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GUEST COMMENT Optimise your ecommerce site for the voice and visual search revolution

Optimised websites brought in the Black Friday bucks

The way we search is changing. Gone are the days when an effective SEO strategy meant just optimising content for text-based searches; voice and visual search are the new kids on the block, and digital marketing experts agree they’re here to stay.

The success of an ecommerce site can be hugely affected by its organic search ranking, so with voice and visual search rapidly growing, it’s vital for online retailers to keep on top of the latest trends.

This talk of a visual and voice search revolution might sound daunting, but the good news is there are a few easy ways that these new search technologies can be harnessed to increase online sales successfully.

What is voice search?

Voice search involves posing a question or giving a command to a virtual assistant, such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Amazon’s Alexa. The virtual assistant will then read out what it deems to be the most relevant search result, while the rest of the results may be displayed visually.

Initially limited to mobile devices, voice search has been given a significant boost by the increasing prevalence of smart speakers. While 10% of UK households currently own a smart speaker, this is predicted to rise to 50% by 2022. As a result, voice transactions are expected to be worth £3.5bn by 2022, up from £0.2bn today.

For savvy retailers, this represents a tremendous opportunity. All it takes is an updated digital strategy for capitalising on a new and growing demographic.

How to optimise your ecommerce site for voice search

The first key difference between voice and text-based searches is that most voice searches take the form of questions. Online retailers should, therefore, be looking to create website content that answers potential customers’ questions, instead of just targeting specific keywords. One of the most effective ways of answering these questions is by creating a FAQ page.

Structuring your content this way also makes your page more likely to land in the coveted featured snippet spot in a Google search. Featured snippets are now the first organic result to appear in many searches, and they are also the only result that will be read out by a virtual assistant. This is particularly pertinent now that so many voice searches are being made through smart speakers, as the user doesn’t have the option of reading any other search results.

According to a report by seoClarity, over 20% of featured snippets are triggered by the same 25 keywords. The top three words are “how”, “what” and “best”, and somewhat predictably, “where”, “when”, “why” and “who” also appear in the top 12. Targeting these words gives your site a better chance of ranking highly in voice searches and appearing as a featured snippet.

Another major differentiation between voice and text-based searches is the language used. Voice searches more closely resemble everyday speech, taking a more natural and conversational form. As a result, online retailers should be targeting long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords usually comprise at least three words or more and are far more specific. As a result, they do not bring in as much search traffic as short-tail keywords. However, as they are more targeted, there is less competition, making it easier to rank highly in a search for these terms. They can be a particularly effective way of ranking highly in voice searches, when users are likely to use more detailed search terms.

What is visual search?

Visual search involves a user uploading an image, either from their own camera roll or from another source, and receiving relevant search results in return.

While visual search is newer than voice search, a few trailblazers in the e-commerce sector, such as ASOS, are already showing how effective it has the potential to be.

ASOS added Style Match to its app in 2017, allowing users to upload an image, for example, a photo of a celebrity in a magazine, and then search through clothing or accessories that are similar to any featured in the photo. With around 85,000 products available at any given time, it’s a useful addition to the app’s search functions, helping customers to narrow down their search quickly and easily.

While the way we search visually is likely to continue to evolve over the coming years, for now, retailers can adopt a three-pronged approach.

How to optimise your site for visual search

As with any other type of search, the main objective is finding a way to give your content the best chance of ranking highly in organic search engine results. With visual search, the most important way of achieving this is to assign the appropriate textual elements to all of your images.

Search engines use these textual elements to recognise what is in the image, so images should have a descriptive name that incorporates relevant keywords. Similarly, they need to have a descriptive alt tag and caption, as these are also used by search engines to decipher and index images.

Pinterest launched Lens in 2017, a first-of-its-kind camera search that recommends ideas to try inspired by things users see offline. A year after its launch, Pinterest reported that more than 600 million searches are now carried out using Lens every month, making it one of the most widely used visual search tools currently available. Developing a Pinterest presence is therefore a brilliant way for retailers to increase their visual search success.

Finally, visual search functionality can be easily incorporated into a native app using an API such as ViSearch. This makes it possible for brands to replicate ASOS’ visual search tool, provided they have their own app. The addition of a visual search tool is particularly effective for retailers with larger product catalogues, as the more quickly a potential purchaser can find what they’re looking for, the more likely they are to convert into a sale.

A key focus of any digital marketing strategy should be making it as easy as possible for the right people to find you and your products or services. Optimising your site for voice and visual search can help to achieve this goal, and, for e-commerce sites, ultimately increases sales. This new search technology is only going to become more popular among users, so online retailers who familiarise themselves now stand to reap the rewards in the future.

Author: Paul Delaney, head of digital marketing at PushON.

Image credit: Fotolia 

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