Sell-out beer, iPhone vs. Android debates and local SEO talks consisting entirely of movie references - it can only have been another sunny Brighton SEO festival.
So what did we learn about SEO in the first conference of this year? If you attended the first set of talks in the famous Auditorium 1, you would’ve learnt two things. 1) Kelvins T-shirt Canon shooting skills need a little work and (2) the way customers find and interact with our brands is changing. Here’s how:
First up was Raj Nijjer from YEXT…
How Voice Search Raises the Stakes for Businesses
Raj delivered a thought provoking talk on the rise of voice search and how, it's set to ultimately revolutionise the way we make purchase decisions in ‘the future’ (2020). How? Because of a fundamental change in the way we interact with technology. With the emergence of voice command virtual assistants such as Amazon Echo and now Google Home making their way into our living rooms, could voice search become the new norm?
Here are the stats from YEXT:
Voice searches have increased by 140% year on year
50% of all searches will be voice searches by the year 2020
Voice searches get 4x more engagement than traditional searches
It’s clear to see that the way we request information is changing, but one of the key themes that stood out from this talk wasn’t just the way in which we will gather information; it’s a potential shift in where the information comes from. Voice assistance tech such as Siri gets its ‘answers’ from a real mix of sources (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, OpenTable, Wikipedia etc. with Cortana gathering information primarily from Bing. Whether you’re a fan of Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri or Cortana, voice search is still anyone’s game and Google may not be such a dominant force in 2020.
But how does this affect SEO? All hail the long tail…
The majority of voice searches fall under the long tail category, with queries containing 5 words or more. Your brand will need to take steps to ensure your content is providing answers to the questions likely to come from your target audience.
The other side of the coin is local SEO. A typical voice search request may be:
“Where is the best hotel near Arsenal’s emirates stadium?”
Depending on your voice search device, answers get aggregated from reviews from social media, Google my business, Yelp, Booking.com, Travel Republic, Trip Advisor, Bing for business and so on. So if your presence isn’t up to scratch (or non existent) on just one of these reputable sites, you’ll find yourself losing potential customers.
Raj argues, and quite rightly so, its no good to rank on just the first page of Google anymore, the goalposts have indeed changed. Instead, you should focus on having a strong presence on any reputable review site that your client base is likely to be gathering information about your business.
In a world of voice search, the prize goes to the business that can provide the best quality, easily accessible information on their brand and their subject area whether you’re running a family hotel, or running a multinational business.
Continue positioning your business website as a ‘resource hub’ for your subject matter. We need to keep providing answers to consumer questions.
Keep shifting from the ‘1st page on Google’ mentality to thinking about having a presence where your customers will find you
Make sure your local profiles are all well populated and make sure that your online reputation' is being managed on all possible platforms.
Shift from ‘local SEO’ to ‘digital reputation management.’
Next up Purna Virji from Microsoft…
Keyword-less searches - how your camera is the new search box
We’ve all had those moments - we see a picturesque image on an Instagram feed of a great looking hotel and wonder where such a place could be. We might see a nice set of floorboards and want to know what the brand/model number is. Or we see an image of a model in a magazine and wonder where her bag came from and where we can buy it. Ok, maybe I haven’t personally encountered that last one - but the angst amongst shoppers is rife in 2017.
Humans have a natural love of visuals. It’s often how we learn and the main way that we interpret information - through our sight. What we see has a huge effect on our purchase decisions. For these queries, we really are lost for words in what to type into Google. With the rise of visual search, could we see a niche that finally manages to eliminate the need for keywords?
Purna argues that our cameras are becoming our search platforms meaning we may not need to type in a search query to get the result we were looking for.
How is this already happening?
Purna gave us some great examples of how the retail industry in particular is shifting, and the technology is right under our noses. Did you know that you could ‘shop the look’ on Pinterest? Pinterest claim that 55% of their users are using the app to shop and plan purchases. Pinterest will tell you that by “leveraging our object detection technology, we built new machine-assisted curation tools that help marry human taste with computer vision.” In short, the app will scan an image and give you a suggestion on where to purchase the item, giving retailers a new way to reach their audiences.
This kind of image recognition technology such as Captionbot and Cloudsight is already showing huge implications in the way shoppers search for clothes. Take Zeekit for example. Ever wondered what you’d look like in a bikini? Me neither, but the developers behind the Zeekit App have already developed the technology to show you what you’d look like in the clothes that you desire.
I could see this extending way beyond just fashion and clothing, and so does Purna. She let us into a project at Microsoft charged with the task of developing virtual interactive buying experiences through the use of their VR technology ‘Hololens.’
With this technology, you may soon be able to step into a hotel room and check it out before you book it in real life, or visit a virtual website and download a sofa to make sure it fits in your living room.
How can we action this now?
All talk of the future aside retailers can act now by taking another look at their social media engagement on photo sharing apps and the quality of their images. Retailers can start making use of the technology developed in Pinterest and can be sure that similar technologies will be adopted by Instagram and other image sharing platforms. What’s more Purna tells us that $30Billion will spent on image recognition technology in the next 4 years so we can assume that this technology will keep pushing forward.
Businesses should ensure their image game is tight on their sites too, ensuring they are optimised with Alt tag descriptions and are indexed by Google image search. The more detailed and descriptive imagery you can provide the better. Retailers should look out for opportunities to be early adopters of this image recognition technology to open up new revenue streams and tap into a shift in the way we shop.
Although text search still dominates in 2017, emerging technologies such as virtual reality, voice search and image recognition could lead to a shift in the way we find and consume information and ultimately make purchase decisions. Consumers will be using our voice and visuals to find out products across a wider range of applications other than Google generating a larger chunk of sales and leads.