Voice is the future of search

Both Google and Bing have stated that the majority of search queries they receive take place via voice on mobile.  It stands to reason that, given the hands-free capabilities of handsets and mobile phones, voice would eventually take precedence over text-based search. With the vast improvement in the quality of digital voice assistants like Google Now, Siri, and Cortana, it was only a matter of time people discovered the immense convenience of voice search and rely on it for their queries.

But what does this mean for a small business, and how should you change your digital marketing strategy given this trend? Let’s look at some ways in which businesses can make their content voice search-friendly.

1. Focus on Phrases and Longtail Keywords

The search focus has shifted from terse, awkward keywords to long-tail phrases, or even entire sentences. That’s because voice searches make use of natural language. The way we talk is decidedly different than the way we type. The phrases and keywords that we use while speaking to digital assistants would therefore be different than those we use when entering text in Google search.

“What is the weather like in Miami today?” is an example of a conversational/natural language query more likely to be spoken to a digital assistant, as opposed to “weather miami,” which we would type into a search bar. Content optimized for voice SEO would therefore need to focus on this very important aspect of the nature of voice search.

2. Anticipate Specific Questions Asked in a Conversational Manner

Voice search might use entire sentences, but it’s also specific in nature. People do not ramble on when speaking to a digital assistant, possibly because a more specific question leads to a more accurate answer.

A query such as, “Find an Italian restaurant near me,” with the user’s location enabled can return precise results for users. Business owners would therefore want to optimize their websites and content for intuitive but specific queries. This can be accomplished via a detailed FAQ page or a blog containing authority content created around longtail keywords and conversational but specific questions. This would require you to research the kind of questions your target audience most frequently poses to digital assistants and produce content around those queries. It’s a good idea to take each of those questions and flesh out the answers in the form of quality blog posts.

As long as your content answers customer queries in the best and most useful manner possible, expect Google to take notice of it and rank the website/mobile site accordingly.

3. Optimize Your Website for Local SEO

Research has found that voice search is three times more likely to be local in nature. With this in mind, businesses should keep their profiles and contact information up to date, since this is what Google will pull for queries such as, “Where can I get the best coffee in Seattle?”

For a coffee shop owner, this would mean including accurate opening hours in their profile, including the precise location of the shop, and optimizing the content on the website to be found via keywords such as “best coffee” or something more specific, such as “best spiced chai latte.”

Find out the kind of questions your target audience is most likely to pose to a digital voice assistant, and create content that provides specific answers to these queries.

4. Make Sure Your Website Is Ready for Voice Search

According to Google, micro moments (moments during which users need immediate, relevant, and ready-to-use information) are key to capitalizing on any kind of search, especially voice search. Since our smartphones are our constant companions, it is natural that with internet at our fingertips, they are going to be our first source of information. Google has therefore been encouraging businesses to be cognizant of the increasing use of mobile in internet search and accordingly optimize their sites for mobile.

We now have mobile and voice search to pay attention to. Businesses that take advantage of these micro moments stand a good chance of racing ahead of the competition:

  • Anticipate at which stage(s) a user is most likely to need the services your business provides.
  • Anticipate the nature of information they need to make a decision.
  • Provide users with the relevant information at that stage in order to help them make a decision, or leave them with clear further guidance.

For this to happen, businesses must ensure their websites are optimized for mobile, for local SEO, and for voice search. In order for a mobile site to be of use to someone during a micro moment, it needs to load quickly, be user-friendly, contain relevant information (local SEO), and produce the right answers in response to a voice search query. Taken together, this maximizes the chances of a user choosing your service.

Making the Leap

The nature of search and the evolution in search algorithms, based on changing technology and shifting consumer habits, require businesses to move in tandem with newer trends. That is the way for businesses to stay relevant and competitive.

Gen Z Hates Your Ads … but They Love Your Videos

One hope for display

How do we solve for the death of display and consumer aversion to ads? Create a better experience for the end user, and start doing that with the video medium they embrace.

In fact, the industry has been morphing into video, and the speed at which it’s happening is picking up. Facebook has been quickly releasing new video-ad formats; shoppable video ads appear on Snapchat and Instagram; and Twitter partnered with Bloomberg Media on 24-hours-a-day news streaming.

Video completely reinvigorates a consumer’s end experience with an ad. For example, AOL found that mobile video ads are five times more engaging than standard banner ads, with technology and business verticals seeing over 800% higher engagement. Additionally, ads that incorporate video drive 9X as many post-click site visits as standard display ads.

