• Emily Malone

Search in a screenless world: How voice search and contextual triggers change everything

Barry Adams got 12 words into his talk at The Nottingham Digital Summit before he started swearing, and we get the sneaking suspicion that’s a pretty good record for him: apparently, all we need to know is that he’s been doing SEO for ‘way too long’ and he’s ‘really f*cking good at it’. Barry is the straight-talking guy behind Polemic Digital — a specialised SEO consultancy which has won multiple awards at 2016 UK Search Awards, including the Best Small SEO Agency. He came to the summit to chat to us about the future of voice-based search and contextual triggers. Here’s what he told us.

Smartphones and home assistants

50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020 — comscore
  1. In May 2016, one in five searches on an Android app in the USA were through speech according to KPCB.

  2. Amazon’s Echo products became the most popular product over 2016’s holiday period, having sold 4.4 million Echo units in its first full year of Sales (Geek Wire).

  3. 2017 saw the launch of Google’s voice activated speaker, powered by the Google Assistant and the integration of Google Assistant into our TVs.

  4. Cortana now has 133 million monthly users according to Microsoft/Tech Radar.

  5. 40% of adults now use voice search once per day.

  6. Reviewing the last year, already, 60% of people are actively using voice search. Barry predicts this will continue to increase drastically before eventually flattening off.

  7. Desktop search won’t simply cease to exist— people will still use their desktop/laptop. But if search continues on it’s current path, things might look very different in a few years.


Time to make your content ‘speakable’

We need to really start thinking about helping voice technologies read our content aloud. Allowing the pages on your site to be machine readable with information about, say, an event —when it is, how much it costs etc. – takes away the guess work and makes indexing easy for search engines.

A good way to do this is to create bullet-point lists. For example, Google can read aloud a set of bullet-point instructions like a cooking recipe for when you’re in the kitchen and don’t have a spare hand free to be scrolling down a page.

Structured data helps the machine understand your page, and can be implemented for a range of topics and page elements such as;

  1. Event info

  2. Addresses

  3. Organisational info

  4. People/biographies

  5. Places

  6. Reviews

  7. Recipes

  8. Services.

How Do I Optimise My Website For Voice Search?

  1. Create content that uses long tail keywords, with natural and conversational language. For example: “How many people live in Nottingham?” Vs. “Nottingham population”

  2. Create content that is based on Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  3. Implement Structured Data on your site

  4. Have a higher Google Search ranking.

Adding context

Something else Barry spoke about was contextual triggers. Google has been using our search history and social activity to personalise search results for years now, and it’s only getting smarter. Imagine you’re about to catch a flight but it’s been delayed. Without prompting, you could get a notification about that delayed flight due to Google syncing with your calendar. Yep, before you even begin to search online, Google knows exactly what you need to know and automatically notifies you. Now, is that creepy or helpful? I’m torn.

Here’s what searchengineland.com says about the future of contextual Google search:

Imagine for a moment you are on a strict workout regimen, tracking the calories eaten on a phone app. Google may find this information useful when you perform a search for recipes. The results could be impacted by the calorie limit you set. Or better yet, Google could strive to understand your general eating habits and show different recipes at different times of days to help you achieve your weight loss goals.

Google AMP

Something you can do to boost your page to the top of search results is to enable Google AMP on your pages. AMP (Accelerated mobile pages) is a google-backed project with the aim of speeding up pages using stripped back code known as AMP HTML.It’s pretty much a way to build web pages for static content that allows the pages to load and pre-render in Google search much faster than regular HTML.

AMP content is published in the carousel that appears at the top of Google search results, and the little lightning bolt symbol tells us which results are AMP-formatted. This helps the page stand out in the sea of results for loading fastest on our smart phones.

Barry’s recommended SEO tool

When I wrote down my notes at the event, I was in a bit of a rush to get down every tip Barry was giving us. So the scribbled words ‘ANSWER THE PUBLIC’ confused me a few days later. Thankfully, a quick Google search reminded me that it’s a tool, and a pretty cool one at that.

ATP allows you to pop a topic into the search bar, then shows you a snazzy diagram of what people are searching for in relation to that topic. This is great because we know search is no longer just specific keywords, so it shows you in full sentences a whole array of questions and queries that you can then answer with helpful content for your inbound marketing efforts.



Key Takeaways:

  1. Voice search is predicted to continually increase

  2. Our content needs to be machine readable and ‘speakable’

  3. Contextual triggers are going to get smarter.