Voice Search SEO in a Virtual Assistant World

One of the latest trends in search is the growing use of digital assistants powered by voice search. In 2014, Google conducted a Mobile Voice Study which revealed that 55% of teens and 42% of adults use voice search more than once a day. More recently, Gary Illyes, webmaster trends analyst for Google, noted that the number of voice searches have more than doubled since 2015 while the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai recently stated that voice searches currently represent 20% of all Google searches.

Voice Search SEO in a Virtual Assistant World - Amazon Echo/Alexa

Amazon’s Alexa is one of the more popular voice search-based virtual assistants

Voice search-based assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Google aren’t just on smartphones anymore either. Other than the iPhone and iPad, Siri is on the Apple Watch, the latest Apple TV, and in your car via CarPlay. Likewise, Cortana and Google have recently expanded to cars and tablets. You may have also heard of Alexa – Amazon’s voice service for their handsfree Echo device. Alexa answers questions, gives information on local businesses, and reads the news, among other features. As voice assistants become increasingly present in our daily lives and their accuracy and usefulness continues to improve, the number of voice searches will only continue to grow.

And while all of this change will ultimately make our lives easier, voice search and the use of virtual assistants presents a new search engine optimization challenge. Namely, how will search engine optimization change in an environment where the user no longer looks at the screen and only the first result is typically read?

 

Voice Search’s SEO Impact

As of this writing, voice-specific search analytics and metrics do not yet exist. Google has suggested that voice search reporting will be coming to Search Console’s Search Analytics report. Voice search reporting in Google Analytics would segment out how people search for your site using a keyboard versus voice search, but at this point it’s hard to predict when that capability will arrive.

So in the absence of any data, we can assume that the primary SEO impact of virtual assistants and voice search will be to make the top search ranking even more valuable. With most voice assistants reading the first result aloud and then stopping, it’s likely that as these assistants improve fewer searchers will work their way down the google rankings.

The number of voice searches have more than doubled since 2015.

That’s a long way of saying that search engine optimization will become even more important in the era of voice search. So let’s look at how exactly we can optimize sites for voice search.

 

SEO Optimization Strategies for Voice Search

 

1. Include an FAQ page on your website

People use conversational speech when they use voice search, and they often ask questions with common phrases. These phrases include words like “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, and “how”. For example, rather than searching “Samsung VR”, people are more likely to search “What is Samsung VR?” The chart below shows how question phrases have grown on a yearly basis. To increase your business’ chances of being picked up by a voice assistant, use an FAQ page on your website with questions that begin with these common phrases, and include conversational answers. You ultimately want to focus on ranking as highly as possible for the questions consumers will ask about your product/service.

 

2. Use long-tail keywords targeting spoken phrases

Because voice searches are conversational in nature, marketers should focus on using long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are phrases with anywhere from 3-5 keywords that are specific to a product or service but not necessarily the most common searches. Google AdWords’ keyword planner can assist you in identifying relevant, longer keywords for your business in the form of questions. For example, rather than using the target keyword “Cancún vacation”, try using “What’s the best Cancún vacation package in winter”.

 

3. Focus SEO efforts on listing, ranking and review sites

Just as in the pre-voice search era, virtual assistants are looking to provide the best, most credible results as quickly as possible. This means that, increasingly, the search deck will be stacked in favor of those organizations that are well-represented on the third-party review/ranking/listing sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Capterra, etc. where voice assistants gather most of their information. Make sure that you’ve established at least a basic page on all list sites, and encourage your customers to leave you reviews on Google, Yelp, or wherever they prefer. For more prominent brands and individuals, keep an eye on Wikipedia, which is where most of the assistants start when asked general knowledge questions.

 

4. Think location first

If your business has a physical presence, it is even more crucial to optimize your content for voice assistants. Voice searches are often on smartphones are usually location-dependent, ending with “nearby” or “near me”, and will display different results based on the searcher’s proximity to your business.  It’s crucial that you make sure your business location is listed on all the major directories (Google, Apple and Bing Maps), and that details such as your hours and phone number are correct.

When it comes to the description you’re posting on these sites, think about what consumers will search for to find your business. For example, if you are a Neapolitan-style pizza restaurant in Washington DC, you may want to use keywords like “best pizza in Washington DC” or “Neapolitan pizza restaurant with vegetarian and gluten-free options”.

 

The Future of Voice Assistants

While voice assistants present a new challenge to marketers, they are also an additional opportunity to reach a target audience. Voice search will continue to grow, making up an estimated half of all searches by 2020. So make sure that you’re continually thinking about the conversation you want to have with your potential customers. Put yourself in their shoes, and act accordingly. You’ll be glad you did.

