Marketer’s Guide to Google Assistant: How to Leverage Google’s AI

AI products seem to be everywhere these days, and tech giants are investing heavily in creating and improving them. Google is no exception, with their unveiling of Google Assistant back in 2016. Since then, Google has come out with updates for their virtual assistant that have big implications for the digital marketing world.

We’ve already explored how digital marketers like ourselves should navigate the advent of voice search. Now we want to dive into how voice-powered virtual assistants, specifically Google Assistant, are changing the marketing game.

How will Google’s AI affect how users consume information, what effect has it already had for brands, and what can we do to leverage its marketing capabilities? We explore all of that and more here.

First thing’s first: what is Google Assistant?

Assistant is Google’s virtual assistant, or Google’s version of Siri, Cortana, or Alexa. Powered by voice or type search, Google Assistant can perform a wide range of tasks, including:

  • Find information online, from restaurant bookings to weather and news
  • Open apps
  • Access information from your calendars
  • Play music
  • Control smart home devices

The benefit of using Google Assistant, as with other virtual assistants, is that users can execute a wide range of tasks via voice command. By enabling a hands-free experience, the Assistant offers users with a more frictionless way to complete their day-to-day tasks, from reading out a recipe while you’re elbow-deep in chicken to finding the cheapest gas station on your way to work.

Users can enable Google Assistant on an eligible Android, by simply touching and holding the home button. For iOS devices, the Google Assistant app can be downloaded from the App store.

Engaging visuals

What differentiates Google Assistant from the other virtual assistants is its recent visual redesign. The discover button offers suggested commands such as “Play ‘Billie Jean’” and “Translate ‘Good evening’,” alongside colorful icons, offering users with ideas for what to ask the Assistant to do. The homepage displays a curated summary of the user’s day, including the weather, traffic in your most-traveled routes, and any upcoming calendar events – much like a real personal assistant would.

The makeover also includes new tools for brands to extend the functionality of Actions through pre-loaded visual content. For example, brands can respond to user inputs with photos and videos, or supplement answers with gifs.  

Brands can leverage the Assistant’s “rich responses” feature by creating visual content that not only answers the user’s question but also engages them in the process. If you’re a makeup company, for example, you can create YouTube tutorials for how to use a specific product. By creating delightful and helpful experiences, brands can build awareness and loyalty that will keep users coming back for more.

stila video google assistant

Streamlined transactions

In addition to its visual updates, Google Assistant also rolled out several features that streamline the user experience when interacting with 3rd-party fulfillment services. One of these features is Account linking with Google Sign-In, which allows users to sign into or create a new account with a third-party brand directly in the Assistant app while engaging in a brand action.

An example of a company taking advantage of this integration is Starbucks. Users can interact with the Assistant directly to link to their pre-existing Starbucks Rewards™ account, re-order a previous order, choose from menu items and pick up in store. According to TechCrunch, Starbucks doubled it’s conversion rate thanks to the Sign-In for Assistant feature.

google assistant starbucks order

Users can not only connect their accounts through the Assistant but also subscribe to services directly on the app. A company that takes advantage of subscription integration is Headspace. Users can choose from the meditation app’s selection of subscription services and pay directly on the Assistant app.

Google Sign-In enables seamless transactions through the Assistant, making it easier for brands to make money. As a marketer, it makes sense to present this feature to your development team, and see if they can create a Google Action that will enable your brand to streamline the payment process with its users.

What’s in store

In addition to its existing capabilities, Google rolled out a series of updates at CES in January:

Foreign language translation: with interpreter mode, the Assistant translates the user’s phrase in real time and reads it aloud.

Hotel booking and airline check-in: users can now check-in to United Airlines flights, and also book a hotel using the Assistant. Hotel bookings work with several hotel chains, including Choice Hotels, AccorHotels, InterContinental Hotels Group, Priceline, Expedia, Mirai, and Travelclick. Google foresees more airlines and hotels being integrated in the future.

Google Maps integration: while voice commands and search were available on Maps since last year, the Google Assistant capabilities have expanded to sending texts and playing music. This offers a more hands-free Maps experience, allowing users to focus on the road while the Assistant handles other tasks.

In addition to Google’s CES updates, there’s an even bigger potential development that looms in the distance. Let’s think about some widely-used technological platforms, such as Amazon, Facebook, and YouTube. What do they have in common? They all started as an ad-free experience, and have since begun offering paid advertising options. It’s only a matter of time before voice-powered virtual assistants start including sponsored ads in search results.

Recently, one user reported to Barry Schwartz that his Google Assistant voice query was met with a search ad result. Although it seems like it was a glitch, Google ominously stated: “we’re always testing new ways to improve the experience on phones, but we don’t have anything specific to announce right now.”

If voice assistants begin allowing sponsored ads, it would broaden the paid search playing field for product and service providers, following in the footsteps of other tech platforms.

Will sponsored ads deter users from Google Assistant? Seeing as Amazon, Facebook, and YouTube have 310 million, 2.32 billion, and 1.3 billion users respectively, I think it’s safe to conclude that ads don’t stop users from going on their favorite platforms. With Google Assistant’s overall usability and fun interface, along with its ever-expanding functionalities, means it is poised to become the virtual assistant of choice among Android and iOS users alike. And with 50% of searches projected to be voice-initiated by 2020, Google Assistant is something we’ll be keeping our eye on as we continue to develop our marketing strategies.

