Optimizing for position zero: The future of voice search

It’s still early days in the world of voice search, and yet already this new type of device and search engine use is – according to comScore – expected to account for up to 50 percent of the global search market next year. That’s a major shift in consumer behavior in only a few short years.

Digital assistants are becoming increasingly prominent in our homes and on mobile devices, and their ubiquity will only increase.

But where exactly is the brand play in voice search? How developed is the opportunity, and what specific strategies do brands need to apply to benefit from this trend? Let’s take a look at the current state of affairs and, more importantly, where things will go in the next few years.

The current focus on position zero

When you hear marketers talk about voice search today, you probably hear a lot of talk about Position Zero, also known as the featured snippet. This is the content that Google offers in the top search results position in hopes of directly answering a search query. In the desktop and mobile screen worlds, the top content is followed by a host of other search results. In the world of voice search, position zero is everything – the only information that will be relayed to the user. As such, especially for businesses, getting to position zero has become the new imperative. Exactly how to do that, however, is still an open question.

As with all things in the search space, best practices for optimizing for position zero are going to evolve over time. But businesses looking to be a step ahead when screenless search becomes the new norm are focusing on a few key areas:

  • Relevance through data: Being the most relevant for a given voice search is all about giving the search engine what it needs to tailor response for the user – a user whom the voice assistant knows intimately. The more context offered, the higher the likelihood that a digital assistant will pair your business with a potential customer. For example, if you’re a restaurant, this means ensuring the engine can find accurate information on digital profiles regarding not just location and hours, but also customer ratings and reviews as well as details like whether you’re pet-friendly, offer patio dining, feature gluten-free options, and more.
  • Feed the featured snippet: If you want to be the featured snippet to a given query, make sure your website and profiles provide complete, succinct answers to the questions most likely to lead people to your business. This could be within the first paragraph of a blog post, in an FAQ on your site, or in various other areas of content.
  • Prioritize schema: This is SEO 101, but it’s even more important for voice search. Make sure your site is following an agreed-upon structure for how search engines read content, as organized via Schema.org.

While these basics can help businesses increase their relevance for voice search today, we’ve only seen the beginning of what voice search will mean for digital marketing efforts in the future. How will this transformative shift play out over the next few years?

The beginning of the curve

Despite the rise in voice search behavior, the business models that will evolve around this opportunity are still emerging. Right now, the biggest tech players in the world – Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook—are investing deeply in voice search for three reasons:

  • Voice search represents a core technology that can extend across business lines.
  • It represents a transformative user experience that reduces friction and moves people away from screens.
  • Voice search represents a major new way of tapping into emerging markets like India and Southeast Asia, where mobile devices and behaviors are overwhelmingly dominant.

Big tech is investing in voice search for the above reasons, but they’re not really monetizing it yet. That’s going to change in the next couple of years, and when it does, an industry and vendor community will spring up around their monetization models quickly, just as we saw with SEO and SEM in the past.

When the realm of voice search and voice advertising takes shape, it will be the brands that are experimenting now that are poised to win. Now is the time to test and learn, regardless of whether businesses are able to reliably demonstrate the ROI of their efforts today. Every minute invested in better understanding emerging voice search behaviors and opportunities, particularly as it relates to how a brand’s target audience is using voice search, will pay dividends in the voice-dominated future.

There’s no question that voice will rule the future of device interactions. The only question is whether your business will emerge as an early leader in this space in the coming 24 months – or whether you will be forever playing catch up.

Ashwin Ramesh is the founder and CEO of Synup, the NYC-based Intent Marketing Cloud that helps consumers find the right information about them on the web, mobile, and voice search.

The post Optimizing for position zero: The future of voice search appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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admin November 21, 2019 0 Comments

Google’s average position sunset: Are you set up for the transition?

On September 30th, Google turned off average position as a metric for search campaigns and now requires advertisers to transition to new impression share and impression rate tools.

The news was first announced in February as an effort to establish more accurate and transparent forms of measurement. Advertisers now get to experience how often ads are appearing for eligible searches (share) and how often ads are showing at the top of the search results page (rate)—and while these new tools will ultimately be beneficial, the forced change from Google will undoubtedly stir up routine for many advertisers.

Here are a few ways advertisers can get set up with the rollout of new metrics.

Understanding the basics

To understand the impact of this change, let’s first define impression share and impression rate. Impression share is the percentage of impressions an ad receives compared to the total number that the ad is qualified for on the search engine results page (SERP). Impression share is a novel way to discover room for ad performance improvements—it displays any missed opportunities by showing how often a certain ad showed up in the top search results.

In contrast, the average position did not properly measure whether ads showed up above the organic results or not; it just showcased their order compared to other ads. Advertisers were left with a guessing game.

Impression rate shows advertisers how often their ads show up at the top of the SERP based on their total impressions—in other words, what percent of the time an ad is in the very top spot (absolute top) or shown anywhere above the organic search results (top). These details address another shortcoming of average position since even an ad in position two might be at the bottom of the page.

Measuring impression share and impression rate

There are three versions of impression share, all which measure ad impressions divided by the total eligible impressions for that ad, but based on different locations on the SERP:

  • Search (abs.) top IS: The new impression an ad has received in the absolute top location (the very first ad above the organic search results) divided by the estimated number of impressions the ad was eligible to receive in the top location. This metric is new.
  • Search top IS: The impressions an ad has received anywhere above the organic search results compared to the estimated number of impressions the ad was eligible to receive in the top location. This metric is also new.
  • Search impression share: This already-existing metric measures impressions anywhere on the page.

For the impression rate, there are two metrics that are only based on ad impressions, not the total number of eligible impressions.

  • Impr. (absolute top) %: The percent of ad impressions that are shown as the very first ad above the organic search results.
  • Impr. (top) %: The percent of ad impressions that are shown anywhere above the organic search results.

Optimizing for awareness and performance

If an advertiser is more focused on driving awareness than ROI, impression share and impression rate are both greatly valuable, as they guarantee the ads are meeting a visibility threshold and can boost awareness.

On the other hand, advertisers using Google’s new impression share options in Smart Bidding should be cautious. The impression share data is not accessible on the same day, so it’s hard to track performance – and setting a high target may significantly boost spending by making an ad eligible for additional, unwanted auctions. A better strategy for Smart Bidding is to bid to impression rate, which has data available intraday. This approach allows advertisers to optimize their impressions showing at the top of the SERP.

As a general starting point, the easiest way for advertisers to set targets is to look at recent performance for campaigns across the three impression % (rate) metrics. This should ensure the smoothest transition from targeting a position to targeting impression share.

Impression share metrics table updated

Setting up for the transition

Advertisers using Google have been encouraged to focus on the impression metrics for some time. Still, many advertisers probably feel an impact from the shift to these metrics, particularly because of the new obstacles it presents for bidding strategies. Therefore, advertisers should set the right bids to achieve their shared goal.

With this switch to the new metrics, advertisers should check any rules that support average position, and update reports and saved columns that include the average position. The following applications may include average position:

  • Bidding settings and AdWords rules
  • Custom columns
  • Saved reports (especially any with filters)
  • AdWords scripts
  • Saved column sets
  • Scorecards that use average position in dashboards
  • URLs using the {ad position} parameter

Google announced it will be automatically migrating “Target Position on Page” bid strategies, but there’s no certainty on a timeline or details regarding the migration. Therefore, advertisers should watch for any campaign targeting average position from now on to ensure they’re getting the expected results.

Wes MacLaggan is SVP of Marketing at Marin Software.

The post Google’s average position sunset: Are you set up for the transition? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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admin November 12, 2019 0 Comments