Video is a versatile, engaging and sharable format — three key factors that any ad today needs to break through the noise in a saturated digital landscape.

Not only can video quickly deliver a message in an engaging way, people share well-crafted video with others. No one shares a display ad unit with their friends.

The static display ad will become one of those relics our children laugh about because, eventually, video will move into its rightful place as king of advertising. The industry needs to embrace this, and focus on better video user experiences (new formats, best practices on length, content and brand safety).

If the “Snapchat” generation is a barometer for what the future of consumer ad expectations will be, experience needs to overcome thoughtless monetization. It’s time for all advertisers — and the ad tech companies they rely on — to deliver.

The Era of the Empowered Consumer: Insights From the Gartner Digital Conference

Marketing is getting smarter.

Jake Sorofman, a research vice president at Gartner, said that CMOs are on track to spend as much (or more) on technology than their CTO and CIO counterparts this year; more than one-fourth of every marketing dollar is spent on technology.

Dan Curran, CEO of PowerPost, a client of ours, was really intrigued by this finding. “The conference certainly left everyone feeling optimistic regarding the evolution of content marketing technology,” he said. “However, every stage of the content supply chain must evolve.”

And as marketing evolves to become savvier and more intelligent, so will the content it’s creating for audiences. Most audiences and content consumers have grown to expect somewhat more personalized content from the brands they interact with, and that content marketing trend is only going to continue with a move to “atomic content.”

2. Customer journeys are discovered, not created.

I’ve seen plenty of marketers waste time and resources by trying to develop buyer personas and engineer their customers’ path to their company and then create content around what they’ve put together. However, the best customer journeys aren’t created; they’re discovered.

And with additional players in the game — especially social media platforms and other tools that make it easy to distribute content — your audience members’ journeys are more complicated than ever. Andrew Hsu, CEO of Spotlight, noted, “Marketers must acknowledge the remarkable roles Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google play in their customers’ lives. From customer acquisition to relationship building through customer servicing, marketers will be borrowing moments from, shaping experiences within, and co-existing beside these market-shaping platforms.”

To improve your customer experience, study what your customers actually do, what kind of content they consume, and where they go for it. Use data to discover how your best customers are coming to you, and create content that enables their journey.

3. Content is your best tool for hitting trust touchpoints.

Marketing is expected to create exceptional brand moments at every customer touchpoint, and audience members touch six different channels before they become customers.

Think of touchpoints with your audience like moving targets: It’s not going to be easy to hit each one every time, but as marketers, it’s up to you to hit as many as you can — and content can be your biggest help. The more you hit, the better you keep your audience engaged and the more trust you build with them. So listen, learn, and engage with triggered, personalized content.

https://www.inc.com/john-hall/the-era-of-the-empowered-consumer-insights-from-the-gartner-digital-conference.html

Been thinking about local

A year ago, Google location searches exploded –  “closest,” “nearby,” and “near me” searches were performed 35 more times than they did in 2011.

People demand instant, accurate, and helpful information on Google. Because of this, it likely comes as no surprise that Google has had to make many complex updates to its algorithm to keep up. Gone are the days of “cookie-cutter” search results. Google now strives to deliver the most customized, local search results possible. A Brooklyn pet owner, for example, searching for “veterinarians nearby” will get totally different results than a pet owner in the Bronx searching the same keyword phrase – all thanks to Google’s local-search result algorithms.

Amazing Local Search Stats to Consider

Here are some specific local search trends that are good to be aware of if you are trying to put together a local marketing strategy for your client or business:

How to Rank for “Near Me” Searches on Google

It’s one thing to understand the latest local search trends, but It’s another thing to know what to do about them. Here are some specific tactics that veterinary practices (and other local businesses) can use to improve their rankings for high-volume, high-value “near me” keywords:

  • Keep your Google Map listing up to date. Make sure your Google map listing is claimed, and has accurate information about your clinic, including address, hours, services offered, and website URL. After you’ve set up your map listing, you’ll need to maintain it and keep it updated ongoing.
  • Get those reviews!  These days, pets are considered family members. Location matters, but what matters even more is quality medical care, which is something that can be gleamed easily by reading online reviews. Small businesses that have many reviews, and a high star rating to go with, will benefit from higher rankings, and thus more exposure on Google.
  • Include information on your website about the locations you serve. Instead of targeting broad locations, focus on less competitive areas and neighborhoods.
  • Focus on your mobile site. If your website is not mobile-friendly, it needs to be! People are increasingly searching on their mobile devices, so your website must be (a) mobile-friendly and (b) deliver a great user experience. This will play a big role in your SEO efforts.

