As any digital marketing agency knows, your reaction to incoming trends can make or break you. Adapt and make the most of them and you’ll be set; step aside and hope they leave as fast as they arrive and you’ll be left behind.
It’s as simple as that.
For example, when the mobile trend came, those who thought on their feet and incorporated mobile SEO into their strategies saw no drop in rankings, and instead saw them rise. Those who didn’t faced the opposite: a steep drop followed by a wake-up call to enter the mobile world.
Let’s start with voice search because it’s the more popular of the two trends we’ll be talking about today.
Voice search is exactly what you think it is — searching with your voice. As to the how, it’s usually accomplished with smartphones and the digital assistants that house them, such as Siri and Bixby.
The process goes as follows:
- You’re walking or driving around town, minding your own business, when…
- You get a sudden urge to eat some pizza, but are in a part of town you don’t usually venture into.
- You have an “aha” moment as you realize you have a literal computer in your hand you can make use of, so…
- You pull up Siri and ask him/her, “hey Siri, are there any pizza places nearby?”
That right there is voice search.
Since its inception, voice search has grown and grown in popularity because of its utility. Instead of unlocking your phone, followed by an annoying process of either opening a browser app and searching from there, or opening a search engine app or searching directly there, all you have to do is ask.
I’ll say it again: all you have to do is ask.
With the simplicity that comes with asking comes the utility we love. Even better, it’s much safer than alternatives as well.
For instance, putting voice search aside, what do you do when you need to look something up while driving? Unfortunately, only a minority will actually pull over and search safely. The vast majority will alternate between looking down at their phones and straight ahead at the road.
Is a text or search really worth your life? Absolutely not, which is why voice search is so appealing.
How to Optimize for Voice Search and Improve Conversions
Voice search means that, at the touch of a button and the sound of a word, you can find whatever it is you want.
For you, someone who needs to optimize for voice search, this means you can go with a digital marketing agency or you can switch things up yourself and tailor your strategy according to how people are now searching.
For example, think about how you talk with a person versus a search engine. With a search engine, you talk in shorthand — you say “pizza nyc” or “coffee shop nyc”; with a person, you talk naturally and conversationally.
In other words, instead of trying to capture as much with as few words as possible, you talk in full; you say exactly what is on your mind, hence natural and conversational.
This means that “pizza nyc” or “coffee shop nyc” turn into:
- “Where can I find pizza nearby”
- “Where can I find the nearest coffee shop”
You also have to start thinking about intent. Why intent? Because voice search entails searching with intent.
In other words, the more we add to our search queries, the more intent we add to them. For example, going from “heels NYC” to “where can I find size 6 black stiletto heels” adds the intent to shop for stiletto heels that are size 6 and black.
Similarly, you have to make use of the Five Ws and the how that add even more intent:
For example, who tells you that the searcher is looking for a person or entity, while where tells you they’re looking for a location.
Like voice search, visual search’s popularity increased thanks to the smartphone, but in this case it has more to do with mobility and improvements to AI and image recognition.
Before we get to that, let’s use an example to define a visual search:
- Like voice search, you’re out and about, but this time you’re walking through a busy street when…
- You see someone with a jacket you KNOW will look amazing on you.
- You could always ask where they got it, but they seem to be in a hurry, so you opt for the alternative: visual search.
- You stealthily snap a picture, which you upload to Google Images or another image matching tool like Pinterest’s Lens or Asos’ Style Match.
Aptly named, that’s visual search — the act of searching for something with an image.
Now we go back to its growth in popularity. Starting with the smartphone and mobility, we can now take high-definition pictures anywhere we go, and even upload them online wherever we are (as long as we have data services activated or are connected to WiFi, of course).
As for improvements to AI and image recognition, AI can identify people, places and objects in images, which image recognition can match with other images with similar features.
Putting it all together, we can now search in a way that’s not constrained by language; in a way that allows us to find exactly what we’re looking for without the hassle of trying to describe every minute detail.
How to Optimize for Visual Search and Improve Conversions
With your audience’s camera turning into a discovery tool, you have a couple of options if you want to use visual search to increase your conversions.
Starting with an obvious one, if you want your users to match their own images with those on your site, make sure all your images are crystal clear and high-definition, as image recognition works by identifying features on an image, and if the image in question is blurry or out of focus, you won’t get accurate data points for matching.
Along similar lines, ensure all images have as much detail as possible, and that all features are included in your images. For example, if you’re selling a jacket with X, Y and Z, make sure that X, Y and Z are included in at least one of the images of that jacket.
Once you have high quality images all over your site, make sure to also include alt text on everything for more accurate matching. For those who don’t know, because search engines can’t “see” like we do, alt text — also called “alt attribute” or “alt description” — is an HTML attribute that’s used on images to describe them, which search engines can use for matching.
Not only is this beneficial for consumers because they can find what they’re looking for with more accuracy, but also for retailers because it presents them with even more opportunities to be found. As Matthias Dantone, CEO and Co-founder of Fashwell, points out, “[shoppers] find what they are looking for, and the process to checkout is sped up. It’s an experience that’s valuable for both the shopper and the retailer.”
Voice and visual search are the next phase of search; they smooth the process of finding what we’re looking by allowing us to search in ways that are more intuitive and natural.
While neither has completely replaced textual search, their popularity is quickly rising to the point that staying in the side lines is not a feasible option anymore. You have to optimize for both if you want to survive in the coming months and years.
In doing so, you’ll ensure your conversions not only remain unscathed, but actually improved as you make it easier for your audience to find you.
Best of luck!