Friday, February 17, 2017

Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week, Pinterest’s acquisition of Google’s former image search lead, Randy Keller, as Head of Search shows how serious the social network is about visual search; and Twitter’s Q4 earnings have raised questions about the company’s long-term prospects. Plus, a new study shows voice search on the rise, and Google tests a way for users to report offensive autocomplete suggestions.

Google’s Randy Keller joins Pinterest as Head of Search

We’ve known for a while now that visual search was becoming a key part of Pinterest’s offering as a social platform, and the past couple of weeks have seen Pinterest make even more moves to cement its position at the forefront of visual search. On February 7, Pinterest released a new set of visual discovery tools, including the long-awaited Lens, a visual recognition and search tool which lets users search the real world using the camera in their Pinterest app.

Then came the announcement that Google’s former Head of Image Search, Randy Keller, has jumped ship to join Pinterest as Head of Search – a brand-new role which has just been created at the company. If anyone was in any doubt before about Pinterest’s plans to make search a central focus, they won’t be now.

So what’s next for Pinterest and visual search, and more importantly, how can it use its visual expertise to drive revenue and keep users engaging with its platform in the long term? Clark Boyd took an in-depth look this week at whether Pinterest can crack (and monetise) visual search, and how it could potentially gain an edge over titans like Google and Amazon if it plays its cards right.

Twitter’s Q4 earnings raise questions about the company’s long-term future

While Pinterest explores new ways to monetise its platform, things aren’t looking so positive for another social network: Twitter.

Twitter’s Q4 earnings are in, and the numbers fell far short of analysts’ and Wall Street’s expectations, raising questions about the social network’s long-term future. And while Twitter is reporting a 11% year-over-year growth in Daily Active Users, it won’t actually release the figures, claiming that “Growth rate is what we are most comfortable sharing at this moment in time.”

Where does Twitter go from here? Al Roberts assessed the situation over on our sister site, ClickZ, concluding that some major changes may be in order if Twitter wants to turn its fortunes around.

New study shows a steadily increasing adoption of voice search

Voice search is already a fast-growing movement in the search industry – and the latest figures indicate that it’s winning increasing ground in daily use. A new study published by digital marketing agency Stonetemple shows the inroads that voice search is making into people’s daily lives, with 59% of Americans surveyed saying that they use voice search to look up information on their smartphones.

However, there are still obstacles to voice search becoming truly mainstream, such as the stigma around using it in public. Tereza Litsa took a look at the findings for Search Engine Watch to discover when, how and how often people are using voice search, and what that means for its future.

The downfall of PewDiePie could hurt influencer marketing on YouTube

If you follow news around YouTube, gaming or even online media in general, you’ve probably heard that YouTube’s most famous figure, PewDiePie, has been dropped by Disney’s Maker Studios following an investigation by the Wall Street Journal into videos he has published containing anti-Semitic themes.

This was followed not long after by a similar decision from YouTube to cut ad revenue to PewDiePie’s videos, removing him from the Google Preferred advertising program and cancelling the planned second season of his original YouTube series, Scare PewDiePie.

But PewDiePie’s series has been a core component of the promotion for YouTube Red, its paid subscription service; and while many support YouTube’s decision to distance itself from PewDiePie, the star’s downfall could also spell serious trouble for the future of YouTube Red and influencer marketing in general.

Google tests method of reporting autocomplete suggestions

We’ve all heard the jokes and stories about the weird autocomplete queries that pop up when you input certain things into Google, confirming beyond a doubt – as if we didn’t already know – that sometimes people are awful. But while Google can’t control the things its users search for, it has decided to start taking control of whether or not they show up as autocomplete suggestions.

Accordingly, Search Engine Land has reported that Google is testing a new way to report offensive autocomplete suggestions, with a small gray ‘Report offensive query’ link appearing beneath the autocomplete options. The feature is in limited testing still, so it might look different once it’s officially implemented.