This article was written in collaboration with Mia Ballan.

Google Lens: What Marketers Need to Know

Mia BallanMia has 3 years of copywriting experience, working in a variety of industries including media, finance, education and transportation. At Alphametic, Mia focuses on building SEO-driven content to help drive traffic and promote awareness. Originally from New Jersey, she graduated from Boston University with a double major in Economics and Sociology.

Top 10 SEO Gurus to Follow on Twitter

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Everyone has a mentor, no matter what state in your career you are in. Perhaps you’re a new startup owner that needs some internet marketing help, perhaps you’re a blossoming SEO analyst, or maybe you’re an SEO expert that’s been around the block…

Either way, it’s good to check out what others in the industry are saying about Local, Link-Building, Content marketing, PPC, and all the other disciplines across SEO. Alphametic has curated a list of Top 10 SEO Gurus for 2018 that will ensure you’re always up to date.

1. Barry Schwartzbarry schwartz twitter

 

When it comes to essential reading, anything written by this guru is a must. Barry Schwartz is the CEO of RustyBrick, a web service firm. He is also the executive editor of Search Engine Roundtable, an advanced SEO forum for all the search geeks out there. He’s always on top of the latest Google news and can be seen posting on twitter regularly about different algorithm updates or sharing some of the seemingly hundreds of articles he posts every day.

 

URL: RustyBrick

Twitter: @rustybrick

Recent Post: Google Search Algorithm Shifts Around September 19th?

 

2. Bill Slawksi

bill slawski twitter

Bill has been in the business since 1996. He’s truly a veteran of the space and has been writing about SEO for decades. He is the founder of SEO By the Sea, as well as an administrator of Cre8asite Forums, one of the best forums about internet marketing and search engine marketing. He regularly contributes articles to Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land as an expert.

 

URL: SEO by the Sea

Twitter: @bill_slawski

Recent Post: Quality Scores for Queries: Structured Data, Synthetic Queries and Augmentation Queries

 

3. Julie Joyce

julie joyce twitter

If you need some help building links, Julie’s your go-to. Julie Joyce is the Founder of Link Fish, a link-building agency based out of North Carolina. She has been working in SEO since 2002 and is a co-founder of the SEO Chicks blog. Nowadays she’s a monthly columnist at Search Engine Land and Director of Operations at Link Fish Media.

 

URL: Link Fish Media

Twitter: @JulieJoyce

Recent Post: Why isn’t my fabulous content attracting quality links?

 

 

4. Mike Blumenthal

mike blumenthal twitter

“All local, all the time. What else is there?” Mike Blumenthal is all about Local SEO. He is a leading industry-expert in this space and is the Chief Review Officer of  Gather Up, a business review site he founded with Don Campbell & Thomas Hasch. He runs the “Understanding Google Maps & Local Search” blog and is constantly shedding new light into the Local SEO world. He has over 30 years working with computers and in the internet space.  

 

URL: Gather Up

Twitter: @mblumenthal

Recent Post: What Percentage Of Verified Businesses Use Google Posts?

 

 

5. Neil Patel

neil patel twitter

No guru list would be complete without Neil Patel. With a blog that generates over 2 million users per month, it’s not hard to see why. He is a leading industry-expert in everything digital marketing. SEO, content, PPC, social and more. He is the Co-founder of KISSmetrics, Quicksprout, Crazy Egg and Neil Patel Digital.

 

URL: NeilPatel.com

Twitter: @neilpatel

Recent Post: The Secret Behind My 1,866,913 Monthly Search Visitors (It’s Not What You Think)

 

 

6. Tim Soulo

tim soulo twitter

Tim Soulo is the head of marketing and product strategy at Ahrefs, you know, that tool every single SEO uses? He consistently publishes research studies on the Ahrefs blog about keyword research, backlinking, and other studies with titles like “What we learned about’Long Tail’ by analyzing 1.4 billion keywords”. He speaks at SEO conferences, podcasts and runs the Ahrefs Youtube channel.

 

URL: Ahrefs.com/tim

Twitter: @timsoulo

Recent Post: How Many New Backlinks Do Top‐ranking Pages Get Over Time [New Data by Ahrefs]

 

 

7. Brian Dean

brian dean twitter

As is evidenced by his company name, Backlinko, Brian Dean is an SEO-driven backlink guru. He’s become known for publishing high-quality blog content that is incredibly well-researched, data-driven and practical.  He’s worked with companies such as Disney, IBM, Amazon and more, as well as multiple founded many online sites.

 

URL: Backlinko

Twitter: @Backlinko

Recent Post: The Ultimate SEO Audit [Works GREAT in 2018]

 

8. Aleyda Solis

aleyda solis twitter

Aleyda has positioned herself in the vital space of International SEO. Aleyda Solis recently won the 2018 European Search Personality of the Year award and has been featured in the Huffington Post, as well as the Google Partner’s Podcast. She consistently puts out blog content and speaks at conferences all around the world sharing her experience and expert advice on global search marketing.

 

URL:  Aleyda Solis

Twitter: @aleyda

Recent Post: Avoiding Hreflang Issues by Following a 6 Steps Implementation Process

 

9. Dr. Pete Myers

dr pete twitter

Moz in itself is an authority on SEO, but Dr. Pete Myers brings the data to the table. He’s got a PH.D in Cognitive Psychology, so he knows his way around statistics. He is regularly publishing research studies with topics like: “New Research: 35% of Competitive Local Keywords Have Local Pack Ads” and the like. If you want a data-driven perspective to a new Google algorithm or a recommendation based on quantitative studies – he’s your guy.

