Voice Search Is Exploding: How This Changes Your Digital, Content And Social Media Marketing Strategies.

Apple’s launch of the iPhone 4s in 2011 introduced the world to Siri. Since then we’ve had Google Voice, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Echo Alexis, but now voice search is poised for rapid growth. 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search more than once a day. Click To Tweet ComScore predicts that by 2020, half of all searches will be voice searches. Businesses can benefit from understanding how this shift will disrupt current search (SEO), content marketing and social media marketing strategies.

Voice Search Digital Content Social Media Marketing Strategy Quesenberry

Keyword searching is decreasing so sites optimized to keywords will see a decrease in traffic and engagement. Voice search sifts behavior from typing in key words or phrases to finding something by asking questions. This goes beyond long tail search strategies where marketers have combined multiple search terms to narrow results on smaller niche audiences. Long tail was in response to people using longer search phrases looking for more specific products and services. In voice search people use their voices to ask questions in full sentences.

Consumers are now asking questions of the Internet the way they would a person. With the growth of voice search, which uses natural language, there is increase in questions as part of the search phrasing. In fact, Search Engine Watch reports the use of search queries starting with “who,” “what,” “where” and “how” has increased by 61% year over year. This makes sense because many people now can use their voice and ask their phones.

Marketers must adjust so their content appears as a good answer. How? Think less keyword stuffing and meta tags and more full sentences and conversational copy. Respond to more natural language questions with more natural language answers – the way you would answer someone in person. Voice search results emphasize quality so you should think less like a marketer with heavy sales messages and more like a publisher or journalist – answering the “W” questions is the basis of writing a good news story. Also, all words become important Purna Virji of Moz gives the example that if the search phrase is “What is the cost for gas in my location?”, the words “is,” “the,” “for”, “in” and “my” are filler words. The filler words have nothing to do with a specific product or service, but they increase the words that match a voice query and can improve search placement.

Google Voice search has doubled over the last year. Click To TweetHow can you take advantage of this trend? Follow the four steps below.

  1. Research the most common questions asked by your target audience. Search industry, interest and product forums. Search comments on ratings and industry appropriate review sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor or even Amazon. Search questions and answer sites like Quora and your own Q&A page. Survey front line employees and sales people about most common questions and analyze your own social media accounts for common questions. If you don’t have a Q&A section on your website consider adding one.
  2. Search these common questions using voice search and see how the current answers are written. Use Siri, Google Voice, Cortana, Alexis to see what is currently appearing as the top results. This will help you identify current competition and provide a guideline for how to structure your own answers. Are there answers that are not being given? Concentrate there first, then work your way to trying to overtake competitor’s positions.
  3. Create website and social media content that directly answers those questions in simple clear sentences. Here remember the “who,” “what,” “where” and “how.” Provide clear and direct answers but fill out the information around the direct answers. Once you get the consumer on your site for the direct answer you can expand the topic. Also don’t forget to create content based on variations of the same questions such as how to fix, “how do I fix ____?,” “how do I stop ___?”, or who can fix ____?, “what do I do if ___?” Don’t forget all content that can be searched including blogs and press releases.
  4. Consider local voice search. If you are a business with a physical address you should consider a new element to potential customer questions. Here people may be asking questions based on geo-location such as “where is the nearest BBQ place?,” “where can I get an iPhone charger?”, Who has the closest free wi-fi?” Make sure your business is listed with physical locations in Google+ Local and other geo-location social media sites like Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook. Reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdviser can also impact these search results.

Voice search for product research is increasing. Nearly 50% of people are now using voice search when researching products. If marketers want their products to be found they should start to consider new strategies that emphasize natural language over keywords.

Digital and content marketing benefits to voice search optimization: Optimizing your website, blog and press/media pages with new information in the right structure can help get your content noticed over competitors to drive more traffic from highly qualified leads.

Social media marketing benefits to voice search optimization: Voice search optimized content will draw more engagement because you will be providing answers addressing your target audience’s most common questions. A focus on discovering and answering your target’s questions leads to more valuable and relevant social content that will drive awareness views and shares.