Image: Search Engine Land

A spokesperson for Google confirmed the test in a statement shared with Search Engine Land, saying:

“Autocomplete predictions are based on searches previously carried out by users around the world. That means that predicted terms are sometimes unexpected or offensive. We have been actively working on improvements to our algorithm that will help surface more high quality, credible content on the web. In addition, we’re experimenting with a new feature that allows people to report offensive Search predictions. We’re working to incorporate such feedback into our algorithms, and we hope to roll this out more broadly over time. Autocomplete isn’t an exact science and we’re continually working to improve it.”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Will Pinterest crack (and monetise) visual search?

Pinterest made a clear declaration of intent last week with the announcement that Li Fan, Google’s former head of image search, has joined the photo sharing site as Head of Engineering.

This appointment is reflective of a strategy to challenge both Google and Amazon in the product-based visual search market. Notably, Pinterest also rolled out their paid search offering, driven initially through a partnership with Kenshoo, in 2016.

Due to the glacial pace of advertising product launches from Pinterest over the past few years, some in the industry felt their opportunity to monetise their user base may have passed.

Moreover, the keyword-based paid search market is saturated as it is, with Google constantly trialling new ways to eke out more searches.

However, in many of the potential growth areas for the industry, such as voice search, personalisation, and most obviously, image search, Pinterest believe they have something different to offer.

As a social platform focused more on nourishing the self than sharing selfies, Pinterest is inherently driven by the power of images. Nonetheless, the history of image search has shown that mastering the requisite technology to tap into this potential is no mean feat.

How Pinterest plans to tackle visual search

On February 7, Pinterest launched their new Visual Discovery Tools, including Lens. Built into the Pinterest app, through Lens users can point their camera at an item and the app will make suggestions based on what it sees. Point the camera at some asparagus, for example, and the app will suggest some recipes.

This is a further stage of development from Amazon’s Firefly (available through the Amazon app), which can recognise objects and suggest similar items to purchase, but is not yet able to make the conceptual leap to suggest complementary products or ideas.

Pinterest posted the following in relation to the Lens launch:

“Sometimes you spot something out in the world that looks interesting, but when you try to search for it online later, words fail you. You have this rich, colorful picture in your mind, but you can’t translate it into the words you need to find it.

At Pinterest, we’ve developed new experimental technology that, for the first time ever, is capable of seeing the world the way you do.

It’s called Lens (currently in beta), and it lets you use the camera in your Pinterest app to discover ideas inspired by objects you see out in the real world.”

This is in beta and works best with food, clothing and decor at the moment, but the possibilities are endless if the technology continues to develop. With an estimated 75 billion Pins to sift through, it may take a while.

However at Pinterest, there is clearly a belief that cracking visual search can start to bridge the gap between language and the world around us.

The fact that they routinely refer to ‘idea searches’ rather than ‘keywords’ is indicative of this focus on adding a new spin to a deeply-ingrained feature of internet usage. This is intriguing on many levels, but strikingly it may offer a new avenue for advertisers to engage with consumers at an optimal time, through the ideal medium.

Pinterest and ad blockers

This leads on nicely to the current ad landscape, one in which many internet users have resorted to ad blockers to avoid overbearing messaging.

Another stated aim at Pinterest is to re-frame ads as a welcome way to discover new ideas, concepts and products, rather than an intrusion into a user’s browsing experience.

An advertiser’s product feed, if synced to Pinterest’s image search algorithms, could deliver increasingly timely and relevant results to users. Where this becomes most compelling is in the ‘related searches’ that Pinterest provides. So for example, a search for shoes could also provide recommendations for the rest of an outfit.

If advertising can become synonymous with the discovery of new and exciting ideas, it suddenly seems much more appealing to the consumer. As such, consumers could be much more willing to jettison their ad blockers and engage with promoted results.

This is a tall order and perhaps quite a utopian aspiration at this stage, but the theory is seductive nonetheless.

Offering an alternative to Amazon and Google

Much has been made of Amazon’s continued rise in the search market, and an oft-cited 2016 survey from Power Reviews placed them as the preferred starting point for product searches among US consumers.

This was particularly newsworthy for the fact that it relegated Google to second place. The battle for supremacy in such a profitable arena has only intensified since, with commercial searches the main prize.

The most interesting aspects of this – and where Pinterest comes back into the fray – are the reasons why Amazon has taken this lofty position.

Predictably, variety of products ranks as the most popular reason, followed by free shipping and competitive pricing.