 

URL: Dr. Pete

Twitter: @dr_pete

Recent Post: NEW On-Demand Crawl: Quick Insights for Sales, Prospecting, & Competitive Analysis

 

10. Jim Boykin

jim boykin twitter

Good old Jim – he’s been around since 1999 spreading his internet marketing knowledge. He is the founder and CEO of Internet Marketing Ninjas based in New York. He’s been featured in Forbes, the Examiner and has been recognized as a Top 40 Leader Under 40 by the Business Review. He specializes in Link Building, SEO, Blogging, Social Media Marketing and pretty much every other internet marketing specialization.

 

URL: Internet Marketing Ninjas

Twitter: @jimboykin

Recent Post: The Google Featured Snippet Optimization Tool by Ninjas.

 

11. (BONUS): Matthew Capala 😉

matthew capala twitter

We didn’t include Matt in the original top 10 list because he’s the CEO of Alphametic, but he’s definitely a person to follow for updates on the going on’s in the SEO world. He has been in the industry for over 12 years, written an SEO guidebook called “SEO Like I’m 5” and taught digital marketing at NYU. He’s a regular speaker at SEO & digital marketing conferences and offers SEO training courses for small and large businesses.

 

URL: Alphametic

Twitter: @searchdecoder

Recent Post: State of Search for 2019 According to Google’s Gary Illyes

 

That’s all folks! This list is by no means complete, there are many SEO experts out there that are putting out great content, but we wanted to keep this list to 10 gurus to start building your resource list. 

Alphametic has created a Twitter list called “Top SEO Gurus” which includes all these influencers. Follow @alphametic and subscribe to this list to get a curated feed of the best SEO content out there. If you have any suggestions for SEO gurus to add, tweet us your pick! 

For more curated lists, check out our 8 Digital Marketing Books to Read in 2018.

8 Crazy Voice Search Statistics That are Too Crazy to Ignore [Infographic]

voice search statistics infographic

You can find the original blog post here.

 

If you’d like to embed this infographic on your site and share, you can use the embed code below:

 

 

8 Voice Search Statistics That are too Crazy to Ignore

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Voice search is still being developed to be as robust and intelligent as the examples we see in our favorite Sci-Fi flicks. (Maybe one day we’ll all have our own C-3PO’s sarcastically helping us through our daily tasks). The SEO world is still trying to figure out how to optimize for this new technology, but in the meantime, here are some statistics about what we’re already experiencing with voice search and how it’s affecting the market:

1 in 6 Americans now own a Smart Speaker (Source: TechCrunch)

Google reports over X million units in circulation between Alexa and Google Home in December 2017. Apple and Samsung are going to be releasing their own voice speaker in 2018.

voice search statistic 1

40% of adults now use voice search once per day (Source: Branded3)

 

This is a MASSIVE number of people utilizing voice search. It speaks to the mobile nature of our lives and our willingness to incorporate technology into our lives.

voice search statistic 2

By 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches (Source: ComScore)

 

Is it that hard to believe? This number probably includes both voice searches on smart speakers, as well as laptops, phones and other devices. This has large implications not only for consumers but for marketers and all businesses alike.

voice search statistic 3

Google’s AI read over 2,865 romance novels in order to improve its conversational search abilities (Source: BuzzFeed News)

 

This is an interesting behind-the-scenes-tidbit to the making of this technology. Google is attempting to make AI seem more human…maybe one day we’ll all have personal besties instead of personal assistants.

voice search statistic 4

Voice commerce was a $1.8 billion retail segment in the U.S. in 2017 and $200 million in the U.K (Source: Voicebot.ai)

 

The voice search market is past its early adopter phase and is entering the early majority phase.

voice search statistic 5

20 percent of mobile queries are voice searches (Source: Google)

 

1/5th of people with mobile phones speak to their devices instead of typing. Sometimes, it’s just easier to ask than to type!

voice search statistic 6

Mobile voice-related searches are 3X more likely to be local-based than text (Source: Search Engine Watch)

 

When we’re on the go, we’re probably looking for something local on the fly. A coffee shop nearby, the nearest ATM or a parking lot. Whatever it is, we’re asking our phones to find it for us.

voice search statistic 7

72% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say their devices are often used as part of their daily routine (Source: Think With Google)

 

Speaking to our devices have become ingrained in our day-to-day lives. There are a million ways we can use help throughout the day and we’re using voice search to get it.

voice search statistic 8

How does Voice Search affect your day to day life?

Voice Search SEO Playbook: How to Optimize for Siri, Alexa and Cortana

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( February 2019 Update ): Since publishing this post back in June, we’ve added a few updates and made it relevant to 2019. Newest sections are Voice Commerce Optimization and Google’s “Speakable” Schema.org Markup. Use our table of contents below to navigate.

Table of Contents:

 

What is Voice Search and Why Should you Care in 2019?

 

It seems a bit silly to define voice search, but we practice what we preach here at Alphametic, so we’re going to optimize for voice search here and now:

“Voice search is a speech recognition technology that allows a user to speak a search query into a device.”

