SEM Best Practices for Voice Search

Best SEM practices for voice searchA look through search query reports reveals more than a few obvious voice search queries.  These searches originate from Siri, Google, or Cortana. When you spot these, they remind me of how someone sounds when speaking to an automated attendant: the communication is abrupt, different, and slightly rude.

The most obvious voice search queries appear with the word “Google” before them, such as “Google steakhouse in Muncie.”  Even without “Google” in the search term, they are still fairly easy to identify. 

The person on the search team who is moving keywords into ad groups and adding negatives based on data in the search query report is largely conducting a tactical assignment as opposed to identifying a strategic diamond in the rough hiding in the data.  For this reason, the first best practice to optimize for voice search is to have someone on the strategy side occasionally peruse the search query report to gauge how prevalent voice search is for a particular brand informing what the next steps should be based on the data.

Voice search is all about mobile.  Because of this, mobile best practices are a big factor when optimizing for voice search.  Following are some paid search best practices for voice search optimization.

  1. Identify obvious voice searches in search query reports and make sure they are put in paid search campaigns that show mobile ads.   There is no point in moving voice queries to campaigns in which the mobile bid adjustment is set so low that ads won’t show.  Creating specific voice search campaigns or ad groups would be one way to monitor these terms.  Adding labels is another.
  2. Use all available mobile SEM extensions.  With “near me” search terms skyrocketing, it is important to understand the intent.  The content delivered for “Near me” searches should probably include directions, phone numbers, hours and ratings.  These are all features that can (and should) be applied to a mobile ad unit.  Additionally, research has shown that people use mobile more for research, so providing informational content or links to content about the product or service itself is better served on a mobile device.near-me search queries are growing
  3. Keep Google My Business Up to Date.  While not an SEM feature, a search best practice nonetheless.
  4. Bid for top of page.  Since voice search means mobile, and mobile provides less real estate for search ads, securing top placement is necessary if you want to be visible for voice search terms.
  5. Serve content on the site that is relevant to the voice search.  It is best for “how-to” terms – a large percentage in any search query report – to deliver videos, if possible (and if makes sense based on the search term).  If someone is looking for club rules for darts, a static page is probably fine.  TrueView You Tube ads now link directly to shopping, which may be a good application as it pertains to voice search.
  6. Ensure the site is mobile-friendly.  Most brands have moved to this, are moving to it, or know they have to, so I won’t belabor the point.  With voice search (like with other mobile queries), performance will be best if the website is mobile optimized.
  7. Use cross device tracking to assess performance.  Micro-moments are about fragmented daily online experiences.  A voice search likely converts elsewhere – whether it be phoning a call center, a visit to a brick-and-mortar location or a conversion later on via another device.   If widespread cross-device tracking is too onerous, try tracking performance of just the voice search campaign or ad group and scale up from there.

For now, voice search is a bit like the tail wagging the dog: as the experience improves and the results delivered are more relevant, more and more people will use it.  We can expect to see more natural voice search companies proliferate, but for now, the data is there, buried in existing and current search query reports.  It is a good time to get the best practices in place to maximize the opportunity now and as it grows in the future.

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