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Tips On Optimizing for Voice Search and Local Mobile Searches in 2018

Here are two Google search queries:

“cheap Nordica Soul Rider skis”

vs

“Okay Google, where can I get the cheapest prices on Nordica Soul Rider skis?”

The first search I typed while using my laptop.

The second search I verbally spoke to my phone.

If this was 2012, the first search would have been the type I did virtually 100% of the time.

In 2021, many experts think that the second will be done almost 100% of the time.

The differences tell a lot about the direction of search marketing:  being mobile friendly and optimizing content for voice searches will be essential.

 

Mobile Friendly Website Design

It is now absolutely vital to design your website for mobile indexing.

This is certainly true because you want to provide a great user experience for people on mobile devices.  If your web content isn’t formatted for mobile you lose that traffic, period.

Also, Google is moving towards indexing the mobile version of a website’s content instead of the desktop version, which is called mobile-first indexing:

To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we’re going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.

They note that if you have a mobile responsive or dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent for mobile and desktop, you’re in good shape.

If your site configuration is different across mobile and desktop, you need to update your website.

If you’re not sure, use this tool.

If you only have a desktop site, they’ll still index it.  However, because their goal is to provide the best possible user experience (which now means mobile), you can be certain that a desktop only site will drop in organic rankings and be more expensive to advertise.

 

Voice Search

As internet use becomes increasingly mobile, so will the use of voice search.  Likewise, personal assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home mean people in their homes will speak commands and search queries rather than type them.  As the “internet of things” progresses, people will (and this creates some odd images) talk to their refrigerators, coffee mugs, and toilets.

voice search example

Google acknowledges that the ratio of voice search is growing much faster that text search (even faster than predicted).  People are becoming comfortable doing voice searches, and the quality of the results is impressive.  Google’s Director of Conversational Search, Behshad Behzadi, says the future of search is to be:

“An ultimate mobile assistant that helps you with your daily life so you can focus on the things that matter.”

So when you want your business organic and advertising results to show up, what do you need to concern yourself with?  Here are the essentials.

Search Query Length and Natural Language

Voice search is more conversational than text search.  People talk – as if to a person – when using voice activation.  When we type search queries, we use single words and fragments in the shortest form possible to express our intent.

This means that your content needs to take these conversational search queries take into account.  Move from short tail, to long tail, to conversational:

  • “Hawaii vacations” (short tail)
  • “Best Hawaii vacation packages” (long tail)
  • “Alexa, show me the best deals on Hawaii vacation packages that include flight and accommodation” (conversational)

Note how much more information needs to be considered for the query with the conversational search.  If your content is optimized for packages that include info on flights and accommodation, you’re going to rank better for that query.

In short, conversational search queries are actual sentences using normal speech.

Question Queries

In the search for Hawaii vacations, the voice search would likely be phrased like this:

  • “Alexa, who has the best deals on Hawaii vacation packages including flight and hotel?”

Informational search queries are naturally formed as questions:

  • “Okay Google, how do I fix the broken dial on my GE washing machine?”

Again, the better you are at anticipating the way a searcher would use natural language in the form of a question, the better you can optimize your content.

From an optimization standpoint, this means you want to start using natural, conversational phrasing and sentences in things like title tags.

For example, create blog posts with titles that quote what voice searcher might ask verbatim.  This is a change from SEO tactics of the past, where a title tag was the short tail term you targeted, used the way someone would type it into search.

Video Content

Another way you can gain advantages with mobile SERP rankings is to create video content for your question queries.

Google already tends to rank video content on desktop searches when the query is in the form of a question.  In 2018, we believe videos will dominate top spots on mobile searches because Google recognizes that video content is popular with mobile users.

This is a good reason to build up your library of explainer videos and have a well-optimized YouTube channel.

Local Search

Local search is vitally important for mobile voice searches.  In 2018, voice searches for local services will be one of the main uses of the technology.

Local businesses need to make sure their Google Places account is optimized for voice search with accurate contact information.

Also, it’s important to get more reviews so your business can rank higher for “best” queries.  For example, if someone searches for “best water heater installation near me” Google will use review content and ratings to rank the businesses.  This is already part of the Google’s Local Service Ads platform, which is largely geared towards mobile searches.

Searcher Intent

One of the most important considerations in optimizing for voice search is understanding user intent.

Voice is actually a lot better at helping marketers see the intent behind the search – because these searches are far more specific.

For example, in the past, a Thai food restaurant might have simply targeted their keywords for someone that typed:

  • “pad thai noodles”

But what does this mean, exactly?  What is the searcher’s intent?  Are they looking for a place to eat?  Or are they a home chef looking for ideas?

The intent here is fairly vague.  But take this common voice search:

  • “Where are the best restaurants to get pad thai noodles near me?”

The intent behind this search is clear.  This searcher plans to go out to eat right now.

With conversational voice searches, you’ll be able to create keyword groups that show higher commercial intent.  You can bid higher for these searchers in your PPC campaigns, gaining more profitable conversions.

For example, many local businesses modify their search terms with “near me” because when this is used in a search, it shows intent to visit the business.

Terms like “cheap”, “best deals” and “when can I buy” can also be used in keyword targets.  Again with PPC, you may want to adjust your bids to get more traffic on voice searches that show buying intent.

Also, as voice search grows more prevalent, you’ll want to include the filler words (personal pronouns, articles, prepositions, infinitive verb forms) so your content has a stronger overall match to the query:

  • Where can I find Hawaii vacation info?
  • When is the best time to travel to Hawaii?
  • What can we do around Maui?
  • How can I rent equipment for surfing in Hawaii? 
  • Where is the best place for a family to go to a luau in Hawaii? 

 

Conclusions

Mobile phones are everywhere.  They’ve become another appendage, a part of us.  Down front at this Aerosmith concert, you’d have to gaze through all the arms in the air – recording the show on cell phones.

mobile phone search

It’s natural that people will do more search on their phones, using the convenience of voice activation.

And consider that the consulting firm Ovum forecasts that from 2016 to 2021, the number of smart homes worldwide will go from 90 million to 463 million.  By 2021, they estimate there will be 192 million active home assistant devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Watch any episode of Star Trek, and you’ll notice nobody ever types.  They just ask the “computer” and it answers.  Unless, that is, they’ve traveled into the past:

The future is here.  The next step in the evolution of internet search is voice activation.  We talk to our devices, and they talk back to us.

Today for your business, this means getting a handle on how these “conversations” typically happen.  When your keyword choices and content match the searchers, you’ll win the traffic – and the business opportunities that come with it.

 

Here are more tips on using voice search and video in 2018:

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