 

On the off chance Google rewards us an answer box snippet for that definition (we can hope, right?), this brings us to the WHY. Why do marketers, especially SEO’s, need to pay attention to when it comes to this here-to-stay trend? Is there anything we CAN do? Let’s dig into this.

 

Voice Search Statistics

 

Here are some voice search statistics to visualize the current state of affairs:

  • 1 in 6 Americans now own a Smart Speaker (Source: TechCrunch)
  • 40% of adults now use voice search once per day  (Source: Branded3)
  • By 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches (Source: ComScore)
  • Google’s AI read over 2,865 romance novels in order to improve its conversational search abilities (Source: BuzzFeed News)
  • Voice commerce was a $1.8 billion retail segment in the U.S. in 2017 and $200 million in the U.K.  (Source: Voicebot.ai)
  • 20 percent of mobile queries are voice searches (Source: Google)
  • Mobile voice-related searches are 3X more likely to be local-based than text (Source: Search Engine Watch)
  • 72% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say their devices are often used as part of their daily routine. (Source: Think With Google)

For graphics of each statistic visit this post.

The world is undoubtedly adapting to voice search. It’s not a matter of whether you SHOULD  adapt your SEO strategy to voice search, it’s HOW.

…but hold on, is adapting necessary? According to this article by Ian Lurie, it seems to suggest that voice search isn’t as large of a disruption as we may be making it out to be. And the fact that Google and Amazon have not given companies the option to advertise using these platforms suggests that voice search is more about the user experience more than anything else versus brands trying to get out a message to consumers.

In my opinion, SEO optimization is not mutually exclusive to optimal user experience. There are a few SEO strategies that lend themselves to voice search which we can leverage.

And the best part, it’s mostly things we already SHOULD be doing.  First, let’s take a look at how voice search is different than traditional search and then we can look at some tactics. Here we go:

 

How Does Voice Search affect SEO?

 

People Speak Differently Than They Type

According to Neil Patel in reference to voice search:

“No longer do you need to solely rely on using keywords inside your content a certain number of times. It’s all about natural language and the intended meaning behind the searcher’s query, rather than the query itself.”

Every since Googles Hummingbird update, semantic search has been an integral part of our search engine experience and is what made voice search possible. Whereas once we would’ve had to type in more exact phrases, such as “South America news 2017” to get this:

google voice search example 1

 

We can now type in the search query “What happened in South America in 2017” and it understands the inference – that we want to look at news coverage of important events, without having to type in the words, “news”, or “news sites”, or “newspaper” into the search box.

google voice search query example 2

For a search engine, this once might have been a directionless query, but it now understands my intention of wanting to look at important news coverage it and so served me results of major news sites with articles specific to that region

Because of this more natural, conversational tone, it’s to the benefit of webmasters and SEO’s everywhere to take a look at the language on their sites and see if their main pages fulfill their user’s intent by communicating in easy to understand, natural language.

 

Voice Search Will Give You One Answer, as Opposed to 8-10 Blue Links

Here’s the clincher. If you’re using a Google Home, or an Alexa echo, you’re only going to get one search result read back to you. There’s no ranking 2nd, 3rd or 4th. You must be the BEST result for that user’s command.

The interesting thing here is that according to a study done by Brian Dean from Backlinko:

Content that ranks highly in desktop search is also very likely to appear as a voice search answer. In fact, approximately 75% of voice search results rank in the top 3 for that query.”

So, although screenless voice search only gives you 1 result, when it comes to the Google Home, it can potentially choose between the first 3 top results, not always THE top result.

This is important to understand since it paints a more realistic picture of what’s happening. Although there is an objective winner when it comes to Googles algorithm when not taking into account personalization, the reality is, Google ALWAYS takes into account location, past search history and other factors when serving you a result. So, although you may not be number 1 for a search query, you might still make it into an individual’s top results.

 

There are 4 Main Intents With Voice Search (and Search in General)

Back in 2015, Google gave us some great insights into rising consumer search behaviors and coined them “micro-moments” in the online customer journey.

Essentially, these are 4 main intentions individuals have when searching online: when they want to know something, when they want to go somewhere, when they want to do something or when they want to buy something.

As a business, you should be particularly interested in the “I-want-to-buy-moments”, but all of these moments are opportunities to lead a user through the customer journey. In fact, searches on mobile with the word “best” have grown over 80% between 2015 and 2017. In other words, people searching “best restaurants in X city” or “best moisturizer for dry skin” for example, increased dramatically once users understood that Google had the capability to serve them accurate results.

With the rise of voice search, your SEO efforts should focus on these search behaviors and “micro-moments” that are deeply entrenched in consumer’s minds. And with that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper.

Next, we’ll discuss some practical SEO strategies to position yourself to be discovered through voice search where it makes sense for your business.

Update for 2019: Voice Search Optimization for eCommerce and “Speakable” Schema

 

Since publishing this article last year, we wanted to explore voice search optimization updates as it pertains to two areas: voice commerce and schema. Here, we explore voice search updates for smart speaker devices and schema’s “Speakable” markup, to show how marketers can optimize their content for voice search.

Voice Commerce Optimization

According to a survey by NPR and Edison Research, 57 percent of smart speaker owners have ordered something using the device, with the majority of these orders being first-time purchases. Voice search presents a big opportunity for ecommerce businesses, as it adds to the number of ways for their products to be found.  But just how is voice search optimized for products?