Amazon led with these value propositions and they continue to drive the company’s success, even with the advent of more innovative home technologies like the Echo and Echo Dot.

Google has been at pains to streamline its purchasing processes too, in search, shopping, and their rival to the Echo, Google Home.

What these platforms ultimately provide to the consumer is a frictionless way to purchase products from reliable sources. The consumer knows what they want and they reveal this by searching for it, and companies are willing to pay for the chance to get in front of customers at this high-intent purchase stage.

But there is more to some product-consumer relationships than just a seamless transaction, and it is one that either Google or Amazon would have to work hard to avail of in its entirety.

Pinterest’s competitive advantage

Pinterest has the enviable asset of an engaged user base, not on the premise of deals or free shipping, but on the experience the platform allows them to create and the ideas it allows them to access.

Pinterest may not be a credible threat when it comes to some clear transactional searches, where the consumer knows what they want and is really looking for a comparison, by price or by review ratings. But this seems very unlikely to be Pinterest’s natural marketplace anyway.

It would be very interesting to segment the Power Reviews survey results further to understand the different categories within product searches. The act of searching can be nuanced; it implies uncertainty and a desire to be provided with an answer.

The answers Pinterest can provide, if technologies like Lens take hold and it delivers on the enticing promise to read the world through visual search, will go far beyond a traditional list of links and images, and into the realm of something much more inspirational for consumers.

As such, it would be fascinating to know how many product searches, whether on Google, Facebook, Amazon or Pinterest, fall into this category. Or perhaps more appropriately, how many searches would fall into this category if people knew the technology existed.

Combined with the one-click purchase technology Pinterest plans to integrate worldwide, this would see Pinterest tick many of the boxes that shape the ‘Why Shoppers Start on Amazon’ graph featured above, and also generate new demand.

Consumers can be fickle and if they prize the variety of products on offer (as evidence suggests they do), the platform that provides this will become their preferred destination. If it can do this by resolving the awkward paradox inherent in ‘traditional’ image search (using words to search for images, often with unconvincing results), it will be all the more attractive and effective.

Advertisers, of course, will follow where consumers go, especially if Pinterest continues to develop their paid search offering through 2017.

Delivering better search results through new technology and a growing pool of users is a model ripe for monetisation, a possibility not lost on Pinterest.  For luxury goods, home decor, and fashion companies, this platform seems a natural fit and it would not be surprising to see these brands among the early adopters of paid advertising on Pinterest.

What does the future hold for Pinterest?

Attention spans are a precious, dwindling commodity, and simply shouting at consumers just won’t cut through.

By connecting to, and enhancing, our experience of the world around us, Pinterest may be in a position to steal a march on the competition – in technological terms, at least. A monthly user base of 150 million lags behind the giants in this arena and Pinterest will not gather the clout to tackle Google for Search dominance, but its development is no less compelling for that.

Ours is an increasingly visual culture, and Pinterest is well placed to challenge on the basis of the big focal points in search today; local, personalisation, voice, image, video, and app integration. It also offers a different experience to users that potentially allows advertisers to sell without intruding.

That makes for a potent combination and, should it all come together as planned, could see Pinterest offer a welcome alternative to Google and Amazon for marketers and consumers alike.

Does your website suffer from one of these five content gaps?

In 2016, Google rolled Panda into its core algorithm. What this means for webmasters is that a website can be hit by (and recover from) a content penalty at any time.

But, more problematically, it also means it’s becoming impossible to diagnose why a website has dropped in rankings. Google ultimately does not want us to understand how its ranking algorithm works, because there will always be people who manipulate it. We now suspect that core signals are rolled out so slowly that SEOs won’t even realise when Penguin or Panda has refreshed.

For this reason, it makes it crucial that we understand how well our website is performing at all times. This blog post is intended to show you how to do a comprehensive content audit at scale, in order to find any gaps which may lead to rankings penalties.

Essentially, there are five types of content gaps a website may suffer from. I’ll explain each one, and show you how you can find every instance of it occurring on your website FAST.

1. Internally duplicated content

Internally duplicated content is the daddy of content gaps. Duplicating optimised content across multiple pages will cause cannibalisation issues, wherein Google will not know which internal page to rank for the term. The pages will compete for ranking signals with each other, reducing the rankings as a result.

