5 Voice Search Optimization Strategies You Need to Know

Voice-enabled speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo have become a significant part of consumers’ everyday lives. According to research from eMarketer, almost 75 million people in the United States will use smart speakers in 2019. And, nearly three-fourths of those users will use their smart speakers to conduct general searches. This rising usage makes voice search optimization an increasingly important effort for marketers.

Smart speaker penetration and activity in the United States

Smart speaker penetration and activity in the United States

Related content: [Infographic] – Smart Speakers: The Rise of the Machines

By optimizing content for voice searches, brands can position themselves to show up in “position zero” (i.e., the only result in smart speaker searches). But smart speakers and voice search haven’t been around for long and brand marketers are still trying to figure out the best way to optimize their content.

Last year, Backlinko conducted a study to find the most important ranking factors for searches on the Google Home smart speaker. Here are five of the most critical findings from the study to help your brand amplify your voice search optimization efforts.

No. 1: Google Home favors pages with fast load times

This factor shouldn’t be too shocking since voice searchers are naturally going to value quick, accurate answers. According to Backlinko, the average voice search page loads in 4.6 seconds (roughly half the time as average webpages).

Page load time: voice search results vs. average webpage

Page load time for voice search results vs. average webpage

Remember, while mobile and desktop search results might list multiple results, smart speakers only provide one. This reality makes voice search optimization on smart speakers a zero-sum game.

Make sure to give your content a chance of reaching “position zero” by speeding up your webpages. Check out this post to learn how to identify page speed and other common SEO issues: How to Conduct a High-level SEO Audit.

No. 2: Google Home opts for more authoritative domains when delivering search results

Pages with higher domain scores (a metric for determining a webpage’s quality and authority) tend to perform much better in smart speaker searches. According to the study, the mean Ahrefs domain rating of a Google Home result is almost 77 percent.

The average domain authority of voice search result pages vs. average webpages

Average domain authority of voice search result pages vs average webpages

A comprehensive SEO program is the best way to increase your domain authority and amplify your voice search optimization efforts. To learn how to improve your SEO strategy, check out this blog post – SEO Fundamentals: What is SEO and How Does It Work? 

No. 3: More than 70 percent of Google Home results were from HTTPS (secure) webpages

If you follow Google’s webmaster guidelines, this voice search optimization finding should make a lot of sense. In July 2018, Google announced it would start marking all non-HTTPS sites on their Chrome browser as “not secure.” This change is almost guaranteed to affect search rankings.

HTTPS adoption: voice search vs. desktop search result pages

HTTPS adoption of voice search result pages


No. 4: Content that’s frequently mentioned or shared on social media tends to appear more in Google Home results

According to the study, an average voice search result has around 1,200 Facebook shares or 44 tweets. Backlinko was careful to note that Google does not include social signals in its ranking algorithm. Therefore, social media popularity is likely a case of correlation, not causation.

Average social shares of voice search result pages

Average social shares of a voice search result

Check out this blog to learn how you can get more social media exposure out of your content: How to Fuel Your Social Media Pipeline.

No. 5: Content that appears higher in desktop search results is more likely to appear in voice searches

A staggering 75 percent of voice search results from Google Home also rank in the top 3 positions in desktop searches. The most likely reason for this is that Google uses similar ranking factors to determine both voice search and desktop results.

Where voice search results tend to rank in Google desktop search results

Where voice search results tend to rank in Google desktop search results

To get a better idea of what you need to do to improve your overall search rankings, check out our recent post: 10 Reasons Why Your Brand Needs a More Competitive SEO Strategy.

These are just some of the most important voice search optimization factors. As virtual assistants and voice search increase in popularity, there will likely be more updates to the ranking factors in the future. For now, this list is a great starting point for your voice search optimization efforts. If you need additional guidance to reach consumers searching on smart speakers, contact Mindstream Media Group today, and our content and SEO experts will be happy to help.

This post was originally published in March 2018. We’ve updated the stats and information to make sure you have the latest voice search optimization tips. 

Technical SEO Strategies to Boost Your Ranking in Smart Speaker Searches

This is the third post in our series detailing how brands can connect with smart speaker users. If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 of the series for an introduction to smart speakers and voice search, and Part 2 to learn how brands can use content marketing to reach voice searchers.