We found that for the most part, optimizing your ecommerce business for voice search is similar to optimizing for voice search in general: reflect the natural tone of search queries in your copy, optimize for question-based searches, and include direct answers in separate formatting in your content. However, there are some key aspects to voice search optimization for ecommerce that stand out. Here, we’ll focus on voice commerce optimization for the two main voice search devices: Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Optimizing for Alexa

Let’s start with Amazon Alexa. When processing a voice search query, Amazon will prioritize whichever product is Amazon’s Choice. These products are selected based on several criteria, including popularity, competitive pricing, low return rate, and availability to ship quickly through Prime. If your product isn’t selected for Amazon’s Choice, it’s unlikely that Alexa will suggest your product to the user. However, there are still ways for your product to be found with Alexa voice search queries.

If you can’t rank for the transactional intent, then you still have hope for optimizing your product for the research stage of the buyer journey. While the knowledge stage of the consumer journey may not lead to immediate transactions, it still works to increase awareness for your brand and lead to more sales down the line.

Voice search results for product queries often turn up video results, therefore excluding Amazon’s product pages. To be featured in the YouTube carousel results on the SERP, identify brand-product voice queries (e.g. “which Fitbit bottle should I buy”), then create a YouTube video answering that question.

Another way to out-rank Amazon is to try to be featured in a snippet, since search engines rarely include Amazon product page content in featured snippets. If you’re local, optimizing your local search features will also help you out-rank Amazon products.

To shop using voice search on Alexa, users need an Alexa-enable device, an Amazon Prime membership, and the desire to shop from a limited selection of items.

Optimizing for Google Home

Google Express removes these barriers, teaming up with retailers around the globe to offer users selection from thousands of products, without a subscription. When a user asks a product-based voice query to Google Assistant, Google Express presents its recommended products based on the query using the Shopping Actions platform. Through Shopping Actions, retailers can feature their products with 1-click re-ordering, a universal shopping cart, and saved payment credentials across these platforms, creating a seamless shopping experience.

Google Express lists vague participation criteria for retailers, such as offering a “positive user experience” and safety and security. At the moment, the top retailers on Google Express are big players such as Walmart and Costco, but smaller retailers such as The Mine have made it to the list. This means that for smaller retailers, attracting shoppers through Google Express is a viable option. In order to be considered as a Google Express merchant, Google instructs retailers to simply fill out an interest form.

 

Google’s “Speakable” Schema.org Markup

Google recently announced a new Schema.org specification called “Speakable.” The markup will help Google Assistant and Google Home choose which content to read aloud. For now, this specification is limited to news content. For valid news websites, including this schema markup can help articles be read aloud in snippets as a voice search result.

Google specifies several criteria when implementing speakable markup for Google Assistant. This includes breaking up the content into bullet points with roughly two to three sentences, with concise headlines and content. A full list of guidelines can be found on Google’s Speakable (beta) page.

If Google expands this structured data to website types beyond news, this markup could mean more traffic and visibility for voice search results across the web.  

 

What SEO Strategies Can You Use to Rank on Voice Search?

 

Find Opportunities to Rank for an Answer Box Snippet

This is something that most SEO’s are already doing, but it takes on a new dimension in voice search SEO. According to this study by Backlinko, 40.7% of voice search responses came from a Featured Snippet.

That feature typically gives a user a quick and simple answer to any query, so it makes sense that Google Home would be populating its answers from the algorithm for Featured Snippets. If you see an opportunity to become Position 0, it’s likely that you can also be a voice search query answer for that topic.

 

Tighten Up Your Local SEO

Google My Business is a huge source of information for people searching for local businesses. If you have your Google My Business listing fully optimized and up to date with current information, you’re giving it every chance to be an option on someone’s voice search results.

google local search query voice search

Place Schema on Your Top Pages

Although schema doesn’t seem to have a large correlation between its use and being the answer to a Google voice search, the purpose of on-page schema is to give Google a better picture of what your page is supposed to represent.

This is especially crucial in the ecommerce space when Google search results can expose your brand to a new customer. It doesn’t hurt to help Google understand the purpose of your page more clearly.

And with Google’s new “Speakable” markup, they may expand to ecommerce platforms and allow businesses to choose which information smart devices read aloud.

 

Optimize for the Long-Tail

As mentioned a bit earlier, individuals are using more natural language in their voice queries. This is a ripe opportunity for long-tail keywords with high search intent (and high commercial intent).

Let’s say you’re a company that sells French Press coffee machines. You have a great post on your blog that goes through the brewing times and temperatures for different coffee types that can be utilized for a great cup of Joe in your French Press. Someone interested in the French Press method of brewing is possibly searching for different brewing methods.

In the Google search bar you might type in “How to Brew French Press”

But on a voice search, you might say “How to Correctly Brew Coffee in a French Press”

This an opportunity for you to not only appear on results but if the user if using a Google Home or Alexa and they’re not in front of a screen, you can optimize headlines for short answers to common questions that may be asked in a voice search.

 

If You Haven’t Already, Optimize for Mobile

Not to beat a dead horse, but mobile optimization is key to everything. 20% of people conduct voice searches on mobile, so the more mobile-friendly your business is, the more opportunity to land on a voice search answer.

This means fast page speeds, responsive web designs, easy and simple UX, AMP pages, and of course, great content.

