Can you imagine a world without websites? How about life without a keyboard? While the arrival of voice technology hasn’t reshaped our landscape to this extent (yet) – it is here to stay. Currently, voice search makes up 35% of all web searches; that number is expected to reach 50% by 2020. Are your users finding your website when they ask for your business by name? Is your website able to deliver the right answers to spoken questions from buyers?
In this episode of The Marketing Remix, Ron Hadler, Sr. Director of Marketing Technology, and Ross Briggs, Manager of SEO, discuss the current landscape for voice technology, ways to update your website to handle voice interactions, and more.
What’s the current landscape for voice technology? It's more than Siri and Echo.
Ron: I mean, yeah, you have Google Assistant in there also. But the thing is, really in the Voice First, is really that that's how people are getting to your content is Voice First, and whether you are planning for that or thinking about it, it's happening right now, so it's really kind of when the future is what is Voice First. And so you're kind of moving towards that a place where everybody will be doing that as the easiest way to access your content.
Reid: Speaking of it being right now, I'm going to have this one-off at the past little bit. It also listening. So our devices, are they all listening to us right now?
Ron: Well, they are listening, but they're waiting for those key words to kind of go off. Your Hey Google or...
Reid: Whoa, there went my phone.
Ron: Okay, Alexa. I mean, those things are happening and... But it's not until you actually use those in invocations that they actually record and then send out to the cloud to be translated.
Reid: And so, obviously the marketers at this point are starting to think about how they want to take advantage of all of that, but again, getting to the level setting a little bit more on what that is, are we getting to the point of scripting some of this stuff? We talked about chatbots – how do those relate back to voice search, anything like that?
Ron: Absolutely the voice applications, if you will, that are being both promoted by Amazon and Alexa and Google for their assistant, very easy to kind of take content and then turn it into an application that is specifically for those home speakers.
What are the tactical implications of voice technology?
Ross: I think there's a number of good tactics you can use currently to get people to your site via voice and if so, if they're using a smart speaker, or if they're using just voice search which would be like a speech-to-text within your phone or within the Google application. One of the biggest ways that currently voice is being leveraged or surfaced through those devices is through the usage of featured snippets and search. And so these can be basically answers to questions, it's when you do a search in Google, it pops up at the top, and it's that little box of text, and these are also being read out through smart speakers or through any type of screenless device that's providing information and they are really beneficial in the current landscape, even just through mobile and desktop searches. You can capture more click through rate through that keyword, but then in the future-proofing model, you're also getting this content surfaced into those smart speakers. And the nice thing about it is, while it doesn't get people onto your website, it's still sort of a simple interaction, it does give you credit for providing that answer, so the Google Home will read out, "According to Red Door Interactive, a title tag is a short snippet of text used to identify your website and search," something like that.
Reid: So actually, talk a little bit about that. What does it mean to give you credit for it?
Ross: So I think it's a good branding opportunity, because when people are interacting with a screenless device and getting that information read back to them through audio presentation, they don't have that screen to look at, they don't have 10 choices to pick from, they're just getting the single answer, and you need to make that memorable so that when they do come back for deeper investigation or want to actually purchase a product, or something like that, they're going to remember who it is. And this is a great reason why you should be serving this content off of your primary domain, and making your website name branded and sticky and make people remember that. If you're serving it from some micro-site or external or sub-domain that may not be quite as sticky, so it's a good implication for why making a strongly branded website and serving content through there, can be beneficial.
Ron: I could probably jump in there. One of the things that you kind of brought up there is branding, and really the concept of voice as brand, and so this is this understanding is that you are serving your brand through the voice, so those things that are being said, and how there's being said, is an opportunity if you represent your brand as voice.
Reid: So it's kinda like the "I'm feeling lucky" button, when you click on it in Google. So whatever that first one is, that's the one that wins. I know that number one in a search result is like the... It equates to they're the best at that thing you were looking for. And now, in the case of voice, there's no number two, right? It's number one or nothing.
Ross: Yeah, you take it to Amazon, and you're then directly purchasing a product, and whatever is sort of marked as that Amazon preferred or that top listing, they're obviously getting a lot of that credit and that's the one people are being served to purchase through that, the Alexa application.
Reid: Yeah, and then the way that people... So the way that people search obviously, the way we've historically had searched is kinda those... That caveman like statement, red, car, big, whatever. And now people are engaging with that in a completely different way which is asking questions, using full sentences, things like that
How is voice currently impacting search strategy?
Ross: We’ve talked about voice search in past episodes. I think people tend to come up with the idea that they want to search for and then translate that into caveman speak, and then do it through the keyboard and then see the result that they get, and that process of that translation into a typable query isn't happening anymore. So people start to ask the question, they're thinking as they're sort of inputting that search query and so it becomes a lot more conversational. It has stop words in it. It has the uhms and the uhhs, and things like that, that you come to expect with a conversational query. And right now there's no keyword tool that separates "here's keyword for voice and here's keywords for keyboard input," but the same data does get recorded and you're able to see that. So through a little bit of sort of detective work, you can start to boil it down to what are likely the voice queries that I'm getting and is bringing whether it's clicks or just viewing of my content or hearing of my content. So if you look for longer tail keyword opportunities so this would be like four words or more through a lot of the keyword tools, you can start to see, Okay, this is likely a voice query or here's the type of questions people are asking, when they are interacting with my content through voice and then you can also start to think about just what are the settings where people would be using voice over keyboard.