Voice search results, especially those conducted on smart speakers, are extremely competitive. Unlike mobile or desktop results, voice searches on smart speakers only serve up one result – i.e., “Position Zero.” To paraphrase the great Ricky Bobby: for smart speaker searches, “if you ain’t first, you’re last.”

In this winner-takes-all playing field, your brand needs to be on top of your SEO game if you want to reach smart speaker users. It’s not enough to be good, your site’s SEO and content have to be the best.

Luckily, if you’ve already started implementing desktop and mobile SEO best practices, you’re off to a great start. According to a study from Backlinko on Google Home search ranking factors, three-fourths of voice search results ranked in the top three positions in desktop searches. This correlation suggests optimizing your site for voice search doesn’t require a completely new SEO strategy; it just means taking your existing one to a new level.

Related: Ranking Factors in Google Home Results

To help you in this endeavor, here are five technical SEO strategies you can implement (or improve upon) to increase your website’s ranking in voice search results on smart speakers.

No. 1: Improve your backlink profile

The quality and quantity of a site’s backlinks (incoming links from other sites) are major ranking factors for Google’s desktop and mobile search results. To evaluate the strength of backlink profiles, Ahrefs developed the Domain Authority metric to determine the likelihood of a website ranking well in search results based on links.

Backlinko looked at the domain authority of sites appearing in Google Home results and “discovered that the average Domain Authority of a voice search result was 76.8. Needless to say to anyone that works in the SEO industry, this is a considerably high DR.”

Average Domain Authority of Google Home search results

Average domain rating of voice search result page

What you can do to improve your backlink profile

Here’s the good news: there’s no shortage of ways to increase the quality and quantity of backlinks to your site. The bad news: the most effective ways are all time-consuming. Since backlinks are such an important ranking factor across search results, it’s not something you can ignore.

Here are some tips to start improving your backlink profile:

  • Publish great content that other sites find valuable and want to link to. This could include guides, infographics, information-rich blog posts, etc.
  • Create content for other sites that link back to your site. There are a lot of reputable publishers with high authority domains that allow blog contributors. Identify these sites and start reaching out to see if they’ll let you contribute. Make sure to link back to your site but don’t force it, these should be natural links the site’s readers find valuable.
  • Clean up your existing links. Low-quality or spammy links do more damage than good for your site. These could include links from website comment sections, links with over-optimized anchor text, links from countries that are outside your audience base, etc.
  • Hire a pro. If you don’t have the time or someone with a strong SEO background on your team, it may be best to outsource this work (especially the backlink cleanup).

No. 2: Increase your website’s page speed

Search engines have long stressed the importance of page speed and Google has used it to determine desktop search rankings for a while. Earlier this year, Google announced that starting in July 2018 page speed will be also be ranking factor for mobile searches.

It makes sense that Google would carry this commitment to speed over to voice search. For Google Home searches, Backlinko discovered that the average voice search result page loads much faster than the average webpage.

For Google Home search result pages:

  • The average Time to First Byte (TTFB) of a voice search result was .54 seconds (vs. the worldwide average of 2.1 seconds).
  • The time it took for a search result page to load completely (4.6 seconds) was significantly faster than most pages (8.8 seconds).

Average page load times – Google Home results vs. average webpages

Page load time - voice search results vs average webpage

What you can do to improve page speed

The first step is to find out how your website’s current page speed score. Run your URL through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. This will give you speed and optimization scores for both the mobile and desktop version of your site.

Sometimes the tool isn’t able to return a page speed score. In this case, you can run a synthetic performance audit to estimate page speed. To access this report, open Chrome Developer tools by clicking the three dots in the upper right-hand corner > More tools > Developer tools (or you can save some time by just selecting Control/Command+Shift+I).

How to open developer tools in Google Chrome

These tools will not only give you an idea of the speed of your site, you’ll also get a list of items specific to your website to improve. Your next steps depend a lot on those results, but Google points to two factors that are the most important to a site’s speed scores.

  • Render blocking round trips: the round trips required to deliver render blocking resources. If most resources from a page are render blocking, PageSpeed Insights considers a page to have large optimization headroom. The developer could investigate Avoid Landing Page Redirects, Eliminate Render-blocking JavaScript and CSS, Leverage Browser Caching, Prioritize visible content and Reduce Server Response Time rules for optimization.
  • Response size: the total size of the response, including HTML main resources and all subresources. If most of the response body could be eliminated by compression or minification, PageSpeed Insights considers a page to have large optimization headroom. The developer could investigate Enable Compression, Minify Resources and Optimize Images rules for optimization.

