Posted: 24 Aug 2018 Contributor: Matthew J Fritschle
How Conversational Searches Are Changing Your SEO Strategy
Digital marketing, whether you’re talking about crafting a content marketing plan or designing a website, is always changing. Nothing is stagnant, and this rings especially true for SEO.
As search engines evolve and change with the times — especially Google — SEO strategies have to change accordingly. When Google said that subpar content would no longer be tolerated, most switched from quantity to quality in an effort avoid lower search rankings; when Google said they were going with a mobile-first index, most jumped head first into the mobile world in an effort to support on-the-go users.
Again, the point being that whenever a trend comes along, strategies have to change and adapt.
For instance, thanks to our affinity for smartphones, we’re finding that we now have to change our SEO strategies to accommodate the fact search has evolved to become an extension of how we talk.
From Mobile, We Arrive at Conversational Speech
Technology today is more intuitive than ever, and how we interact with it only serves to solidify this fact.
Case in point, conversational speech.
Whereas we used to have a hard time finding enough resources online, the opposite is true today; we have so many options and so much information at our fingertips that finding exactly what we want is proving to be quite a challenge.
We want answers, and we want them fast, but trudging through countless search results is a real nuisance.
That’s where conversational speech comes into play. Thanks to digital assistants like Siri, we’ve realized that finding exactly what we want is much easier and faster when we’re more specific with our searches, and this is accomplished through conversational search queries.
In terms of search, this means searching as if you were talking with a friend instead of a search engine. In other words, instead of asking Google for “pizza,” conversational queries entail asking a friend, “are there pizza places nearby.”
These queries, which are more specific and entail intent, allow you to cut through clutter and the noise to arrive at the answer that more closely aligns with what you were searching for in the first place. They’re the difference between scrolling from page to page, to scrolling through a single page.
Tip: Optimize for voice search to capture these conversational searches.
As we move forward, let’s dwell on the first part for a bit — intent.
The Intent to Search
Behind every search is intent.
More specifically, when you search for coffee, there’s the intent to visit a coffee shop; when you search for a cake recipe, there’s the intent to bake a cake; when you search for new TVs, there’s the intent to buy a TV.
Like I said, behind every search is intent.
The thing is, when it comes to conversational searches, this intent is even stronger — the more words and descriptors included in your query, the more intent you’re adding to it. For example, when you turn “heels” into “where can I buy black size 6 stiletto heels,” you’re adding the intent to not only purchase heels, but stiletto heels that are both black and size 6.
More often than not, these conversational also contain the Five Ws and the how: who, what, where, when, why and how, which add even more intent to the search. For example, including who tells search engines you’re looking for an entity, where that you’re looking for a location, and so on.
Apart from the Five Ws and the how, Google also points out that people are searching for things that relate to “I” more often. As they point out, in the past two years:
- Mobile searches for “do I need” have grown over 65%
- How much do I need to save every year
- What size wheels do I need
- Mobile searches for “should I” have grown over 65%
- What car should I buy”
- Should I buy or rent an apartment”
- Mobile searches starting with “can I” have grown over 85%.
- Can I buy cars on Amazon”
- Can I eat cookie dough”
Again, the intent, along with the conversational aspect, is there.
This doesn’t only apply to one or a few industries either; searches in all sectors are becoming more conversational. For example:
- Auto: From “oil change” and “change oil manually” to “how do I change my car’s oil”
- Finance: From “cryptocurrency” and “buy cryptocurrency” to “how can I buy cryptocurrency online”
- Technology: From “new iPhone” to “where can I buy the new iPhone”
- Fashion: From “heels” and “stiletto heels” to “where can I buy stiletto heels”
As you can see, not only do these queries contain a variation of the Five Ws and the how, but also the “I.”
And as we touched on earlier, this is all due to our mobile affinity. What we didn’t cover, though, is that the real reason has to do with micro-moments.
Micro-Moments: ‘Near Me’ and ‘Nearby’
The more we use our mobile devices, the more we turn to them reflexively at different points of the day.
These are micro-moments.
As defined by Google, “[m]icro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device—increasingly a smartphone—to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something.”
In other words, they’re intent-driven moments of decision-making.
Whenever we’re walking around and see a cool outfit, and immediately turn to Google to find something similar — that’s a micro-moment. Whenever we get the urge to eat pizza because we saw someone eating a slice as we were driving around town, and, again, turn to Google to find a pizza place nearby, that’s a micro-moment.
Wait a second, why the emphasis on “nearby”? Because micro-moments are increasingly being used to signal location-based intent.
That is to say that “nearby,” along with “near me,” are used as contextual signals to signify that the searcher is looking for something around them, near their location.
In fact, there’s been a 500% growth in “near me” mobile searches that contain a variant of “can I buy” or “to buy” from 2015-2017. Additionally, nearly one-third of all mobile searches are related to location.
It’s not rocket science either. If someone is looking for a place to eat, it makes sense they would be searching in their immediate vicinity. If someone is looking for a tow truck, it makes even more sense they would be searching for a towing company as close to them as possible.
Every coming trend entails putting on your SEO agency hat and tailoring your strategies accordingly.
If searches are becoming more conversational, you have to make your content more conversational as well. You have to drop the technical jargon and focus on natural language that mimics real conversations, and place special focus on the Five Ws and the how that signal intent.