“Near me” searches are not slowing down, but the real takeaway is that we live in a mobile age, wherein we demand instant answers to all our questions.

Let me get you to a human faster

A recent article on millennials at salesforce.com referred to them as the Convenience Generation. Perhaps it’s just me – and it wasn’t the apparent intent of the author — but that moniker seems to have a negative connotation, like millennials can’t be bothered to drive to a store, make a telephone call or get off the couch to change the channel.

It’s not an inaccurate characterization, but why is convenience so important to them? Perhaps it’s because they’ve never lived without it.

Technology has grown to a point to where we don’t have to go to a store to make a purchase, go to a library to do research, install a shelf to store our books, make a phone call to talk to a friend, or heaven forbid, step across the living room to switch stations on the television.

Millennials have never known a world without remote controls, cell phones or the Internet. Smartphones have become advanced to the point where we’re essentially carrying computers around in our pockets. And new apps are developed every day that eliminate the need to stand in lines or call ahead to place an order.

It isn’t millennials fault that they’re accustomed to these conveniences – and it shouldn’t be surprising that they’ve come to demand them.

That’s why successful businesses today must not only know their customers, but also the many devices and apps they use in their everyday lives, the social media they use to communicate and the media through which to reach them.

As salesforce.com blogger Tamar Frumkin notes, a business must anticipate the needs of millennials – and all its customers — and save them time by offering smart self-service solutions across a variety of devices and formats.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that millennials’ love for technology and convenience means the human element is no longer important. While an Aspect Software study found that nearly three-fourths of millennials prefer to solve customer-service issues on their own, it’s not the human that’s often at the other end of the typical customer service call that’s the problem – it’s the inconvenience of getting to that human.

Millennials crave human connection as much as any other generation, but the media in which those connections are made have changed. Where Baby Boomers went to the store and met with salespeople directly and Gen-Xers spoke with them on the telephone, online chatting or social media solutions are among the ways to reach the newer generation of consumers.

The goals are the same. You want to make a sale. They want to be satisfied with their purchase. But the tools are different. And to be successful with a generation whose collective purchasing power is expected to exceed $3.39 trillion by 2018, you’ve got to keep up.

Mobile Usage Trends on YouTube [Infographic]

Last week, YouTube announced an amazing stat – the platform now serves a billion hours of content per day to viewers. That figure towers over last reported numbers from Facebook (100 million hours of video content per day) and underlines why YouTube is still the key destination for online video content.

Yes, Facebook video is on the rise, and live-streaming is growing, but YouTube has become part of our interactive process – searching for something on YouTube is now as commonplace as ‘Googling’. Any brand planning a video content strategy needs to consider YouTube in that mix.

And here’s another YouTube stat to consider – according to this new infographic from comScore, 70% of all time spent on YouTube is now conducted via mobile device. comScore’s data underlines the importance of mobile for YouTube – which lead to them creating a new data report on mobile video metrics for YouTube and its channels.

While YouTube content is obviously optimized for mobile by default, the data underlines the importance of considering the mobile experience when creating YouTube content, along with some important mobile consumer trends to keep in mind.

Check out the full infographic below.

http://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-business/mobile-usage-trends-youtube-infographic

CONNECTED CONSUMERS- HBR

Consumer-facing companies are at a loss. The middle class, long the bread and butter of consumer companies of all kinds, is shrinking as a percentage of the population in mature markets. And in emerging markets, where many consumer companies have been laying their bets for the future, growth has started to slow.

To thrive again, companies need nuanced ways of defining a segment of consumers to focus on. Our research indicates that five questions can help point the way:

  • Do they have access to the internet?
  • Do they have a significant amount of discretionary income?
  • Are they willing to spend a lot of their discretionary income?
  • Do they prefer premium goods and services when they can afford them?
  • Do they seek to be on the cutting edge of consumer trends?

Consumers who answer yes to all five questions are what we call “connected spenders.” When we look more closely, we see that almost all of them are working-age, and over 30% are 25–34 years old. They are highly urban; nearly 80% of connected spenders live in a city. In emerging markets, that number is even higher, at 90%. While connected spenders are more affluent than the average, not all are high income. And, in turn, not all affluent consumers are connected spenders. Globally, connected spenders make up about one-third of low-income populations and two-thirds of high-income ones.