No. 3: Secure your site with HTTPS

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is an internet protocol that protects data between the user’s computer and a website. Google called for “HTTPS everywhere” on the web and started using it as a ranking signal all the way back in 2014.

According to Google, HTTPS provides three key layers of protection:

  • Encryption – encrypting the exchanged data to keep it secure from eavesdroppers. That means that while the user is browsing a website, nobody can “listen” to their conversations, track their activities across multiple pages or steal their information.
  • Data integrity – data cannot be modified or corrupted during transfer, intentionally or otherwise, without being detected.
  • Authentication – proves that your users communicate with the intended website. It protects against man-in-the-middle attacks and builds user trust, which translates into other business benefits.

In general, it’s just a good idea to use HTTPS to protect your site visitors’ data, the improved search rankings are just an added bonus. As a general ranking factor, HTTPS should help your presence for search results on any device, but it may have a significant impact for searches on Google Home. According to Backlinko, 70 percent of Google Home result pages were secured with HTTPS vs. 50 percent of all Google’s desktop result pages.

What you need to do to migrate to HTTPS

First, determine if your site uses the HTTPS or HTTP protocol. This is a lot easier than finding page speed. Just open your home page and see if the URL at the top starts with “https://” or “http://” – if you do this in Chrome, you will also see a lock icon and the word “Secure” before the URL.

How to determine if your site uses HTTPS

If your site already uses HTTPS, congrats! You’re good to go.

If you’re still using HTTP, we’ve got a little work to do. This can be a very involved process that may require your IT team or an outside SEO agency.

Here’s overview of the steps you’ll need to take according to Google:

  • Obtain a security certificate from a reliable certificate authority (CA) that offers technical support.
  • Decide the kind of certificate you need:
    • Single certificate for single secure origin (e.g., www.example.com).
    • Multi-domain certificate for multiple well-known secure origins (e.g., www.example.com, cdn.example.com, example.co.uk).
    • Wildcard certificate for a secure origin with many dynamic subdomains (e.g., a.example.com, b.example.com).
  • Use server-side 301 redirects to send users and search engines to the HTTPS page.
  • Support HSTS which tells the browser to request HTTPS pages automatically, even if the user enters HTTP in the browser location bar. It also tells Google to serve secure URLs in the search results.

No. 4: Add structured data to your site

Even though Backlinko’s study found very little correlation between structured data and voice search rankings, this is still a valuable strategy for any type of search result. Adding structured data helps Google understand your website’s content, organize the information and match it to a searcher’s intent.

Here’s a little more detail from Google on structured data:

Google Search works hard to understand the content of a page. You can help us by providing explicit clues about the meaning of a page by including structured data. Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.

What you can do to add structured data to your site

There are a lot of different types of information you can optimize with structured data to help search engines understand your site’s content. You can use a structured data vocabulary like Schema Markup to identify attributes like recipes, products, articles, people, organization, location information, etc. Just find the code you need on schema.org and follow the instructions to add it to your webpages.

Here’s an example of website content without any markup:

Website content without structured data

There’s really no way for a search engine to distinguish that information from any other configuration of letters and numbers on the page. By adding structured data, search engines can understand those numbers and letters represent key pieces of information like the company’s local address, phone number and email address.

Here’s what that same content looks like to search engines after adding structured data:

Website content with structured data

As an example of how this works, Google has guidelines to help webmasters markup recipes to help searchers find them on Google Home. Using structured data, you can specify attributes like reviewer rating, cooking times and nutritional information.

According to Google, pages are eligible to appear for different search features depending on what structured data you add to a page.

  • Search: add recipe structured data to drive better engagement with rich results.
  • Guidance: enable your recipes to be read aloud by the Google Assistant on Google Home.
  • Carousel: add carousel structured data to enable your recipe to appear in a carousel of rich results. This can include images, page logos, and other interesting search result features.
  • Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): Build your recipe pages with AMP to provide instant-loading recipes.

Getting started

These tips are just a starting point, there’s a lot more you can – and should – do to help your site’s ranking in search results. We know not all of these strategies are easy to implement and might take more time and resources that many marketing teams have available.

Need help increasing your site’s presence across voice, mobile or desktop search results? Contact Mindstream Media Group to learn more.