Why SEO Strategies Fail

Search is the top traffic driver to content sites

Most people understand the importance of having a search engine optimization strategy. But why isn’t your strategy working? SEO is complex and ever-changing, so it could be failing for many reasons. If you aren’t seeing results, it may be time to take a step back and identify what mistakes you could be making.

Here are some common SEO mistakes you should avoid:

1. You’re impatient with your SEO plan

In a perfect SEO world, every business would see their search rankings and traffic volume improve as soon as they posted their content. Unfortunately, SEO isn’t an overnight fix. Search engine rankings are the web equivalent of a personal reputation, and like a reputation they take months (and sometimes years) to build. An SEO strategy is not a quick fix – you’re competing with thousands of other sites for keyword-based virtual real estate, and much of that competition depends on how others view (and share) your content. It’s also hard to predict when you’ll see search traffic increases from your strategy. So, the first thing you need to do to have a successful SEO strategy is remember that you’ll need to stick with your plan for six months, minimum.

SEO strategies typically take 6 months to show results.

2. You don’t use analytics to refine your SEO

If you are’t using a web analytics tool such as Google Analytics (and its close cousin Google Search Console)Why Your SEO strategy is failing, you’ll have no idea how well any of your content is performing in drawing traffic. Analytics allows you to set up goals and monitor metrics such as site and page traffic, bounce rates, and page conversions which are factored into Google’s search rankings. Search Console shows you which keywords are appearing in greater or lesser density on your page, as well as how your site ranks for your focused terms.

But most importantly, simply creating an SEO plan won’t get you results. Creating engaging content that draws in traffic and converts that traffic is truly a trial and error process, and analytics allow you to make subtle tweaks that will make your SEO strategy more and more effective. For example, if your search rankings are high but you aren’t seeing conversions, this might be a sign that it’s time to improve your site’s design. If you’re finding that for some reason people attach to certain topics on your site but not others, then you’ll know you can’t go wrong by giving your audience more of that content. Monitoring analytics on a regular basis allows you to make continuous tweaks based on your traffic data, which is the core of any SEO strategy.

3. You’re not posting content regularly

Why SEO Strategies Fail - a Googlebot

Googlebots love fresh content

The more engaging, fresh content you provide, the more likely users will be to find that content, and the more site traffic you’ll receive. Googlebots love fresh content, and frequently updated sites have better chances at higher search rankings. Now, you don’t need to blog every single day, but you should strive to maintain at least a weekly rhythm to your posting. Creating a content calendar can help you maintain a regular posting schedule.

SEO strategies also extend to social media, where posting regularly on publicly searchable platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter is just as important as posting on your blog. Getting your content shared on social media (and having users visit your site from these platforms) is one of the quickest ways to grow your search rankings, and so as tedious as it might seem you do need to schedule regular updates for the major social media platforms to drive traffic to your blogs.

4. Your SEO strategy is targeting the wrong audience

Identifying your target audience is the core of all marketing, including SEO. If you don’t understand who your customer is, there is no doubt that your SEO strategy will fail. One way to identify your target audience is to use Google Analytics’ demographic feature. Your customer’s age, gender, sex, and location can tell you a lot about how they behave on the web. Someone who is 70 years old behaves differently on the web than a 25-year-old.  Knowing who your customer is also allows you to identify what what keywords you should be using and what you should be posting.

Your site’s bounce rate is a good indicator of whether your SEO strategy is targeting the right audience or not. A bounce rate is a measure of single interaction visits to a website, and is provided by Google Analytics and other tools. An average site bounce rate is about 40-55%, and anything lower is considered excellent. Alarmingly high bounce rates indicate that you’re receiving large volumes of poor traffic, which means that your SEO strategy is not targeting the right audience.

If you don’t know who you’re writing for, your SEO strategy is doomed

5. You’re using the wrong keywords

When choosing SEO keywords, remember to focus on what your target audience thinks you’re selling, not what you think you do

Keywords are the cornerstone of any SEO strategy, and the keywords you feature in your content need to be relevant to your target customers’s needs. The best way to identify your target keywords is to use keyword search tools such as Google AdWord’s Keyword Planner to identify the most commonly searched terms that are related to your business. One of the most common mistakes we see are businesses who insist on describing their products or services in ways that their target audience just doesn’t search for. Your goal is to find a balance between keywords that are descriptive for what you do and in high search volume. If your keywords are too specific, customers will have a difficult time finding you and those who do will be a narrow audience. If your keywords are too broad, you may get lost in the competition.

adwords-keyword-planner

An example of Google AdWords’ Keyword Planning Tool

And a last note here – avoid keyword stuffing at all costs. Keyword stuffing is when content or meta tags are loaded with keywords in an attempt to boost rankings. This tactic will backfire because it’s picked up by web crawlers as spam and puts you at the bottom of rankings.

We hope that these tips help you better understand how to improve your search rankings. If you feel like you could still use a hand with your SEO strategy, why not contact Young Marketing Consulting?