Today connected spenders count for about 19% of the global population, and that is projected to grow to 37% by 2025. Cumulatively, over this decade they will spend $260 trillion — 46% of the world’s consumer spending. In markets such as the U.S., where internet access is just shy of 90%, only 36% of the population are currently connected spenders, a number that will grow to over 50% by 2025.

Connected spenders are the heaviest purchasers in categories including electronics, travel, and dining out, and they’re likely to be early adopters of new ways to buy in any category. In financial services, for instance, these ways are the newest cashless payment methods or mobile banking products. In media, they will gravitate to multiple devices and to the newest services to stream video and audio. In CPG categories, connected spenders will be drawn to “hot” concepts such as health and wellness, and offerings that combine product and experience, such as subscription services. Shopping experiences such as in-store cooking demonstrations or shopping apps to help them find and select products in more convenient ways will also appeal to them.

How should companies approach the connected spender opportunity?

First, they should recognize that people can only be connected spenders if they are connected. Mature markets already boast close to universal levels of internet access, but we estimate that 2.3 billion more consumers will come online in the next decade, almost all in emerging markets. By 2025 just three mature economies — the United States, Japan, and Germany — will feature in the top 10 countries for connected spenders. That top 10 will include Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nigeria — markets that do not get much attention from Western companies.

Companies therefore need a two-track strategy: woo the connected spenders in mature internet markets now, where they are already deeply invested, and get ready for the new connected spenders as they come online in emerging economies over the next 10 years. This approach fits the financial realities of the world’s markets. Even in 2025 the average mature-market connected spender will spend nearly $40,000 per year, 10 times what the average in an emerging market will be.

In a mature market, consumer companies must get already-connected connected spenders excited about the products and shopping experiences they offer. Connected spenders seek novelty and exciting experiences across all their consumer activities. They prefer cutting-edge products and state-of-the-art technologies. Offerings that bring an imaginative, technology-driven twist to an existing product or that solve a consumer problem with a new digital offering will open connected spenders’ wallets.

Connected spenders are a digitally oriented advertising audience. Online marketing and advertising, particularly on smartphones, will be a good investment to engage these consumers, especially with newer formats, such as online sporting events or sites that combine curated content with online shopping. Connected spenders respond to traditional advertising as well, but they are much more likely to spend time on a manufacturer’s website or to remember an internet ad. Connected spenders will watch an ad if it is educational or highly relevant. The challenge, therefore, is to increase the information-richness of advertising and the personalization of its content and delivery.

What does “getting ready” for emerging markets’ connected spenders mean? Three things:

First, make it easy for consumers to move their consumption behaviors online as access allows, by including safe and convenient access to and education about new digital goods and services. Connected spenders enjoy learning about products. Most companies know they need to make e-commerce easy. They are far less aware of how critical education is in these markets, especially for products and services whose benefits are not immediately obvious, such as insurance or organic personal care products. It may seem that making it easy for consumers to buy the goods is enough, but it isn’t. In many cases, a great deal of explaining needs to go along with access.

Second, design products and shopping experiences to align with the dominant internet access methods of each market, as in the China example above. In many emerging economies it is well-known that consumers are leapfrogging to internet access by smartphone and may never use personal computers. But what is underappreciated is that a mobile-first or mobile-only strategy will not be the same in all markets. In China, smartphones are prevalent among urban consumers and social media sites are used for everything from shopping for groceries to paying credit card bills to buying an insurance policy. In other places, such as Nigeria, traditional trade is more prevalent and smartphone use is less so. Shoppers there will be looking for text-based tools to help them pay for items in local retail stores.

The final imperative is to be flexible in prioritizing markets, because a connected spender in spirit only becomes one in practice when internet access is accompanied by the other elements needed for e-commerce to boom — including market-wide online payment infrastructure and solutions to the logistics of the “last mile.” Companies must monitor the development of communications, transport, and financial services infrastructure.

Connected spenders are naturally engaged and eager; it’s what makes them so attractive. But they are also demanding, and their expectations will need to be satisfied. They are looking for new goods and services, with the latest technology, but with tangible benefits — and they will do the work online to find the best prices. The reward for investing to meet their demand will be significant, as the total annual spending of connected spenders will rise from $15 trillion in 2015, or 35% of global consumer spending, to over half of the annual total in 2025 — $32 trillion.

https://hbr.org/2017/02/your-business-is-going-to-depend-on-connected-spenders-so-youd-better-understand-who-they-are