Further to this, if you have enough duplicate content within a directory on your site, Google will treat that entire directory as low quality and penalise the rankings. Should the content be hosted on the root, your site’s entire rankings are under threat.

To find these at scale you have to use Screaming Frog’s custom extraction configuration to pull all your content from your site, then compare in Excel for duplicates. Using this method, I was able to find 6,000 duplicate pages on a site within a few hours.

To configure Screaming Frog you first need to copy the CSS selector for your content blocks on all your pages. This should be relatively simple should your pages follow a consistent template.

Go onto the page, right click on the content and go to inspect element. This will open up the right panel at the exact attribute which you right clicked on. From there, right click again, but on the attribute, go to copy, then select copy selector:

From here you need to go into Screaming Frog. Go into the configuration drop down and select custom, then extraction.

From here this will bring up the below box, which you will then need to select CSSPath as the mode, and then paste your selector into the highlighted field, and change the second drop down to extract text.

Now if I run a crawl on the ASOS website, Screaming Frog is going to extract the above the fold content from all the category pages.

You can specify up to 10 separate paths to extract, so when you have templates with multiple content blocks, for example above and below the products, or category and product & static page templates, you will need to specify them in the same way I have just shown.

Now, it is going to be very unlikely that an entire page’s content, or an entire block of content, will be duplicated. Usually spun content keeps the majority of the content the same but will replace specific keywords. So trying to find duplicate content based on entire blocks of content is pretty futile. Luckily I have created a duplicate content tool for this exact situation.

Fire up the tool and input just the URL and content into the specified columns on the input tab. Essentially what we have to do is split the content down into sentences and compare occurrences this way.

The output will only work if you have a single content column, so if you have had to extract multiple content blocks on each URL simply combine them before you paste into the tool. You can do this with the concatenate function which for example would look like this (should your content be in columns A2 & B2).

=concatenate(A2, “.”, “B2”)

The period in the middle is essential (if your content does not contain periods at the end) because we are going to split the content out by text to columns by full sentences, so will use the period as the delimiter.

Next highlight the column with the content in it, then select text to columns. Select delimited, then select other and specify a period as the delimiter.

Once you have done this you will need to amend the formula in column A3 depending on how many columns of delimited text you have.

In my example I have ten columns so I will edit the formula to display as this:

=A2+10

Drag the formula down so we’re adding ten onto the figure of the preceding cell. This step is necessary as it allows us to group our delimited content by URL on the Output sheet.

From here your Output sheet will auto populate. If you’ve got over 100,000 rows of data, you will need to drag the formulas down until you get errors.

From here I would lock down the formulas by pasting as special to speed up the spreadsheet. Then clear up the Output sheet by removing all errors and 0s.

Finally go into the pivot table spreadsheet and refresh the table to show all URLs sorted by highest amount of duplicate occurrences. You can expand the URL to see exactly which sentences are being duplicated.

In this example I found a ton of pages (6,927 pages) which had heavily duplicated each other within a couple of hours total.

 

2. Externally Duplicated Content

Externally duplicated content is content which has either been purposefully syndicated on multiple websites, or scraped by malicious web robots. A prime example of externally duplicated content is companies copying manufacturers descriptions instead of writing something unique.

When a search engine discovers content which has been duplicated across multiple websites, it will often work out the originator of the content and then throw the rest out of its index. Normally it is pretty good at this, but if our website has issues will crawl budget, or gets its content syndicated by a website with far greater authority, there is a chance that Google will show them over us.

Finding externally duplicated content begins much in the same was as before. Extract your content from the website and use the download to split the data out into individual sentences.

Next, we just need to block quote some of the data and search it into Google (use concatenate to quickly put all your data into block quotes). To automate this process, we have our own tool which can do this for thousands of searches at a time. A good free alternative would be to use URL profiler’s simple SERP scraper.

What you’re essentially doing here is performing a search for a block of your content in Google. If your site doesn’t show up in P.1 for this, then you have a big problem.

Search Engine Watch is heavily scraped. Here I have done a search for a bit of a previous blog post of mine, and Google have found 272 results!