5 Ways Your Brand Can Use Content Marketing to Connect with Smart Speaker Users

Welcome to the second post in our series on how brands can reach smart speaker owners. In the first post, we provided some background on smart speakers and voice search in general. In this post, we’ll start diving into specific strategies brands can employ to connect with smart speaker users. 

An increasing number of smart speaker owners and the rising popularity of voice search have made it crucial for brands to implement strategies to reach these growing audiences. This will require a comprehensive digital marketing approach involving content creation, search engine optimization (SEO), paid advertising, app/skill development and more.

Consumers and smart speaker devices are in a honeymoon phase of sorts, still trying to define the relationship and how best to use the device. In general, smart speaker owners want the devices to automate tasks, help them find information and make their lives easier. As that relationship evolves, brands like yours will need to keep up with how consumers are using smart speakers.

Related – Check out our latest infographic to learn more about how smart speaker owners are using their devices

For now, when consumers do turn to smart speakers to learn about products and services, it’s important that your brand is there to provide the information they need. To accomplish this, let’s look at five strategies to create content for smart speaker audiences.

No. 1: Create the type of content that users want

Some of the most popular ways consumers use smart speakers don’t really present much of an opportunity for brands. Activities like playing music, setting timers and checking the weather aren’t really suited for most brands to create content that connects with users. However, there’s a variety of information smart speaker owners have said they would like to receive from brands.

What smart speaker owners would like from brands

What smart speaker owners would like to receive from brands

Source: Google

No. 2: Create content that matches the way users interact with smart speakers

Going a step further, it’s important not just to deliver the type of content smart speakers users want, brands also need to provide that content in the right tone and voice. By that, I don’t mean swapping out the tranquil rhythm of Alexa’s standard voice with the aggressively-loud pitch of Gordon Ramsay or the awkwardly-suggestive tone of Rebel Wilson; I mean creating content that matches how users interact with smart speakers.

Users tend to interact differently with smart speakers than other digital devices like smartphones and computers. According to Google, 53 percent of people who own a voice-activated speaker said it feels natural speaking to it, with 41 percent saying it feels like talking to a friend or another person.

When consumers use voice search on any device, natural interaction remains the norm. Almost 70 percent of requests to the Google Assistant – which runs on Google Home, smartphones, cars and other devices – are expressed in natural language, not the typical keywords people would use when typing out a search.

This leads to a style of communication that is more natural, conversational and informal – which impacts how digital assistants determine voice search results. A study analyzed 10,000 Google Home searches and found that the average search result was content written at a ninth-grade reading level.

So, if you’re creating content designed to reach smart speaker users, don’t be afraid to be more colloquial, use more rudimentary verbiage and definitely avoid using words like colloquial and rudimentary.

Related – How Multi-Location Brands Can Optimize for Voice Search

No. 3: Create more audio content

When creating content for smart speaker devices, brands should remember the inherent role these devices play – speakers. One way your brand can provide audio content is by starting a branded podcast. Talk about general interest topics that are germane to your industry and provide consumers the information they need to make purchase decisions related to your products and services.

Smart speaker owners

Smart Speaker audiences are consuming more audio content

No. 4: Create high-quality content

This should really go without saying, but if your brand wants to reach smart speaker owners and persuade them to become customers, it’s important that the content you put out is high-quality, relevant and engaging. This is especially true if your brand is looking to rank in the top spot in voice searches (which is crucial given there’s only one result).

Let’s go back to that study mentioned above that analyzed Google Home searches. The study found that the average domain rating of a voice search result was an impressive 76.8 and higher domain ratings are associated with a higher likelihood of ranking well in search results.

Domain rating is determined, in part, by how many quality incoming links a website has from other sites, and links are considered to be one of the most important (if not the most important) factor in search engine rankings.

Search engines see incoming links as votes of confidence for a website since other site owners must think the content is interesting and/or authoritative or they wouldn’t link to it. So, publishing high-quality content increases the chances of getting other sites to link to your pages which leads to higher rankings in search results.

Great content also generates social engagement. While Google has said that social signals don’t factor into their rankings, there’s definitely a strong correlation between the social engagement of a content piece and its performance in voice search results. This correlation is evident by the average number of Facebook and Twitter shares of voice search results. (For comparison, half the content on the web gets two Facebook shares or less.)