 

DON’T FORGET BING

Yes, Bing. Many search marketers utilize PPC on Bing since it is the search engine with the 2nd largest market share in the U.S. But, the most relevant reason why Bing is important for Voice search SEO? – Alexa uses bing as her search engine.

The current top players in the world in the voice search market are Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, with Alexa taking the lead by a landslide. Alexa has over 39 million units in circulation or 69% of the market. Google Home currently has 14 million units at 31% of the market.

This is one of the few areas where Bing has managed to one-up Google for years, so optimize for Bing and don’t forget it under the shadow of the Google behemoth.

And Finally, Relax.

At the end of the day the concept is the same, ranking for targeted keywords and getting to the top of SERP’s. A lot of these strategies are already well-established best practices in SEO, so keep following best practices and make a few tweaks if it makes sense for your business. The landscape is competitive, but not impossible. Set your goals, track your progress and keep up the good work. I’ll leave with this great quote by Bradley Shaw:

“People are not afraid of the machine anymore, they have gone beyond a period of discomfort and hesitance and into a place of comfort and instantaneous gratification. When we consider the full scope of voice search, we eventually break it down to a consumer being able to gratify a search need without ever having to pull away from decorating the Christmas tree.

The question for online marketers has now become, “will my goods or services fill the need?” 

For more SEO news check out Recent Google Updates and SEO Trends for 2018

7 Deadly Sins of Choosing the Wrong SEO Agency for Your Business [Infographic]

choosing seo agency infographic alphametic

 

 

If you need more information about choosing an SEO agency you can check out our 7 Deadly Sins of Choosing an SEO Agency Blog Post. If you’d like to embed this infographic on your site and share, you can use the embed code below:

 

<div style=”max-width: 1080px;”><div style=”left: 0; width: 100%; height: 0; position: relative; padding-bottom: 399.9074%;”><iframe src=”//cdn.iframe.ly/JkNd7Ju” style=”border: 0; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;” allowfullscreen></iframe></div><p>Credit: <a href=”https://alphametic.com/choosing-seo-agency” target=”_blank”>Alphametic</a></p></div>

 

 

7 Deadly Sins of Choosing the Wrong SEO Agency That can Cost You (A LOT)

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I have been in the search engine optimization game for over a decade now. Clients come to me with one chief objective: to win at Google and crush their online marketing goals. Sounds simple, right? Well, there is more to it.

It takes a very agile SEO Strategy to keep up with Google Trends. It took me years to develop a team of experts, tools, and processes at Alphametic to effectively optimize the SEO, SEM, content, and local campaigns to keep our clients on top of Google. When a new client comes to us, we often spend a good amount of time correcting careless SEO mistakes of the past and see a number of SEO sins from prior agencies that could have been easily avoided. We’ve worked with clients in the past that experienced an outright penalty from Google because they did not know that the previous agency was buying links on spammy blogs or that the services were outsourced by the agency they worked with to an overseas provider. I also witnessed many prior agencies providing many sound recommendations but they turned out to be “non-actionable” – and as a result, a “non-factor” on performance – because the agency never managed to execute on their ideas.

Choosing the wrong business partner can cost you a lot of wasted time and money. Before you choose your next search marketing agency (hint, hint), read our special report on the dos and don’ts of the selection process and criteria, and don’t let these sins affect your business or impact your bottom line.

Sin #1: Bandwidth: Not considering your ability to execute on the best SEO plan on the outset.

Many clients come to us with specific objectives: to set them on the right path in their SEO strategy, analyze their performance gaps, or perform an actionable audit and provide “quick wins” – the 20% of strategies that produce 80% of results. This is the first stage and if this is all your business requires, a consulting project is adequate. However, if you are looking to increase your rankings by creating new (and more) content and building relationships with bloggers, you need much more, and you need to be prepared to invest in content, tech, PR, and outreach at the outset of any SEO project.

Otherwise, make sure that the agency you choose has the capabilities to support you in implementation. At Alphametic, I started with the consulting services and quickly realized that our clients need support in creating content so we brought onboard a talented digital copywriter to help our clients write content on landing pages, creating blog posts and long-form guides.

Today’s SEO climate is dynamic, competitive, and highly specialized. Teams that think it is a few keywords to the top are sorely mistaken. If your team does not have the bandwidth to create extra content and strategize effectively and cohesively with your SEO provider, you will commit the first sin – not being able to execute an SEO plan.

 

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Sin #2: Vetting: Not thoroughly background checking your agency.

SEO Agencies and consultants all have capability statements, testimonials, white papers, and client lists to recommend their work and explain their strategies. Reading these materials is the bare minimum of research that should be part of your road to hiring an SEO agency or consultant. Check the references by reaching out to past and current clients to obtain full reviews of their SEO wins. Further, make sure that your agency or consultant knows your business, or has the bandwidth and staff to become experts in your business. Agency or consultants specializing in consumer products may not be the right fit if you are looking to gain placements with service-focused, B2B needs, and vice versa.

Check the references and client testimonials before you commit the second sin of choosing the agency partner that talks the talk… but no track record of walking the walk.

 

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Sin #3: Missing the Point Man: Not Having an Identifiable Team or Point Person

If you actively detach from the process of searching for an SEO agency and instead view the search as a simple sales funnel, you miss an opportunity to gain insight into how a reputable agency should acquire new business. Depending on how you find your SEO agency (referral, online, or direct) you will deal with a leadership team in sales, often the founder of the agency like we do it at Alphametic. You may be very happy with the sales pitch and the level of skills the SEO pros are pitching you… but will they actually work on your business or meet with you when the work begins?