Search Engine Watch is still in first position, which is not an issue, but should you find instances where you are outranked, you’re going to have to rewrite that content.

If you’d like to access the duplicate content calendar straight away simply click on the button below:

3. Content Gaps Across Devices

The impending mobile first algorithm means this issue should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Google have publicly stated that desktop websites will be judged on the content which is displayed on their mobile site first. This means if we have mobile pages without content where it appears on desktop, we’re going to take a hit to our rankings.

To find content gaps it’s the same process as before. You should already have crawled all of your pages from a desktop point of view. Now you just need to go through all the templates again, but in mobile view.

Fire up the webpage and go into inspect element and change device to mobile:

Go into the body of content and copy the selectors in the same way as before and run a crawl on all your URLs again.

Once you are done you can compare content side by side in Excel for gaps. Remember to concatenate your data should you have multiple selectors per page.

Put them in an Excel doc and a simple function will help you spot gaps instantly.

Here all I did was the following function and I’ve got some results instantly:

=IF(B2=C2, “Match”, “No Match”)

The consensus now seems to be that accordions are okay on mobile, so don’t worry about compromising your design to get all your content in. Just make sure it is all there on the page.

4. Thin content

Thin content is just as big a concern as duplicate content for the obvious reasons. Without a significant amount of valuable content on a page Google will not be able to understand the topic of the page and so the page will struggle to rank for anything at all. Furthermore, how can a webpage claim to be an authority on a topic if it does not contain any information on it? Google needs content in order to rank a page, this is SEO 101!

Luckily, we are already 90% of the way there to diagnosing all our thin content pages already. If you have completed steps 1-3 you’ll already have the content on your mobile and desktop website by URL.

Now we just need to copy in this formula, changing the cell reference depending on what we’re analysing:

=IF(LEN(TRIM(B2))=0,0,LEN(TRIM(B2))-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(B2,” “,””))+1)

This will give us the word count of the URL (for both mobile and desktop). Then go through and raise any pages with less than 300 words as requiring additional content.

 

5. Content above the fold on page load

The final type of content gap is a massive bugbear of mine. It is estimated that 80% of our attention is captured by the section of a webpage that is visible on page load.

Google understands that content buried at the bottom of a page is probably never going to get read. As a result, they do not give as much weighting to the content here. No matter how much valuable content you have on a page, if a significant chunk of this is not visible on page load then this is a wasted effort.

In order to diagnose how much above the fold content we have, we will need to rerun our crawls, but this time we only want to extract the content blocks which are visible on page load. From here, just running the above word count formula will be sufficient to diagnose content gaps.

There you have it. What do you do with duplicate/thin content pages once you discover them? I’d recommend every URL should have at least 200-300 words of unique, valuable content on it, with at least 50-100 words appearing above the fold. If you cannot produce that amount of valuable information on the page, then either the page should not exist or the page should not be indexable.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The psychology of search intent: Converting moments that matter

Nineteen years ago, the company that is now called Alphabet Inc. launched Google Web Search, which would quickly become the most widely used internet search engine in the world.

That search engine, which at first relied primarily on text data and backlinks to determine search priority ranking, has become increasingly sophisticated where its myriad features are concerned. Users can now search images, social, video content, equations, geographic locations and much more, and each of these things impact a brand’s search ranking over all, for better or worse.

But perhaps even more impressive, and particularly relevant to marketers, is the continuous improvement of Google’s understanding of user intent.

Beyond matching keywords alone, Google has parsed its massive stores of data to better understand the phrases, search history and other elements of query to better understand user priorities and states of mind when using the web search platform. As a result, they have optimized their search ranking algorithm and user experience to better align with what data says users really want.

By recognizing how Google and other search engines understand user intent, marketers can poise themselves to put themselves along the route of customer trains of thought. Below, find a breakdown of Google’s intent-recognition methodology–and strategic recommendations for those who want to take advantage of them.

Micro-Moments: How Google understands user priorities

On mobile—which has increasingly become the focus of search marketers after disrupting the way we access information and shop on the go—as well as on desktop, users use a range of terms, exhibit a range of behaviors, and seek out a range of answer-types that, according to Google, develop a profile of the user’s intent. These intent profiles, conveniently articulated by Google as “micro-moments”, are said to be the critical micro-moments at which users are most likely to be swayed by search results.

