If your business isn’t optimising for future search trends and technologies, you can be sure your competitors are – but how do you know where to start?

Keeping up to date with marketing trends is one way of ensuring we continue to go above and beyond for our clients, so we went along to AdTech London 2019 to find out about some of the best new marketing strategies.

The importance of online search is a given for any marketing campaign and combining multiple channels has proven benefits. An early Google study saw significant increases in incremental website traffic when your PPC & SEO were combined in a campaign and this has subsequently been backed up by Microsoft. Having combined channel strategies benefits you no matter what search engine a potential customer might be using.

One of the most memorable talks at AdTech London 2019 focused on how voice search might impact search behaviour and the future of search. The panel included Ric Rodriguez (Yext), Nick Wilsdon (Vodafone), Hannah Thorpe (Found), and Gerry White (Just Eat).

If I had a pound for every time a client has asked me ‘can I optimise for voice search?’ I would probably be writing this post from an island in the Caribbean. The panel agreed that worrying about voice search was probably the wrong approach, since the usual approach for new technologies is to return the best result for any search regardless of how the search is performed. This means regular SEO best practice will continue to benefit your pages and will still get you returned for those all-important voice searches.

Voice search and voice assistant search will continue to develop and a specific voice strategy should certainly be accounted for, but for now there is a lot a business can do to ensure they increase search visibility across all search channels, voice included.

Businesses should focus on:

Featured snippets

  • If you’re not familiar with the term ‘Featured snippets’ you will almost certainly recognise what they look like, since they often appear at the top of search results pages in a box. Featured snippets matter because up to 30% of 1.4 million tested Google searches contain them (Perficient/digital 2018 research)

User intent

  • When people search for your website, do they want to buy something or are they looking for information? User intent helps us understand why someone typed in that query and what they are expecting when they land on your webpage. Sometimes intent is obvious if they use phrases such as “buy”, “price”, “how to”, “which one” and so on, however intent is not always obvious. Luckily Google released the Hummingbird update, which digs into context and tries to determine intent before delivering the best search results and content. Businesses should try to match customers’ intent with content, to answer questions and provide further relevant details wherever possible.

Long tail keywords & questions

  • When people search for information with a voice assistant, they tend to use a human interaction voice/ phrasing; asking questions and using long phrases. However, this is not only true of voice search. Long tail searches account for over 70% of all searches on Google, and people have been typing natural questions more frequently i.e. ‘What should I buy for my mother on Mother’s Day?’. Long tail phrases tend to be much less vague and have lower competition so optimising for long tail phrases/ keywords is generally good practice.
  • This brings us to the rise of ‘question based queries’. While voice search complements this trend nicely, Google search results pages are now getting crowded with featured results, especially ‘People Also Ask’ (PAA). For the last few years PAA has been dominating search results, appearing for almost 90% of all searches! It’s therefore good practice to answer your customers’ most common questions on your website using an easy to understand, conversational tone.

Structured data

  • Structured data is code added into your HTML framework which helps search engines to better understand your content. With Schema Markup, you can better control what your content means and the way it is interpreted by search engines.

This can result in rich snippets for your results that make them stand out from the crowd and increase click through rates and traffic to your website. This structuring of data will also help with voice search – there is even a schema for voice assistants called ‘speakable’.

Local SEO

  • We are often told by clients that they are not interested in local SEO since they want to target customers on a national or international level. However, for Google local and geographic location always plays a part in how they interpret your search query. When it comes to voice search, local is king. 58% of consumer searches have local intent and consumers often use voice search to find a business. However, any generic search such as ‘coffee Shops’ will cause Google to list nearest coffee shops first, taking your location from your device or IP. In 2018, an Uberall Near Me Report found that 69% of smartphone users use their device to help them shop, and of that group 82% used ‘near me’ searches.
  • Google My Business should always be claimed and optimised to ensure that your business will turn up for maps or local searches and – even better – will already be pulled out for voice search.

So, our key takeaways from AdTech London 2019 are:

  • Best practice Search Engine Optimisation will continue to offer significant benefits for your site and search visibility
  • Keyword and content expansion should use considered ‘question & answer’ formats
  • Implement the correct schema mark-up across your site
  • Always optimise local SEO aspects of your business
  • Review other featured snippets that you could target

This should stand your site and business in good stead for the increasing use of voice search, and if you want to do something specific for/ with voice assistants then register your company name with Alexa Skills and Google Actions so that your company information comes up as (and when) expected.

Stay tuned as we update on voice search … look out for our PPC team’s views on this important topic.

Donal Langan, Head of SEO