Ross: And you start to think about things like driving or cooking and you have your hands dirty and you don't want to touch your phone, or your computer. Maybe if you're exercising at the gym or even if you're done cooking, and you're eating the meal. So in what context are people using voice more and what would they be looking for in relation to my brand during those activities?
Reid: Yeah, so that's interesting. So therefore, you're looking at particular activities and then thinking through maybe a content strategy that better represents what that activity may be as it relates to your brand so thinking maybe activity first or use case first. Right?
Ross: Right, absolutely.
Reid: Okay, so, so then what is the challenge then as it relates to a marketer or certainly from a search standpoint, to plan content? Because I think what it had been before is trying to get people down to if you're selling product to your product detail page or something like that, but that's maybe not what they're looking for. So what do I need to think about differently at this point?
Ross: Yeah, I think trying to get people to a product detail page from a voice interaction would be putting the cart before the horse a little bit. People are looking for that interactive experience. They're looking for information that they can remember and think about for later for when they are going deeper into the research phase. So I think taking a little bit of that softer sell approach makes a lot more sense when you're planning content for voice and being helpful, providing people with information, but not asking them to convert on that first visit that's triggered by voice.
Reid: Right. And what's the implication, then of... 'cause, well, there's different tools and technologies, the way that Echo/Alexa operates versus maybe Google with the skills, that's where some people are, it's like, do I need to build a skill and what does that look like? 'Cause that is that search is that, is that your site is that something different than that, versus a Google, where what do you have to do in order to make a particular thing happen? If I were to use voice for example, with Titleist, it's like, I'm on the course, I'm like, my feet are above my... The ball right now, what's the best... What's my shot here? How do I have that engagement to make Titleist be the one that gives me that content?
Ron: I think that's very situational. Just the same as most of the other devices that have come online after desktop, right? Whether that's mobile...
Reid: But that's what you're thinking, right?
Ron: That's a watch, now voice. So, it's situational, and you're giving a perfect example of where I might invoke that sort of application. A lot of the things that they're even promoting is my hands are busy. I need to ask a question, I don't want to get mayonnaise on my device. And so I want to ask a question about that. So it's really situational, and those are the ways that you need to kind of approach that as you're planning to build those applications, but absolutely, there's a bit of a domain sort of grab for keywords and invocations when it comes to those apps, and right now those are the things that people should be kinda paying attention to, from a brand perspective, is that, does somebody really want to be giving all the content that is really on my keywords?
Reid: Yeah, and well, that's the difference between SEO version of this and then app-based version of this.
Ross: Yeah, and I think even skills is probably the future iteration or the evolution of what is a simple application of voice search right now, and you can kind of think of it with smartphones. So, when smartphones first came about, it was really like, Okay, there's an internet browser and there's a calculator and there's a couple of things that you can use here that were very similar to a desktop computer. Just visualizing that smaller thing. The idea of an Uber app where you can summon a ride was never something people were thinking about with the first iteration of the smartphone. And that's very much where we're at with voice search right now, so we're thinking about replicating our desktop and mobile searches via voice, but really it's that interaction, that ability to perform actions and get search results and interact with different databases that skills are starting to get closer to and I think that's really the evolution of it to where you don't realize you're performing a web query but the Google device is connecting to the Web, and pulling information in. And you sort of becoming your personal assistant with the customized things that it knows about you.
Reid: Yeah. And so we're going to talk in the next episode more about the future state of this, so hopefully listeners that are listening to this will bring over that because I'm going to wrap this up on this particular episode with one more question about the current state of things related to all the stuff that we're talking about right now.
What does all this mean for the current state of websites (and their content)?
Ron: Mark-up in snippets is kind of bedrock or foundational, because that really gives the clues to the bot finding those answers, how to present them, that structure of even starting to break up your content and not having a very wall of text, so to speak. And putting into more of a question-and-answer 'cause that's really what is starting to surface as far as those features snippets is that format. Question, answer, question, answer. I'm not saying you need to have a website that's a 50,000-page long question and answer FAQ but you should be starting to think about answering questions within your content.
Reid: Well, I would think that a lot of brands kinda already have that, right? They have their sort of FAQs, at least in some form or fashion, somewhere in their company, whether or not it's exposed on the site and maybe that's kind of where that richness may come from in SEO. You think that's true, Ross?
Ross: Oh, absolutely. And even if you have that content and as Ron was alluding to, it's sort of just, it's a wall of text and the bots are left to process that and say, "Hey I found this keyword in here. Maybe this is the answer", but if you actually go back and label that and say "this line is the question, this line is the answer, this element is the price of the product, this element is the description of the product," then the bots can really pull that information out and use it a lot more reliably in order to provide the answer to the specific question people were looking for.
Ron: The deeper part of that is really when you get down to creating your content into a content engineering, which is more structured content, a lot of that is just kind of removing all of your layout and your styling out of your content and making it pure content.
Reid: Yeah, which doesn't mean it's going to be ugly, or any of that kind of stuff. We're still going to have websites that are still... Well, and we'll talk about actually what that all's going to look like in the next episode too. You know, leave a little cliffhanger there. I think it just requires to understand that this is a new world, people are engaging with things via voice, and we're seeing it every day now, more and more. So on the next episode, we're going to talk about where it's headed from here. So guys, for this episode, thanks for joining us, Ross and Ron, appreciate it, and look forward to the next episode on this.
Ron: Great, thanks a lot.
Ross: Thanks, Reid.
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