Investment in digital marketing continues to grow amongst companies of all size, and across most sectors – including property-related businesses. This channel is fast becoming an increasingly important means of attracting search traffic and potential customers online. The digital marketing landscape is constantly evolving, and it is important for property businesses to keep up-to-date with the latest technological advancements to stay ahead of the competition in a highly competitive market space.
Microsoft Cortana has 133 million active users, over 40 million people use Siri and Amazon has already sold over 20 million Echo devices.
One development that is beginning to revolutionise search marketing is Voice Search. Google recently announced that 20 per cent of searches on its mobile app and Android services are now carried out by voice, and this number is only likely to increase in the coming years.
Clearly, if you choose to ignore this development, you do so at your peril! Conversely, if you take an active interest in making it work for your property business then you can reap the rewards.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF VOICE SEARCH
Voice search is not a new idea. If anyone has seen the film Alien from 1979 you will know that there was a computer called Mother which you could talk to. We have certainly been interested in the ability to use voice to search for a number of years, but it is not until recently that the artificial intelligence (AI) technology has developed enough to allow it to be a reliable form of searching for information.
VOICE SEARCH TODAY
The statistics about voice search today are proof of just how important this method of search is becoming. Microsoft Cortana has over 133 million active users, over 40 million people use Siri on their Apple devices every month and Amazon has already sold over 20 million Echo devices. These figures are not only staggering, but also prove the growing consumer desire for voice search technology.
The reason for this growth has a lot to do with increased voice search accuracy. Early users of voice search will appreciate how you did not always get what you asked for. Trying to ask your device to ‘Call x’ would often lead to it starting a call with someone completely different and then ignoring your requests to cancel.
Luckily things have moved on. In 2013 the word accuracy rate of voice search devices was just 76 per cent. By the end of 2017 this had risen to an accuracy rate of 95 per cent, which is incredible when you consider the difference in accents and word pronunciation. Further improvements will be made this year. The fact that when you use voice search now you generally receive relevant information demonstrates that more and more people are using voice search, as this has enabled the devices to learn search intent and provide accurate results.
Voice search can be a much faster and more convenient way of searching the web. It’s much easier to speak than to type, demonstrated by the fact that on average we can type 40 words a minute, but can speak 150 words in the same amount of time. And now that the technology is in place to support searches made by voice it is important to adapt your business’s marketing strategy.
WHERE DO PEOPLE USE VOICE SEARCH?
At the moment, the most popular place where people use voice search is in their own home. This is followed closely by the car, which makes sense. When on-the-go driving in the car you may need answers quickly and therefore voice search becomes the most practical way of searching for information. Asking for directions whilst driving are a popular search, so if you are an estate agent it is vital to make sure your office address is listed online.
Word accuracy is an issue, with the same place names in different counties… and issues with places like Towcester being pronounced ‘toaster!’
Voice search is not currently very popular at work, most likely due to people being self-conscious about talking to their devices when their colleagues can overhear. There is a valid argument to suggest this will change as people become more comfortable with this technology and this could introduce a whole new stream of voice searches that are relevant to the property industry, such as asking ‘find me office space to rent in London’.
THE IMPACT OF VOICE SEARCH ON MARKETING
There are a number of challenges now facing marketers as a result of voice search:
Being first in the search results is now even more important
Voice search will have an impact on search engine optimisation. One of the main changes voice search introduces is the fact that only the first result is read out. Suddenly optimising pages to be on the first page of Google is not good enough. Even being second on Google results is not much good. This means it is even more important to be the first result.
What questions are your audience asking?
Search queries from voice are often longer and it is therefore a good idea to start optimising for longer search queries, such as ‘houses for sale in Manchester’ or ‘townhouse for sale in Nottingham’, rather than purely keywords. Start to think about what questions your customers ask you and use this as a basis for content. You may have been asked: ‘what is a good energy efficiency rating is for a house?’ Pay attention to these questions and then create a page on your website that answers that question. If you want to find out what questions your potential customers are asking, then a good website to use is AnswerThePublic, which generates title ideas around the theme you input.
Schema.org is vital
For a search engine to understand what your website page is showing it must be able to understand the page data. This data is delivered in a large part by structured data and this is defined by the schema.org standard. This is the system used to mark-up content on a web page, which then enables search engines to understand the text in the code. By implementing schema.org you will help AI to identify information on your website pages, increasing your chances of ranking for voice search results.
Local Search & Mobile
Voice search is becoming increasingly used in local searches, such as queries like ‘two-bed fl at to rent near me’ or ‘plumber near me’ or ‘where is the nearest estate agents?’. If your business relies on attracting local customers, then it is important to be found when people are asking for the product or service you sell, or the properties you rent. Localised search results come from Google My Business and Bing Places for Business, so make sure your business have these listings set up, otherwise you could be missing out on local search traffic and customers.
Misspelling and Mispronunciation
This is a challenge for AI. The word accuracy rate is now at 95 per cent, but it is still not 100 per cent and this means there is still a margin for error. Just think of how many different places there are in the country. There are places with similar sounding names and even places with the same name, such as Ingleton in County Durham and Ingleton in North Yorkshire. Then when you consider the town of Towcester is actually pronounced toaster, you can start to see a few issues cropping up for people offering homes to rent in any location that is difficult to pronounce or sounds similar to somewhere else in the country. One way to try and help address this is to make sure that you optimise your content specifically and include the region. This means if you have flats to rent in Ingleton, make sure you optimise it for the correct one!
The main reason voice search is growing is the convenience factor. People want results and they want them fast. This is where voice search is efficient as you only receive one result, however this also eliminates choice. For example, if you use Amazon Echo to order a pizza then it will order it from Domino’s because the pizza company has a commercial agreement with Amazon. As the popularity of voice search continues to grow it is reasonable to predict that disintermediation will enter the property market too, as companies with a large market share, and budget to match, realise the potential of dominating a search query such as, ‘flats to buy in London’.
ADD VOICE SEARCH TO YOUR DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY
It is worth investing time and money in optimising your property business’ website for voice search as the growth of voice search shows no signs of slowing down. By 2020, it is estimated that 50 per cent of searches will be voice searches. If your business is not prepared for the shift in the way people search online, then you could miss out on search traffic and, ultimately, lose sales to competitors who have optimised their sites more effectively.
Tim Butler is founder of Innovation Visual, a digital marketing consultancy specialising in digital effectiveness. Recognised by Google as one of the top 30 digital agencies in the UK, Innovation Visual uses the latest techniques in SEO, PPC and online content creation, and is an award-winning Google, Bing and HubSpot Partner. Innovation Visual works to increase website visibility, lead generation, customer acquisition and developing competitive advantage digitally.