Fast-Acting SEO: 3 Essential Tools to Help You Follow the Trends

One of the most common questions we get from our search engine optimization clients is “when will my SEO start working?” The answer, very often, is it depends. If you’ve got a strong web presence with optimized SEO architecture and good traffic volumes, the effect might be immediate. If you’re building a site from scratch, SEO is more like a snowball at the top of a mountain: you’ll need to keep nudging it down the hill until it gathers enough momentum on its own. Either way, the root of a strong search engine optimization campaign is regular content creation. And today we’d like to show you a few SEO tools you can use to make sure you’re putting out the most attractive content to your search audience so that your SEO efforts will start drawing traffic as soon as possible.

How fast does SEO work? 6 months is a good timeframe to see results.

At Young Marketing Consulting, we group SEO content into two categories:

  • “Evergreen” content designed to draw regular search traffic for your target keywords over a longer period of time
  • “Breaking news” content designed to help your site catch a rising, but temporary, wave of interest

The latter type of content is what you’ll want to focus on when trying a “fast-acting” SEO/content marketing campaign. Today, we’re going to look at three content marketing tools to help you build a breaking news-based SEO strategy.

How to Use Google Trends in Your SEO Strategy

The first tool in your fast-acting SEO toolkit is Google Trends. Originally released as Google Insights for Search in 2008, Google Trends’ current iteration is a fantastic SEO tool if you’re looking to capitalize on larger search trends. For example, let’s look at a graph of search interest in the terms “SEO” and “search engine optimization” over time:

What this graph tells us is that “SEO” has become familiar to a large audience over time, and that people quickly grew tired of typing “search engine optimization.” But historical research isn’t the main use for Google Trends. It’s a fantastic tool for helping you refine your content to capitalize on high search volume in the hopes that you can leverage the news cycle to catapult your SEO content to viral status.

As an example, let’s say you were a company looking to capitalize on the intense fascination with all things Donald J. Trump. Here’s a list of what’s most popular:

If you want your post to go viral, riding the amber waves of Trump’s hair is clearly the way to go.

How to Use Twitter Moments in Your SEO Strategy

The second tool for fast-acting SEO is Twitter Moments. Twitter Moments simplifies Twitter’s massive content stream by highlighting only trending topics within a broader category such as “News”. This dashboard allows you to peruse the day’s most popular topics and quickly craft content in response to a trending story. The more quickly you post and market content in response to a trending story, the more likely you’ll be to catch a wider audience while they’re still interested.

A look the Twitter Moments "News" category - a great SEO intelligence tool

A look the Twitter Moments “News” category – a great SEO intelligence tool

Twitter Moments allows you to follow topics so that you can keep continually informed of a conversation, and heavily features multimedia content such as videos, images, vines, and GIFs. You can also embed Moments content on your blog or site, which can help if your SEO strategy is to respond to topics as quickly as you can. You’ll always have the most relevant content available on your site, which will be helpful when pursuing a social media content marketing strategy.

How to embed a Tweet from Twitter Moments

How to embed a Tweet from Twitter Moments

How to Use Hootsuite Insights in Your SEO Strategy

Investing in a social media analytics tool such as Hootsuite Insights, formerly known as UberVU, can also help boost your SEO effort’s impact. Hootsuite Insights collects data from more than 100 million sources across 25+ social media channels, showing you what people are saying about a particular topic. More granular than Twitter or Google’s tools, Hootsuite can show where conversations are happening, who’s having them, and what the tone of the conversations is. This kind of data can be invaluable for the viral content creator seeking to drive SEO. Imagine a post based on the data below titled “Four Reasons Why Japanese Men Love Bread and Coffee So Much.” That’s the kind of juicy, fast-acting search engine optimization you can create with Hootsuite.

Hootsuite Insights can show you where to market your content for SEO purposes

Hootsuite Insights can show you where to market your content for SEO purposes

One of the most useful features in Hootsuite Insights is Conversation Maps, which shows the most commonly used phrases and words relating to a search and can help you optimize your SEO keywords when posting viral content.

What is Lady Gaga eating? A heaping bag of SEO goodness!

What is Lady Gaga eating? A heaping bag of SEO goodness!

For example, these results from a “Doritos” search tell us that people commonly associate Doritos with eating, Lady Gaga, and tacos. So, if you’re writing a blog post about Doritos, you’ll want to include those words in your post. Conversation Maps is a real-time trend identifier that serves as an excellent SEO tool when it comes to content creation.

 

 

So, if you’re looking to speed up your SEO, there you have it. Using these three essential SEO tools will help you identify what topics users are searching for, and what what they’re saying about these topics, in real time. With Google Trends, Twitter Moments, and Hootsuite Insights, you’ll always be posting exactly what the internet is looking to read, and you’re only a few posts away from a fast-acting SEO strategy. Good luck!

