Conversational search is here to stay. Nothing confirms this more than Google launching the most comprehensive changes to their search algorithm in years with their late 2013 release of Hummingbird. This should be prompting some big questions all across your ecommerce business’ organization, and if it hasn’t, you need to change that now. These voice search queries affect all of your search channels, especially search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search (PPC) strategies. Now, the big questions I keep hearing from different search marketers across the ecommerce landscape are “What do I need to do for this?”, “What processes do I need to redefine or modify?”, what are some key areas of my website where I can build conversational language?” and “How does this change the way I think about my content and keyword targeting?”. Let’s just dive right in then.

EXAMPLE: User A wants to search for a new set of golf clubs with some specific qualifications. With a more traditional typed search method, their search might look something like this: “new pink golf clubs intermediate skill full set womens”. This same query as a spoken search this may look quite a bit different but have the same goal: “find me a full set of new pink women’s golf clubs for sale that would be perfect for a intermediate level golfer”.   When we type searches, we automatically omit a variety of keywords, and the ordering of the keywords may not always have a smooth, cognitive flow. When we speak the same query, the opposite often is true, and additional keyword values like “a,” “for” and “me” make it into the query string. This results in additional phraseology entering a query that traditionally would have been omitted, so Google now tries to analyze and derive the intention of a query, not just the query’s content.

In paid search, this can lead to misses on exact and phrase match keywords in your program. While your broad match campaigns may cover this, you may be missing additional context of a searcher’s inquiry and may not present the best ad copy and subsequent landing page experience to these voice search queries. This could affect the proper qualifying of intention for a user’s query and have a tangible influence on things like conversion rates, click-through rates, onsite engagement metrics and more. Make sure your search agency has a strategy for developing keyword campaigns that not only target typed queries, but also take into consideration conversational search queries. This may include solidly developed tail-term keyword expansions and an even more hands-on approach to broad match term management and analysis.

The same effects can be occurring within your SEO strategy. Your page content may not take into consideration conversational phrasing, and this is particularly important with solutions-based queries since search marketers are typically focused on describing the product or service with less content specific to the problems the product or service may be a solution for. Also, many companies like to format description copy into succinct bullet-points, which can lead to truncated copy formats. With the increase in voice search, content writers need to think more about how they would discuss the product and the solutions it provides rather than most efficiently describing the product itself. This will put an increased emphasis on the frequently asked questions (FAQs) portions of your website, so you will need to ensure that these areas – particularly on a retail site – are structured to support specific products or product lines. Re-audit your FAQ content and make sure it is conversational in nature; make sure the questions and answers are formatted in a verbal response format.

We are interacting more often with our computers and other devices as if they were people, and frequently we interact with them more than other humans. As this trend continues, it is not surprising that search engines, much like our day-to-day technology devices, will evolve to accommodate this type of interaction. Search marketers need diversify our perceptions of how people are looking for what it is we market. So, start thinking about not only the keywords people use to search, but also the way they would do it verbally.

To wrap up, here is a simple way to get started on measuring your conversational search targeting. Simply ask an unprepared merchant “what problem does this product solve for a consumer and why would they want it?” and listen to the response… record it even. Then compare the content written about it and evaluate how much overlap there is. My guess is that you will find some hidden gems missing from the content and, in particular, your search strategies around that product. Evolve that one product’s content, add some additional long tail-term targeting adgroups for that product, use the merchant’s language in your ads and see what the results are.

So, go on and get started. Choose a product or service that performs in the middle of the pack in your SEM channels and see what conversationally based content can add. You should end up pleasantly surprised by the results this testing can shed light on.

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