What You Need to Know: How Voice Search Will Affect PPC
Did you get a shiny new Alexa “intelligent personal assistant,” from Santa this year? Well, if you’ve been having fun with voice search and apps and all the bells and whistles for Alexa, you may not have been thinking a lot about what it all means for marketing and how voice search will affect PPC.
Here’s the thing: Voice search is going to get bigger and evolve more quickly over the coming months and years. It’s not too early to think about how your marketing is going to evolve with it.
As Jayson DeMers, the founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, wrote recently: “As usual in the SEO world, you don’t have to be the best to reap the rewards – you just have to be a step ahead of the competition or find a competitive edge.”
In other words, now’s the time.
Voice Search is a 2017 Trend
We’ve already talked about how social media messaging is going to be the next big trend in marketing. Now we need to throw voice search into the mix. DeMers (if you don’t follow him, you should. He does a great job of talking about SEO and marketing in an understandable way) outlines just how voice search is going to evolve over the coming years in a post for Search Engine Guide. He cites better semantic recognition and filtering; emotional deflection detection (which is also a really great band name); more personalized results; more display and interface options; and integration with other tech.
Why this matters to your business: Yesterday’s search is tomorrow’s voice search. With increased adoption of devices like Alexa (and Google Home) queries are going to become increasingly voice activated and less keyboard activated. That means businesses have to think about how they are going to adapt to this brave new world.
Long-Tail Will Reign with Voice
Search is generally about keywords, the more precise the better. For instance, if someone types in the term “lawyer” because they’re looking for legal advice, a lot of things they aren’t interested in will come up: Countrywide directories, perhaps a couple of local firms, national news, definitions, and most likely a Wikipedia entry. Not exactly helpful, and from the lawyer’s point of view, very expensive. That’s because a word like “lawyer” is quite general in nature; in order to cut through the noise, you’re going to have to pay big bucks to get seen on the first page of Google. “Lawyer” is the no. 6 most expensive keyword on Google AdWords at over $40 per click. If you have a limited budget, that adds up fast.
And someone who simply searches with the word “lawyer” could mean any number of things: divorce lawyer, patent lawyer, lawyer resources, lawyer malpractice – you could be paying $42 for a click from someone who’s not even looking for what your practice offers because you’re an environmental lawyer.
So, how about the keyword “environmental lawyer”? Better, but an environmental lawyer where? Kansas, Maui, India? Ok, let’s try “environmental lawyer in Worcester.” Much better, more precise, and definitely cheaper.
But that’s text search where queries tend to be relatively short, although as Google’s semantic search improves, long-tail keywords are becoming more popular and bring better success. What’s a long-tail keyword? A lot of people think it’s a longer string of words that make up a search term, but it’s a little more than that: it’s more about intent than numbers. The name comes from the idea that as search terms become more precise, the competition becomes less. For a visual, I’ll share this graphic from Yoast, which does a good job of explaining how this works:
As you can see, shorter, non-specific queries are represented by the tallest point of this little mouse. Or kangaroo. Or something. As the queries get more complex and more specific, the competition trails off as represented by the rodent’s long tail. Get it?
I mentioned above how short keywords can be extremely competitive and off-target, which results in low ROI. Long-tail keywords may bring in fewer clicks, but because they signal greater intent, they’ll yield better traffic, and thus more conversions.
This is all a long way of saying that when it comes to voice search, long-tail keywords will reign.
What’s This Got to Do With Voice Search?
Imagine this: You’re hanging out with Alexa one day and your neighbor calls to tell you he’s going to sue you because your fertilizer has contaminated his well. You need a lawyer and pronto, so you ask Alexa to find you one. How would you ask? Would you say, “Alexa, environmental lawyer”? Or would you say, “Alexa, environmental lawyer in Worcester”? Most likely you’d say something like, “Alexa, who’s the best environmental lawyer in Worcester?”
That’s a simplified example, but you get the idea. The idea is, with voice you’re using natural language rather than search language. Queries tend to be longer and more personalized. You will have to make your search terms more conversational, or more human.
Purna Virji of Microsoft, says the future of search lies in the 3 Ps: Personal, Pervasive, Persuasive. “Incredible amounts of data from a huge array of sources will be tied in, all working together to think ahead of a consumer’s needs and deliver personal results on any device,” she wrote.
Start from the beginning. How do people ask questions? As a former journalist, I was used to looking at that question backwards: How do we answer questions? The answer is the basic foundation of reporting – The 5 Ws (and an H): Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Coincidentally enough, the top 6 question words for Cortana are, you guessed it: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. But they tend to represent different levels of intent as seen in this graphic from PPC Hero:
How important is this, really?
Well Google says 20% of its mobile searches are voice searches, and Bing says 25% of its Windows 10 queries are voice searches. Does 20 to 25 percent not sound like much? Google processes 3.5 billion searches per day, some 60% of those are from mobile, and 20% of those are voice. Let’s do the math:
3.5 billion * .60 = 2.1 billion
2.1 billion * .20 = 420 million
That’s a pretty big number. By the end of the year there will be some 33 million voice-first devices in circulation, according to VoiceLabs, and currently Google’s word accuracy rate is 90% and getting better. So, I think it’s safe to say that 1) voice search volume is significant; 2) It’s not going to get any less; and 3) it’s not going to go away any time soon.
Part of the reason is convenience, as Mary Meeker pointed out in her 2016 Internet Trends report, voice search is:
Fast – humans can speak 150 words per minute vs. typing an average of 40;
Easy – convenient and hands-free;
Personalized, content-driven and keyboard free – there’s an ability to understand a wide context of questions based on prior questions, interactions, locations, and other semantics.
What’s a business to do?
As mentioned already, it’s not too early to start thinking about voice search and gearing up to make it part of your PPC strategy. There are a few things to do:
- Add long-tail keywords
- Use natural language
- Make sure your business is claimed and optimized on Google
- Submit your site maps so it’s easy for spiders to crawl your site and get a good understanding of what it’s about.
- Make sure your content is easy to understand
- Have a website that’s optimized for mobile
So there you have it. That’s how voice search will affect PPC campaigns and what your business should be doing to get ready. What do you think? Are you making changes for voice search? Let us know in the comments!