 

On December Web Traffic Declines – It’s Not an SEO Issue

“Search engine optimization is kind of like eating. You just have to do it every day.”

Frank, our head of digital marketing, said the above to me the other day and he couldn’t be more spot on. When helping our clients grow their web traffic, the team spends more time examining content marketing performance in Google Analytics than we’d care to admit. But one of the most common questions we receive about web traffic around this time of year actually has very little to do with search engine optimization (aka SEO) at all. Since we’re fast approaching the dreaded December web traffic slowdown, I thought it would be a good idea to spend a bit of time helping you to understand what’s happening.

Though most reports I’ve seen on the phenomenon are anecdotal based on individual sites or agency experience, a consensus among marketers is that the typical site’s traffic drops 20-40% during the period between Thanksgiving and New Years. Digging a little deeper, we can use Google Trends as a proxy for web traffic in various industries. As you’ll see below, search volume generally falls off a cliff in December. There are exceptions for consumer products and retailers that are heavily involved in holiday shopping, but by and large you should prepare for your lowest web activity levels of the year.

What’s Behind December Web Traffic Declines?

Don’t worry, your website’s search engine optimization hasn’t suddenly gone haywire. Web traffic declines in December because people spend much more time doing offline activities during the holidays: traveling, visiting with family, opening presents, carving the ham, etc. And, unless you’re in retail, entertainment, or consumer products, your site will likely see its lowest traffic levels of the year during this period.

So What Can My Business Do to Keep Healthy Holiday Traffic Levels?

Whenever you’re looking to drive organic web traffic, publishing volume becomes key. Continue your regular updates, understanding that you’re speaking to a much smaller audience. Because of that fact, you may want to take a moment to respond to those individuals who are visiting you on social media in December. You can also post more shareable holiday-themed content (if that kind of material lends itself to your business), and if you’ll be running year-end discounts or offers make sure to get your email marketing out early enough that people haven’t already tuned out their email.

The important thing is to recognize that December traffic declines are temporary. If you don’t see traffic return to normal by later in January, then it might be time to dive back into your search engine optimization efforts.

What is Search Engine Optimization? How Does it Help My Business?

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process by which your website is discovered by search engine users. Given that 89% of consumers use a search engine to inform their purchase decision and 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results, search engine optimization has become one of the most important marketing activities a business can undertake.  And while you’ve probably seen thousands of articles on the subject, improving your business’s search ranking isn’t nearly as complicated as most marketing firms would have you believe.

A good SEO strategy involves three elements:

  1. Posting content on your website that’s relevant to your target audience’s search terms
  2. Ensuring others recognize your content and website as authoritative
  3. Performing various technical enhancements on your website that improve a search engine’s ability to understand your site and categorize your content appropriately

To boil things down even further…

Search Engine Optimization is the act of creating relevant content and marketing that content to your audience on a regular basis.

What Search Engine Optimization Can Do for Your Website

Think of SEO as a tiny snowball at the top of a mountain. The longer and farther it rolls, the more snow it picks up until it’s an avalanche. The more relevant content you’re posting that’s getting found by your audience, the more people who are talking about you, linking to you, and sharing your content, the higher your site will climb in Google’s search rankings. But the process takes time. That’s why it’s important to keep in mind what SEO can’t do for your website.

The Limitations of Search Engine Optimization

“Organic” search engine optimization refers to the number of people who are naturally searching for the content or services that you provide. It’s important to realize that SEO will not help you grow this audience. Nor will it immediately skyrocket your website traffic volumes. In other words, if you’re looking for large results in a compressed period of time you may want to consider pay-per-click advertising or another channel where you can guarantee a higher volume of impressions right off the bat.

A Simple Guide to Implementing Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization begins with quality. Search engines like Google measure quality in two ways: the functionality of the website, and the actual content on the site. Functionality could relate to navigation issues, mobile optimization issues, usability issues, etc.; sites with poor user experiences that drive viewers away will see a corresponding drop in their search rankings.

When it comes to content quality, knowing what your target audience is looking for will facilitate higher traffic flows to your page and keep your audience on your site once they arrive. The longer a visitor spends on your site interacting with your content (filling out a form, scrolling, watching a video, etc.), the better a search engine will consider your site’s quality to be. You should also research what competitors have provided and try to be unique; people want to know what makes your product or service different. Furthermore, search engines are getting smarter and smarter at filtering out practices like keyword stuffing (repeating the same keyword 25 times on a page), so you’ll need to work harder to keep your audience engaged by providing uniquely insightful expertise.

The Bottom Line

A study shows that search is the number one driver of traffic to content sites. Ultimately, Google is in the business of giving its customers what they want, which is the most relevant answers to their searches. If you follow the tips above, you’ll be taking the first step toward search engine optimization.

 

How SEO Can Help Your business