more convincing reason for someone to click your search result.  Remember that search engines don’t use meta descriptions as ranking signals, but humans use them to choose what results to click.  Again, don’t spam by stuffing with keywords, but do tell a more convincing story and improve your click through rate, which is a ranking signal.

Where Should I re-Write Meta Titles to be Longer?

There are some places where adding content to the meta titles makes good sense.  First, anywhere you had to abbreviate words you can now write them out.  Secondly, this gives you the opportunity to replace a meta title on a secondary or supporting page with a longer tail version to more accurately target the content of a page.  Thirdly, if you have pages where you have sacrificed branding for SEO efforts, you can now use the extra characters to add your branding to your titles.

Where Should I Re-Write Meta Descriptions to be Longer?

Simple.  Everywhere you can.  As mentioned above, use the longer description display to tell a stronger story and improve your click through rate.  Maybe this is adding a key stat or a key differentiating feature of your product. Review your descriptions with the thought of what one additional piece of information would help convince the user to click your listing?

Page Analysis Tools Will Eventually Catch Up

If you use some sort of SEO software with on-page optimization analysis, you will find that the tools are behind and any scoring factors or recommendations will be based on the old SERP width guidelines.  As a result, your page scoring or page optimization suggestions may not reflect the new SERP width for now.  You will have to consciously ignore those warnings or red flags, knowing that the Google search engine environment is working on a new set of desirable content lengths.  For example, I have written a meta title for this page that is exactly 70 characters long (“Google SERPs are now Wider | Meta Titles and Descriptions can Increase”) and one of my SEO tools says “Warning: Title display in Google is limited to a fixed width, yours is too long.”  Under the 55 character guideline, it would have displayed as “Google SERPs are now Wider | Meta Titles and Descriptions …” The tools simply have not caught up to the new guidelines.  I have a similar warning that my meta page description (“Google has increased the width of their Search Engine Results Page format.  You now have more width, more characters that can be used to grab attention and tell your story.”) is 16 characters too long.

Sask Galleries SEO Project

We have posted a description of a newly completed SEO project for the Saskatchewan Professional Art Gallery Association at http://www.netnotic.com/portfolio-items/seo-project-sask-galleries/

Another SEO project with excellent results.