Average social shares for voice search result pages

No. 5: Create long-form, in-depth content

For years, a common SEO strategy was to create individual pages for each topic in hopes of ranking for keywords that were exclusive to that subject. However, this practice may not be the most effective at reaching voice searchers.

To understand why, let’s go back to that Google Home search study. The researchers of that study found the average word count of a Google voice search result is more than 2,300 words. On top of that, the study concluded that using specific keywords in a page’s title tag had very little influence on search rankings.

So, what does all of this mean?

For voice search results, this means it may be more effective to create webpages that cover multiple subjects and satisfy a variety of potential queries. The study presented a reasonable explanation for this reverse in SEO best practices:

Approximately 20 percent of all mobile searches are now voice searches (and according to Comscore, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020). With so many voice searches, it’s impossible for Google to find a page dedicated to every query. Instead, Google explores the entire page for the best match for that particular voice search.

Luckily, brands don’t have to recreate the wheel to develop more comprehensive pages. In fact, a lot of websites already host pages that accomplish this goal – FAQ pages. For Google Home searches, 2.7 percent of results were FAQ pages. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s almost double the percentage of FAQ results in desktop searches.

Search results that are FAQ pages

FAQ pages as search results


FAQ pages answer a variety of specific questions making it very easy for search engines to understand the page’s content and present responses via voice search results. Also, FAQs are a great way to offer quick answers while also linking out to other pages on your site to provide more in-depth information. So, if your brand has already created a lot of hyper-specific pages, don’t toss them in the trash. Instead, just link to them from more comprehensive pages. That way, you’ll be covered for voice search and standard search results.

Want to create great content pieces to improve your brand’s performance in voice search results? Contact Mindstream Media Group to learn how our Content Marketing solution can help.

Subscribe to our blog for upcoming posts on strategies for reaching smart speaker users.

How Multi-Location Brands Can Optimize Websites for Voice Search Results

When it comes to media adoption, consumers are a little like speedboats — adapting quickly to the changing currents, ready to go in a different direction and try new paths. Brands, on the other hand, can be more like tanker ships – changing directions slowly, hesitant to change faster than a few degrees at a time. This problem is often exacerbated for multi-location and franchise brands who need to relay changes in organizational direction to hundreds or thousands of decentralized locations.

But, multi-location brands currently have a golden opportunity to change this course. Voice-enabled speakers like Amazon’s Echo and the Google Home have been steadily increasing in popularity. These smart speakers are powered by intelligent, AI-driven software that responds to users’ voice commands and queries. Consumers often rely on these devices to provide essential information to connect with nearby businesses.

US voice-enabled speaker users

While the iron is still heating up, multi-location brands need to start thinking about how they’ll connect with smart speaker users. There’s a variety of ways to do this, from basic steps like making sure local listings are up-to-date and optimized, to advanced measures like developing smart speaker integrations (e.g., skills for Amazon Alexa).

This post was originally published on LSA Insider. Check out the full post to learn more about how multi-location brands can optimize their website for voice search.

Need help optimizing your website for voice search? Contact Mindstream Media Group to learn how our Content Marketing and SEO services can get your website ready to connect with consumers using voice search.

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Buzzwords aside, here’s what retail marketers need to know about consumers’ buying journeys in the digital era

We have more media options now than ever before for consuming and sharing content. We spend our days bouncing between our smartphones, computers, tablets, TV, etc. often using multiple devices at once. This has created an elastic buying journey that requires marketers to shift from media-focused ad placements to audience-focused targeting based on behavior and location. Which, in turn, has prompted a surplus of marketing buzzwords like “omni-channel,” “micro-moments,” “SoLoMo (social, local, mobile),” etc.

To be clear, I’m not bashing buzzwords. Like any other marketer, I use (overuse) them all the time. My point is in the digital era, consumers interact with media differently and, regardless of what we call it, they expect the path to purchase to also be a path of little resistance – an expectation that differs for each consumer.

In that spirit, I’m not interested in coining a new term for – or prognosticating about – the future of the buying journey. Rather, I want to look at what the biggest retailers are already doing to accommodate consumers in the digital era, what those actions mean for the retail industry and what other brands can start doing today to reach consumers.

Consolidating power

Big name retailers have been doing what big name retailers do – developing partnerships, introducing new features and acquiring smaller brands in a quest to dominate market share. Last week, retail giant Walmart and search giant Google announced a partnership to start offering the retailer’s product on Google Express in September.