Make sure that you understand who exactly will work on your business and who is just selling you. During the sales process, you should meet your “account team” and make sure that there is the right chemistry between your team and your daily agency contacts. Your needs may require just one person, or it may require a combination of skills. However, it is critical for streamlining work and keeping communication clear that you have a point of contact at your agency you can trust. Otherwise, you are missing the point, man!

 

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Sin #4: No Numbers: Not Setting Clear Goals

Quantifiable metrics are the key to success. If you have not set a goal in SEO metrics, you should not be in the market for an SEO agency. Whether they are percentage increase monthly or annual goals, engagement, or conversion, these benchmarks are motivation for an agency, in addition to being integral for your agency to assign team members to accomplish them. With goals and timelines, comes accountability. It is the fourth sin for the client and agency relationships to not assign goals because the chain of accountability starts at the goal set by the respective teams. Outline your goals and observe them at intervals.

 

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Sin #5: SEO is your Savior: SEO Cannot Solve all of Your Problems

Your SEO Agency is not going to solve all of your problems, make your product a success, make your sales team convert more phone calls, and sadly, we are not magicians either. Your agency should show up for you and provide the tools, customer service, creative content, winning ideas, and organized communication to supplement your team. However, the agency needs a point of contact on your team to grow your business. An SEO Agency should develop an intimate understanding of your business as your work progresses, with the development and implementation of keywords. However, they will need guidance on the personas and micro markets you are looking to target, among other strategies.

If you have a product or service that does not have a natural client base or does not service a need, then you should likely refine your business model before you hire an agency or a consultant.

 

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Sin #6: SEO What?: Not Gaining a Basic Channel Understanding

Lots of people think SEO is like a sausage they all love to eat, but they don’t want to know how it’s made. If you are hiring an SEO company blindly after seeing an online ad and without a working knowledge of what SEO is and what’s involved, you cannot expect to make an educated decision. Some SEO shops will promise you the la-la land, outsource all the work, and bank on the client’s lack of any technical knowledge to keep accountable.  Organic SEO driven unique content, strategic keywords, and real links takes time, but the realized gains are never penalized. Ask questions about the scope of work and specific monthly deliverables to get insights into the process and what is being done for the budget you commit.

Keeping it simple, try asking this the next time you interview an SEO agency or consultant: “this is what my company wants to achieve, how will you help us get there, and what are your methods?”

 

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Sin #7: Devil is in No Details: Vague scope of work

Once you have vetted an agency, have numerical goals, understanding of who is on your team, and set aside time and resources to execute on the strategy, you must be clear on the scope of work that your new agency is delivering. Whether you agree on billable hours or a detailed scope of work, it is up to you to diligently follow up on what exactly is accomplished during the hours and exactly what the work entails. At Alphametic, we use detailed project trackers and reports to keep our clients in the loop on what we are working on and expected timelines.

SEO Agencies typically will need one to two months to perform an audit on your existing site and digital footprint, then they will implement a new strategy when they have the digital lay of the land for your business, market, and competitors. The scope of work needs to be defined monthly or for the term of your contract, then the expectations on both sides are easily managed. Without a scope of work, it is unlikely work will be done as you intended.

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What’s your experience choosing the right search marketing agency for your business?

Meta Description Length Has Increased to 320 Characters in Google. What’s next for SEO?

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September 2018 Update: This meta description update has been reverted back to its original 145-165 character range limit. For more information regarding this update and the current status of meta data, refer to our Google Updates and SEO Trends 2018 post.

It’s official, Google has increased their meta description length to a max of 320 characters! Now, some of you may be saying “This is fantastic!” and the rest of you are probably saying “Oh crud…I have to update everything.”

Well, truth is, you’re both right. It IS a great opportunity to communicate more value to your target audience, but it’s also going to take a bit of work on your part to update your pages. Let’s talk about how this can affect your SEO efforts.

But first, let’s answer what’s on everybody’s minds:

 

How Does the New Meta Description Length Affect Rankings?

Meta descriptions are an INDIRECT ranking factor, what does that mean?

Google doesn’t actually count the keywords you put into your meta descriptions towards your SERP ranking. If you don’t have a pre-set meta description, it’ll just take a piece of your webpage that it thinks describes the intent behind the page the best.

Now, why it an indirect factor? At the end of the day, your meta descriptions for your webpages is like the “Hook” of an email. If an individual reading their email has gotten past the subject line, they’ll take a peek at the hook and, as you probably guessed, the “hook” reels them in towards actually clicking on the email.

It’s the same with your meta description. If the individual gets past the page title and hasn’t committed to clicking on it yet, they’ll further determine the utility behind your webpage based on the few seconds they’ll spend reading your meta description. If your meta description can get you more clicks, and therefore traffic and potentially conversions on your webpage, THEN those factors will start counting towards your ranking.

At the end of the day, Google will reward the web pages that consistently attract clicks from SERPs, solve users’ problems, and deliver value. Thus, strong meta descriptions can help improving your click-through-rates, which translates into better rankings and more traffic.

 

What’s an SEO to do?

 

Review your priority pages and their meta descriptions

This is an opportunity to enhance what you’ve already got. Determine how the extra length can add further value at a glance on SERP results.

