“OK Google, show me a picture of the latest iPod nano…”
From entertainment and travel information through to the regional weather and share prices, voice search is here to stay, and it’s time to optimize it for e-commerce!
Let’s explore what voice search is, why it matters, and most importantly, how you can leverage voice search for a competitive business advantage for e-commerce websites.
What is Voice Search?
Whether Siri, Google Now, or Cortana, an increasing number of people are opting to communicate with search engines through spoken conversation, rather than more traditional text. Voice search enables people to interact with search engines through mobile devices and computers, using voice commands, for fast and effective information discovery.
Voice search is rapidly growing in popularity as text-to-speech technologies improve, with research indicating that fifty-percent of consumers are using voice search more frequently now than they did 12 months ago. (Source: ‘What’s Next in Search?‘—Anne Ahola Ward)
The Speaking Shopper
With the growth of m-commerce and conversational commerce, it is clear that people like to participate in online shopping on the go—they do this with mobile devices and increasingly, through wearable technology, supported by chat apps, too.
The era of overcoming trust barriers between the online buyer and the e-commerce seller, is (mainly) behind us. The new challenge is being able to have a conversation with the shopper effectively, transforming your online store to cater for the needs of the ‘speaking shopper’ and two-way communication challenges.
Facilitating Two Way Communication
There are more two-way communication opportunities with e-commerce stores than you might think. One of the most commonly used conversational tools for e-commerce websites are chat apps. If you are not familiar with chat apps, they are the pop-up boxes (usually at the bottom right-hand side of the screen) that appear after a page is dormant for a few seconds, or once dwell time exceeds a few seconds on a page.
The great thing about chat apps (some of the main apps being HellpFlow, Zopim, LiveChat, and SnapEngage) is that they make chatting to the company/website/e-commerce store, easy and hassle free. This ‘hassle free’ conversation can happen any day of the week, or time of the day, and is 24/7 conversation support.
You can build into chat apps frequently asked questions, as well as other prescription help and supporting information to improve the user experience, enabling voice and traditional text interaction.
“From the sales side, customers who use LiveChat on our site are 4.85 times more likely to make a purchase and their per-session value is almost 400% higher than the site average.” —Kyle Therriault, VP of Internet Strategy & Business Development at AutoAccessoriesGarage.com
Understanding the User
Spoken search still adheres to many of the fundamentals of traditional Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Regardless of how you interact with a search engine, in order to rank within search verticals and engagement types, your content needs to be understood, reflect relevancy to the user, and closely match intent with outcome.
The optimization tactics for text-based search, apply (arguably to an even greater extent) to voice search and e-commerce sites. Typical content understanding actions (taken from ‘How to Optimize Your Content for Google RankBrain‘) include:
- Having a Clear Purpose: Make it easy for search engines and users to identify why the content was created.
- The Depth of Information Provided: Cover the topic in full and provide access to external supporting information.
- A Clear Topic Focus: Move away from very refined sets of specific keywords (keyword focus), and cover the variations and natural language used to convey the content meaning spanning target audiences.
- Term Frequency–Inverse Document Frequency (TF-IDF): How frequently you use terms within the content and the perceived importance of those terms to that content—this is not keyword stuffing!
Optimizing E-Commerce Sites for Voice
While Google Search Console has yet to include voice filter types to the Search Analytics reporting, there are still ways to use search behavior to increase your websites claim and authority for voice search. Below are some of my top tips for optimizing e-commerce shops for voice.
On-site Search: People use on-site search functionality when they are struggling to find a product, brand, or service being provided. Your Google Analytics account (or chosen alternative data tool) captures all of this information and enables you to create content, add new services to the site, and re-position content so that users can have a better e-commerce experience. By leveraging the insights from data sets like this, you can ensure that your site appears effectively for voice commands, specific to your audience.
User Demographics: The core aspect of voice search success for e-commerce stores is catering for your consumer niche, and providing a closely matched experience with user needs. If a bulk of your target demographic is UK-based millennials, with interests in technology and degree-level education, the content provided in your store must reflect that. From imagery and video to audio and text, the effective pitching of content will make the difference between people discovering your site through voice commands and buying, or going somewhere else.
Speed of Delivery: People talk to search engines because they are in a hurry and they have a very immediate need. With the growth of mobile search success (now out performing desktop search), and the ability to make informed buying decisions on the move, speed of content delivery is directly correlated to voice and e-commerce gains. The quicker your site responds to search needs, the greater the value derived from them.
Mobile Friendliness: The next level up from the delivery of a fast e-commerce experience, is the opportunity to create a friendly one. This covers items like the responsive design of the website, prioritization, delivery of content, size of buttons, and more. When someone lands on your website after completing voice search commands, they expect easy access to the information (and likely product) they were looking for, and a responsive experience to complete the end result (buying something) ASAP.
Extra Tips for Voice Search and E-commerce
There are hundreds of ways to increase the value derived from your e-commerce website for voice search. The following are some top-level tips and advice to help provide more comprehensive insights into next actions you can take today.
- Make everything relevant and specific to your audience—from closely matched search terms in URLs to creating content based on user search query data trends.
- Ensure access to information is logical, fast, and reflecting user click insights.
- Enable two-way communication with your website 24/7.
- Ask users what their experience with your website has been and for improvements. Doing this after point of sale works well.
- Ask front line staff for frequently asked questions, customer needs, and satisfaction points—then ensure these are reflected in the website copy.
- It is important to be conversational in the tone of the content created. Remember voice search is about facilitating conversation.
- Reduce industry jargon and integrate user terminology where applicable.
- Minimize clicks from landing page to purchase. Voice searchers need the fastest route to their destination you can provide.
- Ensure your website is responsive and works well on all mobile devices and tablets. Voice search is mainly on the move, and instant needs-based, so easy interaction is paramount.
- The depth of content matters—even for e-commerce sites! The more natural the language used, and the easier access to supporting content removing conversion barriers, the greater the likelihood of voice search success.
- Context is important—this includes schema.org and location optimization. The easier it is to understand the positioning of the content and the bigger relevant picture, the better.
What’s Next for Voice Search?
Voice search is going to increase in volume, ROI potential, and in user demands of e-commerce sites to cater for it. Like mobile search before it, voice search will become a “norm”—fueled in part by wearable technology, the ever increasing demands for instant access to information, and trouble-free, expedient buying online.
People are social beings, and the human computer interaction aspect of life (and search) will continue to build momentum. While we may be moving away from traditional stores and face-to-face shopping, we are flocking toward the internet to service our buying requirements. Before long, the local chat in the corner shop will become the friendly conversation online.