Voice search is being used more and more often and many pundits are discussing the effect on search marketing. Perhaps the most important impact on e-commerce will be that your shoppers are using longer search queries to be more expressive of what they want. To take advantage of this change in shopping behavior, there are two key tasks for search marketers:

  1. Capture the intent of your shopper’s more expressive queries with more long-tail keywords.
  2. Show the shopper what she asked to see by determining the most relevant destination URL on your site for each keyword.

Of course, doing these will improve your campaign performance right now. And, as voice search for shopping continues to grow, the percentage of long-tail queries will increase. And that will make fully capturing and responding to your shopper’s intent deliver even higher performance improvements.

Can you shop by voice? Are people really doing that?

Can you shop with Amazon Echo, Google Home and other voice-enabled smart assistant devices without a screen? Yes, as Amazon has shown, it is can work for reordering items you have previous purchased (e.g., paper towels). Or for ordering specific products you can explicitly specify (e.g., Honey Bunches of Oats cereal). Or generic items (e.g., AAA batteries). These are all items where a simple voice-only UI can be sufficient.

But what about a new Patagonia winter jacket or gold evening sandals? Are we ready to trust the digital assistant to have the intelligence to be our personal shopper? Let it select just a few options that it decides we would like and then we select from those?

No, not very soon. For many purchases, shoppers want to browse through the available items to find just the right style, color, brand and price. We’ve adapted to online shopping — seeing photos on the screen, reading descriptions and reviews, and not actually touching the real item. Then we adapted to the shopping on the small screen our mobile phones.

Online shopping — With and without a screen

Shopping with only voice feedback giving a short description of only a few options? The Amazon Echo and Google Home are getting a lot of press, but are the users doing a lot of shopping on them? That will change, but those devices will not have exclusive rights to the future of e-commerce. Indeed, many online and brick-and-mortar retailers are going in the opposite direction with more product information and interaction, not less — for example, virtual reality where we can see what that jacket looks like on us or the couch in our living room. Using more of our senses, not fewer.

The voice user interface is definitely where we are going, but for many interactions, it is in concert with other modalities. The convenience of the voice UI is being used in Siri on iPhones, OK Google on Android, Cortana, etc., which is driving the popularity of voice interaction. For search, more and more users are discovering and clicking on that microphone icon, rather than typing in the query. Nearly 50% for the 18-24 age group is using voice search, although certainly not exclusively.

As Rand Fishkin predicted at the beginning of 2017, “Voice search will be more than 25% of all US Google searches within 12 months.” And ComScore projected that 50% of searches will be by voice by 2020.

So, how will the use of voice search impact e-commerce shopping? And what does it mean for search marketers?

For the shopper, the key change is that voice search makes it quick and easy for shoppers to input their search query. And for the marketer, that means that your shopper will be more expressive in a voice search — specifying more information regarding their search intent in the search query — than they are in a text search. The evidence can be seen in the graph below from an article in the Moz blog by Purna Virji, a search marketing expert with Bing Ads at Microsoft, that shows that voice searches are longer.

Voice search results in longer search queries

Two Tasks to Improve Performance for Voice Search


For the search marketer, voice search is great news! When a shopper tells you what they want in detail, you can respond by showing her exactly that!

The opportunity of voice search is for the search marketer is to capture the shopper’s intent as expressed in the query. Do this by expanding your set of keywords with many more long-tail keywords. Not just “sweater”, but keywords with various brands, colors, materials and sizes. Of course, the combinatorics means that the number of keywords will grow by factors of 10 or even larger. Start by looking at the long-tail queries in your Search Term Reports to understand the various features (brand, color, style, size) that shopper’s are asking for in each of your categories. Then expand your keyword set to include those.

OK, now you have lots more keywords and can capture the intent of your shopper’s query. But what the shopper really wants is to click on your ad and land on the most relevant webpage on your website. That is, you need to set the Destination URL (aka Final URL) to that page that really shows what your shopper asked for.

If your shopper searches for the “Jimmy Choo gold evening sandals”, then show her exactly that. Not your entire Jimmy Choo boutique. Not all your sandals. Deliver that great user experience (UX) by showing what she asked for. It’s really that obvious.

And the data is clear. Show the shopper what they are looking for — get her several clicks closer to “Add to Bag” — then the conversion rate increases.

Automate! Reduce your work by automating the optimization of your keyword destinations

Most search marketers still configure the Destination URLs for their keywords by hand. It can be a lot of work to set the most relevant destination for each keyword so that your shopper really gets to the black body-con cocktail dresses she wants. And, when you expand your keyword set for voice search, the task expands. Determining the best destination and manually configuring that for each of hundreds of thousands or millions of keywords is a lot of work. And, since your website changes with new brands and product categories, specials and sales, your destinations need to reflect those with updates.

At Vioby, we can help by automating this process of finding the most relevant destination. Our software continually looks at your website and finds the best category and facets for each keyword, keeping the destinations your keywords up to date, whether you have thousands of keywords or millions. And when your web merchandisers change your website, the destinations are automatically updated.

If you would like to explore how Vioby could help your search ad campaigns deliver a better customer experience while improving campaign performance, just let me know.  Click here to learn more about our products.