Step 1: Review your Google Search Console data to identify the 20% of your web pages that drive 80% of your traffic.

Step 2: Expand your meta descriptions to include more descriptive, keyword-rich content that speaks effectively to your customers.

If you are offering SEO services to clients or working in-house on Internet marketing campaigns and looking for “quick wins,” consider adding this two-step approach to your marketing toolbox in 2018.

 

Optimize for click-through and use the extra space to give them what they want

Maybe add a call to action or an extra line of services you offer to drive click-throughs. Just think: a person looking for the keyword this page ranks is looking to answer what question? Your meta description should promise an answer.

Check out one of our meta descriptions written in the longer character limit below:

new meta description length example

Utilize the extra space on all meta content moving forward

Now you get the opportunity to set a new standard for all future web pages and content. If you have a company-wide style guide that includes meta description standards, consider updating this information or just establishing a go-forward methodology with your team (or for yourself, if you’re a lone-wolf SEO).

As Bill Carmody says in this article on Inc aptly title Google is Your Homepage”     

Like it or not, Google is your homepage. In fact, I’ll go one step further and confirm that you and your company are who Google says you are.”

He’s got a point. Many times, a google search result is the first interaction a person has with your brand. Let’s make it a good one.

 

At Alphametic, we follow SEO news and keep up to date with the industries latest stories. Want to see another update? Check out this article about the new Google Search Console Update.

Here’s the Low-Down on the new 2018 Google Search Console Update (and how it affects your SEO)

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As I’m sure many of you have heard, Google has FINALLY released an official version of their new Google Search Console Update– and just in time for the New Year! Start off your 2018 search reporting on the right foot with their new reporting features and 16 month’s worth of data.

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Here’s What Happened

So, do you remember how you only had 90 days worth of data to backtrack? Remember having to download (ugh) reports to see data year-over-year? Remember missing the 90 days deadline and losing data forever…

Point is, this is the biggest feature – 16 months worth of data allows you to see year-long trends at a glance without having to get fancy with your excel skills. Anything that is a time-saver is a winner in the world of SEO reporting.

Along with the new wealth of data being added, they’ve also improved some of their reporting functionality to address some common concerns. Here is an outline of the feature improvements and additions according to the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog Announcement Post:

The Search Performance Report

  • Similar to the Search Analytics Report, it now includes 16 months worth of data

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         source: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2018/01/introducing-new-search-console.html

 

The Index Coverage Report

 

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source: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2018/01/introducing-new-search-console.html

 

  • A newer version of the Index Status Report which reports the status of your site’s link indexing
  • According to Google’s announcement, it features a “new Issue tracking functionality that alerts you when new issues are detected and helps you monitor their fix.”
  • You can “validate a fix” and re-submit URLs which Google will then prioritize when indexing your site
  • A share button to show reports to other team members that need to be involved in implementing these changes
  • A filter feature that allows you to see indexing information on specific lists of URLs that are based on your sitemap

The AMP Status Report

  • Get quicker feedback when trying to fix an AMP page problem. The new Search Console will run “several instantaneous tests once you click the validate fix button. If your pages don’t pass this test we provide you with an immediate notification, otherwise, we go ahead and reprocess the rest of the affected pages.” according to the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

The Job Postings Report

  • If you have job postings on your website, you might be eligible to appear on Google for Jobs.
  • Only available in certain locations

 

Here’s how it Affects You

At the end of the day, this seems to be the crux of the update according to Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land:

  • provide more actionable insights.
  • offer better support of your organizational workflow.
  • enable faster feedback loops between you and Google.

The biggest boon that has been given to SEO’s has been the 16 month’s worth of data that is now available, hands down. Previously, if you wanted to look at year-over-year data, you had to download reports and create your own database to compare trends. Now, you can look at that data at a glance and see trends on search console’s graphs and analytic tools.

The ability to share indexing reports is also a time-saver. Instead of creating your own type of report, you can send your developer these reports directly or whoever else needs to made aware of indexing issues. This is how it works, according to an article by Clark Boyd in Search Engine Watch:

“As part of the Search Console update, users will now be able to share ticket items with various team members within the platform. Given how many people are typically involved in identifying and rectifying technical SEO issues, often based in different teams or even territories, this change should have a direct and positive impact on SEO work streams.”

Google is also claiming to give higher priority to URLs you mark for validation, so instead of the URLs getting updated whenever your next crawl occurs, you can make sure certain links get updated quicker.

The filter to look at specific URLs from your sitemap also seems to be an improvement for the eyeballs. It’s a more organized way to prioritize your own links based on how you’ve organized your sitemap.

Overall, the effect it will have depends on what you do with the new data and what initiatives you can create with these insights. And hopefully, with the extra time you save with the new reporting features, that time can be devoted to other business goals.

 

Next Steps

The most obvious next step is to use the new search console! Get a feel for it. For right now, Google has both the old and new versions available so you can ease into the new platform until it’s complete. They will continue to roll out new features and are encouraging feedback on the changes. There is a feedback link on the sidebar of the new tool so you can share your thoughts.  

Let’s hope the new things coming our way will continue to improve our experience with the platform.

 

Alphametic is a boutique SEO agency that follows updates and trends in the SEO community. Interested in Content? Check out our latest post on the Alphametic blog: 5 Ways to Improve Your Content Writing ASAP