“I want to know.”

These are the types of searches people launch when they are seeking “information or inspiration”. Users who signify this search intent typically ask questions like “what did the president talk about today”, “what’s the phone number to the chamber of commerce”, and “how much money does a data analyst make?”

“I want to go.”

These are location-based searches that signal an intent to travel to a location whether that be international, regional, local or hyperlocal. Users who signify this search intent increasingly input queries like “restaurants near me”, “directions to the University” and “lodging in North Lake Tahoe.” Searches like these make localization an important question for marketers to be thinking about; how are you reaching people in specific—rather than general—markets?

“I want to do.”

When people want to know how to do something, they turn to action-oriented “I want to do searches”. This search intent is signaled by queries that inquire after methodology like, “How do I get my passport?”, “How do I train my dog?”, and “How to lose weight.”

“I want to buy.”

The consumers have done their research, have looked up coupons, have (one way or another) learned what they want to know about a product or service. Now, they are intent on making a purchase. Prepared to “put their dollars behind their decision”, these users are likely to input more specific search queries like “mixer”, “Las Vegas hotel deal”, and “Amazon Echo”.

Each of these search types articulate—in part through contextualized linguistic triggers like “how”, “why”, “when” and “where”—a different chief priority on the part of the user. Google responds to these priorities by crafting algorithmic outcomes which work to bring hosted content, both organic and paid, before the users based both on terminological relevance and likely user behaviors like—like purchase, or access.

Understanding user experience segmentation

Google’s understanding of user intent also emerges in its segmentation of user experience. Because Google is attempting to serve its users with what it is they want as immediately and seamlessly as possible, the Search Engine Ranking Page (SERP) displays differently from one micro-moment to the next.

Consider the difference in user experience between a search which signals that a person wants to attempt a do-it-yourself project versus a search which signals that a person would like to find a hotel in Central London.

A search for “how to bake a chocolate cake” will likely feature action-oriented instructional content like recipes and will prominently feature organic search results toward the top of the SERP, revealing that Google has detected a primary intent to take an action—”I want to do”—that is not prominently transactional.

On the other hand, a search for a “hotel in Central London” will display a different set of information, prominently featuring a Google map populated with pins that indicate hotels in the requested region. Along with those pins, hotel prices will be displayed—and above the map users will likely notice a number of sponsored search results linking to information about lodging deals they can purchase. This reveals that Google has detected an intent to go someplace—hence the map—with a secondary intent to make a purchase.

Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines break down and categorise different types of user intent

Small keyword changes still make a big difference

It should also be mentioned that, even as Google becomes increasingly responsive to user intent signals and perceived states of mind, it remains sensitive to the more specific keywords that users input when looking for more specific information.

Consider, once more, that Google bases part of its understanding of intent on how questions are phrased—and that the increasing prominence of voice search is helping Google to understand how people formulate questions in their everyday lives.

For example: while a search for “hotels in Central London” will lead primarily to geographic and transactional data (Google is “thinking” that users want to go and buy in this case), a search for “best hotels in Central London” will more likely point to the geographic information mentioned in the first example, but also more qualitative information in the form of articles (such as top ten lists) that will help users to better understand which Central London hotels are the “best”.

Marketers will likely gather here that the key difference between the two searches is the use of the word “best”–and they’d be correct in that perception. By adding the word “best” to their search for Central London hotels, users have indicated that their chief priorities are to know more about a destination—and then to go there.

Attempting an array of searches across the full spectrum of micro-moments—and exploring small differentiations in keyword usage—will reveal similar differences in user experience on Google and other search platforms.

This suggests that there is significant opportunity for marketers to reach users along very specific trains of thought by understanding the relationship between micro-moments, intent and keywords, and then respond accordingly.

Customer journeys are not always linear, or cut-and-dry

For many marketers, the “customer journey” is the relied-upon model to acquire, convert and retain customers no matter what product or service category they offer; but while the customer journey is of critical importance, it is also important for marketers to carefully consider what they understand the customer journey to be.