Until now, Walmart has resisted offering their products online other than on its own site. But with Google Home, Walmart can now offer “hundreds of thousands of items for voice shopping” for consumers to order – or reorder – on Google’s new voice-powered digital assistant.

Walmart and Google announce partnership to sell products with Google Home

comScore estimates half of all searches will be voice searches by 2020 and voice-enabled devices are already disrupting digital media buying. Google Home owns a small share of the device market compared to Amazon’s Echo today, but it’s still early.

Voice-enabled speaker user share in the United States

Google also brings its advanced algorithms and years of experience learning users’ online habits. This should be especially helpful with one feature of the partnership: Walmart customers can link their accounts to Google and get personalized shopping results based on their online and in-store Walmart purchases.

Related: A look at paid search advertising in the Era of Voice Search

This was just the latest in a string of moves by Walmart to strengthen online sales. In the past year, Walmart has started a free two-day shipping feature and introduced an in-store pickup option. The retailer also acquired online retailer Jet.com for a cool $3.3 billion and apparel retailer Bonobos for $310 million.

And the moves are working, second quarter online sales  were up 60 percent this year compared to 2016.

To recap: Walmart now offers free two-day shipping, the ability to order items through an AI powered voice search and personalized product recommendations to consumers. It almost sounds like Walmart is trying to compete with someone…

Taking down Goliath

It seems bizarre to compare Walmart and Google to David but in online retail, there is only one Goliath – Amazon. For comparison, Walmart offers roughly 67 million items online, Amazon has almost that many items in its Cell Phones and Accessories department alone.

While Walmart is beefing up its digital presence, Amazon is venturing out into the analog world. In June, Amazon invested more than $13 billion to acquire high-end grocery retailer Whole Foods, giving the online retailer access to 450 physical stores. (The company is also working on opening its 10th physical bookstore this year.)

But Amazon is still making digital technology an integral part of its offline strategy. Amazon Go is a prime example; it’s the company’s solution to traditional grocery stores by skipping the checkout lines.

“(The) shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning. Our Just Walk Out Technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt.”

If there’s an overarching theme to all these moves, it’s that big-name retailers are trying to offer consumers a buying journey that matches their media habits, blending online and offline options to provide each consumer their personal path of least resistance. In buzzword speak, it’s a “SoLoMo” approach to “omni-channel” advertising designed to reach consumers at the right “micro-moments.”

Improving your digital media campaigns

Competing in today’s media landscape requires each brand to develop its own unique approach comprised of many small puzzle pieces that when put together renders a cohesive strategy. However, there are plenty of little things brands can implement to reach consumers across channels to help guide them towards a purchase. 

Here are a few tips for retail brands:

No. 1: Put the “Lo” in “SoLoMo”

64% of smartphone shoppers turn to mobile search for ideas about what to buy before heading into stores.
For retailers looking to increase sales at brick-and-mortar stores, Google AdWords campaigns offer a variety of strategies:

No. 2: Connect the dots

78% of consumers have spent more time researching a brand or product online than they have in a store.

Consumers frequently go between shopping online and in store, so it’s important to tie online and offline actions. If a consumer spends 95 percent of the purchase process researching online but buys the product in your store, you want to make sure the advertising effort that did the heavy lifting gets the credit.

Attribution is integral to digital marketing, but perfecting it has been the industry’s white whale. However, digital marketers are making huge advances connecting online and offline behaviors and can attribute performance far better than many traditional media placements.

Related: The Latest from Google – June 2017

No. 3: Following the lead

2 out of 5 mobile shoppers leave a website without converting.

Online shopping allows consumers to spread out their research into smaller, incremental shopping sessions (hence “micro-moments”), and they tend to start and stop often. But just because someone doesn’t convert immediately doesn’t mean they’re not interested. Retailers can improve the odds of the consumer returning and make it easier for them to do so by retargeting them – meaning showing them related ads (via search, display, email, etc.) to keep the brand top of mind.

No. 4: Putting the “So” in “SoLoMo”

47% of Millennials use Facebook for holiday gift inspiration – 31 percent use Instagram and 30 percent use Pinterest.

Consumers spend a lot of time on social media and many use the platforms during the holidays for gift inspiration. So be where the people are by placing ads on top social sites. Facebook has several ad options that can drive e-commerce sales, increase in-store traffic or do both. For example, offer claim ads allow brands to extend discounts and promotions to targeted Facebook audiences.