Business benefits to voice search optimization: Adjusting to natural language search helps you think more like a consumer and less like a marketer. This improved understanding of what your customers are currently seeking can lead to new product and service ideas to improve your business offering.

Over time the better you get at answering natural language questions the better your results. Bill Slawski from Go Fish Digital says that sites frequently selected and ranked highly can be deemed more authoritative and thus appear in more top results and drive more traffic.

We are still early in this trend. If you start adjusting strategies now you could benefit from a competitive advantage over your slower competitors. Have you considered how voice search will change your digital strategies?

For more insights into the big picture in social media strategy consider Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution.

To consider the bigger picture in measurement see Why You Need A Social Media Measurement Plan And How To Create One. To consider the bigger picture in social media marketing Ask These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Strategy.

Longer Content Performs Better Despite Shorter Attention Spans.

This time of year everyone is focused on the NCAA Basketball tournament as we all try to pick the winners and losers of the brackets. But those of us who work in social media are always trying to pick the winners and losers of our content. With more and more investment in social media comes greater expectation of ROI and still only half of corporate executives are convinced of social media’s value.

What is the Magic Formula to Become a Social Media Champion?

This is where the madness comes in – What we have been told may not actually be true. The average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to just 8 seconds by 2013 – that is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish! Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows” explains this with research that says the Internet has actually changed the physical structure of our brains reducing our ability to focus.

So when digital marketing experts tell us to create shorter content – around 200 words – this makes a lot of sense. Short Attention Span = Short Content. Yet this strategy is not necessarily the best. You have to go deeper and look at other factors. If your goal is to have people read all your words then this many be true, but if you value other goals like shares and views, you should give longer content more consideration.

Why Add Words that People Won’t Read?

  1. Increased shares
  2. Added link backs
  3. More search views

Apparently it doesn’t really matter if people read all of your copy, if you care about getting more people to see it. Madness. Quick Sprout confirms this. They performed an analysis on their blog and found that posts with more than 1,500 words received 68% more tweets and 22% more Facebook likes than articles with fewer than 1,500 words. They also cite a popular online journal that performed a similar analysis and found the results reported in the chart below.

Social Media Marketing
Longer copy gets more social media shares across networks. Via Quick Sprout at http://bit.ly/1ggIPic

In addition to more social shares, Moz research has found that longer content generates more link backs and more link backs help with SEO (search engine optimization). The link backs further improve search results, which increases views along with the social shares.

Finally, longer content also improves organic search. According to serpIQ, the average content length for Web pages that rank in the top 10 results on Google is at least 2,000 words. The higher the ranking, the more words – more people are choosing and liking longer content.

Social Media Marketing
Top 10 Google search results with page word length. Via Quick Sprout at http://bit.ly/1bQL13C

Longer Means More Traffic, but Don’t Expect Them to Read Most of It.

Despite all this, positive research for longer content, other statistics from Neilson Norman Group tell us that people only read 20%-30% of that content. They also found that 79% of people scan pages they come across and only 16% read word-by-word. Here it seems that our short attention spans win out. On a 1,500 word post that means most people are only reading 300 of those words.

We are attracted to longer copy, but our goldfish brains don’t allow us to read all the words. We also like to share longer copy to perhaps try and make people think we have read the entire article and prove we can sill focus. Our attention spans are shorter, but we don’t want other people to know it! Madness.

This reminds me of when I worked on the advertising account for an ice cream brand. What we discovered was that in the ice cream business customers are always attracted to the new flavors, but at the end of the day most sales came from plain old chocolate and vanilla. New flavors attract attention, but most people buy chocolate and vanilla anyway. In a similar strategy, write longer content to attract attention even if your reader only consumes one fifth of it anyway.

Extra words are important even if people don't read them Click To Tweet Longer content makes the article look more substantial to attract attention and make it worthy of being shared. Longer content also allows more room for keywords and search optimization. It doesn’t matter if most people won’t read all of it. Madness? Perhaps, but how many upsets will happen in the basketball tournament this year? One thing we can learn from the NCAA championship is that you must always plan for the unexpected.

What have you found in your experience? Have you tried longer content?