Often, when we hear the word “journey”, we tend to think of a linear narrative. We assume that people know where they want to go, and chart a course from one point to the next in a straight line—in large part because mobile has introduced a massive array of data and decision points into our lives, shaping our decisions on a near-constant basis.

The micro-moments model rightly throws this understanding of the journey into question, revealing that people interface with search and content at many different stages and in many different states of mind. Once again, this information can be gathered in part from observations about how search results are displayed.

Consider Google’s sensitivity to primary and secondary orders of intent—like the “hotels in Central London” search example mentioned earlier. That example does not simply reveal that Google is responsive to intent in general; it also specifically suggests that Google understands that users may have more than one intent at any given time, or that their intent could change very quickly—someone who wants to know something could find the information they were looking for and decide that, now that they have come across the key findings they were in search of, they want to buy.

Marketers would be wise to operate from a similar viewpoint, thinking carefully about how their users might articulate searches and develop search-friendly content in response.

Destination marketers might consider pairing pricing, deals and other transactional data with qualitative information about the experiences their region offers; marketing technology vendors might pair service descriptions with instructional material about effective web design, and so on.

Moving ahead

Essentially: it is key that brands recognize the many forms customer intent will take, and adopt a practice of flexibility where responding to that intent is concerned.

Customers’ journeys, segmentation and search are not rigid step-by step processes. Google’s vast data as interpreted through its micro-moments model reveals that in plain terms.

While this complicates the work of marketers and search engine specialists—continuously, since search engines are always collecting and responding to data—it also reveals a number of high-impact opportunities for brands to think and act in conversation with their users, in the end building richer and more vibrant experiences at every point of the brand-to-customer relationship.

What we can learn from the latest trends in voice search

Voice search is currently experiencing exponential growth, and some interesting trends are emerging with regard to how people are using it.

Voice search is already a fast-growing movement in the search industry, and the latest figures indicate that it’s starting to win ground in daily use.

Digital marketing agency Stonetemple has recently published a study on how Americans use voice commands, which may serve as a useful insight into the future of voice search.

Willingness to use voice search

People seem to be more comfortable using voice search when they are at home, or alone in the office. There still seems to be a social stigma surrounding the use of voice search in a public place among others, whether it’s at the restaurant with friends, or at the office with co-workers.

This brings out an interesting observation that people are still not comfortable while using voice search the way they would use any other type of search.

Popularity of search methods

Searching through a mobile browser is still the most popular choice among users, with voice search coming third. Although the direction voice search is taking hints at a different future, it’s still not easy to become users’ first choice when performing a search through their smartphones.

Use of voice commands

There are many reasons to use a voice command, but the most popular uses up to now seem to be making a call, performing an online search, texting, and map navigation. These answers prove that users prefer voice commands for the speed and the ease that they offer, and this may be the key to its more widespread adoption in future.

Why do you use voice commands?

Speed has emerged as the main reason people prefer voice commands, with 71% of people reporting that they use voice because “it’s fast”. Survey respondents also prioritise finding the answer to their questions in the most convenient way, with the second and third most-favoured reasons for using voice being that “the answer is read back to me” and “I don’t have to type”.

What to expect from personal assistants

The rise of personal assistants in past years shows us a trend that may become more popular in the future. Although they are still at quite an early stage in their development, people like the fact that they receive the results they are looking for in a fast and convenient way.

Personalisation seems to be another key factor in the rise of personal assistants, as it may offer an additional reason for users to pick voice commands and personal assistants.

Do personal assistants understand you?

There are still concerns surrounding personal assistants and their effectiveness in understanding queries, but many respondents seem to be satisfied with them, with just over half reporting that their voice assistant understands them “well” or “very well”.

Although there is still room for improvement, personal assistants have already developed more sophisticated technology that makes using voice commands more appealing.

Are voice commands annoying?

Not everyone likes voice commands. Apparently, there is a large percentage that finds them annoying, especially when they hear other people using them. This may be related to the observation that people are still not comfortable with the idea of using voice commands in a public place and it is certainly a point that new technologies cannot ignore.

Overview

The use of voice commands is growing, and we’re already experiencing its evolution through everyday searches. It’s only a matter of time until people become more comfortable with it, with speed, personalisation and convenience being the key reasons to consider using it.