Is your hotel optimized for voice search?
Is your hotel optimized for voice search?
As the Internet’s global expansion is entering a new era, the biggest tech companies in the world such as Google, Facebook and Amazon have already started to imagine how the world wide web will look like for “the next billion” users. Silicon Valley experts argue that this new generation of users is very different from the first billion. Newcomers are avoiding text, and instead rely on voice activation and communicate with images. It is no surprise then that voice search is one of the most interesting emerging trends in digital marketing.
Independent hotels that want to stay at the forefront of technology might be eager to find out how to optimize their properties for this new channel. After all, Gartner predicted that by 2020, 30% of searches would be voice-activated. This “voice first” interactions extend the browsing experience to multiple activities such as driving, cooking, walking, exercising, operating machinery, etc. We know that it sounds amazing, but before we go into the different strategies your hotel can implement to optimize for voice search, let us explain how this technology works and how it may change search engine marketing in its current form for good.
What is voice search?
Voice search is a speech recognition technology that allows users to search by saying terms aloud rather than typing them into a search field. Some applications of voice search include features that allow users to ask queries requesting specific information (such as a sports score), as well as launch programs and search for content in audio or video files. This technology is divided in two different areas: home assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, and voice search using your smartphone’s virtual assistant (think Siri and Cortana) to return results on a screen.
Amazon Echo/Alexa and Google Home are the current market leaders for voice assistant devices. Amazon alone has sold over 20 million Alexa units so far. This area of voice search is mostly screen-less, which means one-answer responses. Amazon was the first company to incorporate screens into the devices when it launched Echo Show last year. Now more companies – like Google and its Google Home Hub – are incorporating or planning to incorporate screens into their devices. The other area, which is technically defined as “dictated search”, uses voice command to pull up search engine results on a screen via Siri or Google Voice Search.
What does this mean for hotel marketers?
Voice search via smart speakers has not made a huge impact on how people book flights and accommodation, as the lack of screens is a real hindrance. When consumers perform travel research, they rely on imagery and visiting multiple websites before they are ready to book. As discussed above, however, this might change in the future with the introduction of newer, more sophisticated models with screens. While most current experiences using voice assistant devices to research hotels can be frustrating, Amazon Alexa, in association with Kayak.com, offers voice search-powered hotel bookings with no small amount of success, although the service has some important limitations, namely:
- visitors cannot compare prices and, similarly, there is no payment via Amazon yet; and
- the technology requires users to have a Kayak account.
The information above tells us, therefore, that should hoteliers choose to ignore this new trend and do nothing in terms of web optimization, OTAs and metasearch players like TripAdvisor and Kayak.com will be one-step ahead in no time.
How can hoteliers capitalize on voice search?
Hoteliers can prepare themselves and position their properties ahead of the competition by enhancing the “visibility” of their hotels when they implement these voice search specific optimization tips:
- FAQ content: Hotels should focus on developing FAQ pages and website content that answer common questions about the hotel, the local area, directions to/from main transport hubs, as well as queries around hotel services and amenities. When your marketing team optimizes content to appear in the most user-friendly voice search formats, such as Google Quick Answers, this will increase your hotel’s chances of being selected for that “position zero” spot. Marketing guru Neil Patel also recommends creating dedicated blog posts based on your customers’ questions. He argues that creating content around customers’ queries significantly increases your likelihood of appearing higher in voice search results.
- Conversational language: When we use a computer, we use short phrases to find information because it saves time and effort. On voice-powered devices, the searches are more like a conversation with the personal assistant. Therefore, users are more likely to use full sentences and questions as voice commands. It is estimated that almost 70% of voice searches are made through natural or conversational language. Before crafting any piece of digital content, hotel marketers should compile a list of common queries asked via web chat, hotel reception or social media. Your team can also use a tool like Answer the Public to get an idea of the consumer’s mindset. You can even interpret a user’s intent based on the type of question phrase they use. While “what” and “who” questions signal that the consumer is in the research phase, “where” questions indicate the consumer is almost ready to buy.
- Local listings: 22% of people use voice search to find local information. This makes sense, as most mobile users are on the go. Your first port of call should be to claim your Google My Business listing. Make sure your name, address, telephone number, website, star rating and amenities are correct. It is also important to associate your listing with relevant categories. Ensuring your listing is up to date can increase your hotel’s chances of appearing in local search results. You can increase your bookings by optimizing your website content for important location-based keywords such as landmarks around your property and phrases people use to describe your neighborhood/area.
It is becoming clearer that independent hotels will need to adjust their SEO strategies to optimize for voice search in the near future. Voice recognition technology is undoubtedly evolving rapidly as an increasing number of consumers use voice commands every day to interact with their smart devices and appliances, so do not let this new revenue opportunity pass you by!