Related: GoWireless boosts in-store sales with Facebook Offers

Moving forward

Implementing these four tips won’t bring on massive change like the Google-Walmart partnership, but they represent incremental steps that retail brands can take today. As more media options become available, brands need to implement these types of changes to reach consumers on as many channels as possible.

To learn more about retail marketing, check out our latest guide: Six tips to unwrapping the holiday season consumer buying journey

A Look at Paid Search Advertising in the Era of Voice Search

Have you had the pleasure of listening to your friends or coworkers shout commands into Amazon’s Echo device powered by Alexa yet?

“Alexa, play Passionfruit by Drake.”

Even if you don’t own an Alexa-enabled device, chances are you’ve heard similar commands. Maybe you’ve even heard the word “Alexa” so much that you can’t bear to hear it again.

Whatever the case, we’re now in the middle of an era where voice search has become a reality. Digital assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant are completely changing the way we search.

The benefits of voice search are tangible and easy to see, but what does the rise of voice search mean for brands and advertisers? Or, more specifically, how will marketers need to adapt to create ads in the era of voice search?

Natural Language Processing has transformed search

With the advent of better Natural Language Processing (NLP)  – technology able to recognize conversational language – marketers are faced with an interesting quandary: Produce relevant results, or get left behind.

The evolution of NLP has made it so that searchers are no longer bound by a keyboard, but rather, are able to articulate exactly what they’re looking for without having to repeat specific words to get the results they need.

And it’s only going to evolve more and more. By 2021, it’s estimated that close to two billion people worldwide will be actively using digital assistants like Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant.

Just think of where we’re already at with voice search and the devices they power:

  • Voice-activated remotes like Roku and Comcast
  • Voice-activated assistants like Cortana in Nissan vehicles
  • Voice-activated Google searches on mobile phones

This trend is only going to continue. Expect more and more internet of things (IoT) integration into our lives, especially when driverless cars start becoming more ubiquitous.

The current state of paid search

As marketers, we’re well-versed in how paid search ads operate — we create ads that entice people to click on them and, hopefully, convert. Generally, we know there are two specific things we can work on to improve ads if they’re not converting – revising ad copy and updating images. The general structure of text ads hasn’t changed for years. The specific mechanisms (radio, billboards, TV, internet, etc.) may have changed a great deal, but the format basically stayed the same… until now.

Incorporating ads into voice search

“Marketers need to think about screenless advertising and playing in a world where they can create closer connections because customers are actually speaking to [the company].”

Amazon has already been pushing customers to use Alexa to make purchases with voice commands. This push aligns with the direction Amazon has been moving in for awhile – trying to remove every barrier standing between their customers and a purchase (think of those Dash buttons that you simply need to push a button to place an order).

What role will ads play in this type of purchase flow?

Using Amazon’s Alexa as a model, let’s try and establish what future voice search ads might look like.

The most obvious difference between voice search and conventional search engines is that users won’t always be able to see search results, which may act as a barrier to conversion. (Note: Amazon recently unveiled the Echo Show, which provides a 7-inch touchscreen as part of its offering. That way, you have all the same flexibility you have with the voice search, but a visual component as well.)

When a consumer performs a voice search, the command is probably going to be more specific, and more conversational, since we can’t instantly see what the ad says to confirm before purchase. So, in order to effectively serve ads that match searcher’s voice commands, marketers need craft ads that reflect the change in search behavior.

How do we do that?

Companies like Microsoft are already betting on a future of “screenless advertising” by shifting their focus from making ads that are just visually appealing to users.

“While that effort and quest isn’t going to go away, screenless advertising will be an important complement to this, as people and consumers start speaking to their personal assistants in a variety of physical environments, but mostly while they are on the go,” said Rik van der Kooi, Microsoft’s VP of Advertising Sales and Marketing, in an interview with AdExchanger.

“Marketers need to think about screenless advertising and playing in a world where they can create closer connections because customers are actually speaking to [the company].”

Where do we go from here?

For marketers, this is an exciting shift, because it allows us to deliver more relevant messages and offers to our customers. Instead of using lots of text to produce ads that might not produce conversions, we can begin to shift towards creating ads that produce meaningful connections to our customers and give them the things that they’re looking for.

Ultimately, that’s how we can embrace voice search as a means of delivering exactly what our customers want.