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Voice-Search: Putting Your Airport on the Map

23 Jul 2019
Alwyn Joy

Voice technology is becoming embedded in everyday life. Use of tools like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Microsoft Cortana and Apple’s Siri and HomePod is now commonplace.

The most frequently quoted statistic is the prediction that Google claims 50% of searches will be conducted using voice by 2020. While this figure is skewed by the Chinese market, and the original forecast also included image-based search, there’s no doubt the technology is taking off. According to Location World, in 2016 2 in 5 adults used voice search at least once daily. In January 2018, 40 million Americans owned a smart speaker.

While consumers are still more comfortable using voice technology at home than in public, there are also interesting correlations between social aspects such as income and voice search use, with research from Stone Temple showing higher reliance on voice from top earners across usage locations. Millennials and Gen Z, both important demographics for Travel, represent a large proportion of voice search users.

The potential for airports is huge, and some are already successfully using the technology.

In 2018, Virgin Australia became the first airline outside of North America to launch voice check-in through Amazon Alexa. In the UK, Heathrow Airport launched its Alexa skill, allowing customers to ask for live flight status information, details on arrivals and departures and gate updates. In the US, United Airlines passengers can use Google Assistant to start the check-in process by saying, “Hey Google, check in to my flight.”

It’s clear that voice technology is likely to have a significant impact on the relationships between airports and their customers. The way information is requested and shared is changing. Voice will play an important role in creating a personalised, frictionless travel experience. The technology offers potential benefits throughout the passenger booking funnel and loyalty loop.

However, this change in search habits represents a major shift in SEO. After all, the purpose of your airport website is to facilitate interested customers to find and purchase your products and services. If consumers are increasingly turning to voice search it becomes necessary to optimise your site for voice. Only in this way will you meet customer expectations, offer customer satisfaction and stay abreast of the competition.

What is voice search?

Voice search is the process by which a person makes a search engine query via a device such as a smartphone or home ‘assistant’ by speaking out loud to it.

How does it work?

The technology uses speech recognition to understand the query. It then looks for a match online to find an answer. On a mobile device the user is often directed to a webpage to answer the question, whereas a smart speaker is more likely to read out the information it finds.

While Google initially played catch-up to Amazon with voice tech, measures to incorporate natural language processing and Google voice search optimisation have upped the game across the board. Developers have built in considerations around the way Google processes searches, how people seek information and the customers’ overall attitude around search engines. The end goal: Convenience.

How is voice different from ‘traditional’ search?

When people use voice search they tend to rely on a very different way of communicating. Typed searches normally flag up keywords, and the predictive terms in the search bar can even guide the language used to input a query. Many web users remember the original search query style where they could only type absolutely relevant words.

Although the keyword style search, which relies on a string of unconnected, ungrammatical terms, is still popular in typed searches, AI is learning to understand a more conversational style of language. This not only includes searches asked as complete questions, but the ability to follow on from one question by providing relevant related information.

When it comes to voice, old-style keywords aren’t going to cut it. Even within the constraints of a person-to-machine interaction, most people will not find it convenient to speak in keywords, and so websites must be optimised for voice search in order to respond to a more natural style of query.

The four main differences between text and voice search

1. The length of the question

When customers type keywords or phrases, more often than not their queries are unlike spoken questions. For example, if they are looking for a family holiday, they might start by typing, “All inclusive holiday deal Exeter 2019”. Well, you wouldn’t walk into a travel agency and say that, would you?

If the same customer is using voice search, the query will be longer. In fact, voice searches are on average 76.1% longer than text-based searches. In a voice query, the customer might ask, “What are the best all inclusive family holiday deals flying from Exeter for Summer 2019?”

Take this difference in length into account when optimising your website SEO for voice.

2. There will be more questions

The customer is likely to ask questions rather than make statements. When typing, most people use only 3-5 words, but digital assistants can often be thrown by longer questions. As a result, people tend to ask their digital assistant a series of compact questions in place of one longer query.

3. Expect the intent to be stronger

Once you have optimised for longer key phrases, you can use these to target very specific segments of your market. This means that when visitors arrive on your site via voice search their intent is likely to be strong because your content is more relevant to their original query.

Rezcomm can help your airport to provide your customers with relevant, value-led content using the advanced segmentation and automated marketing tools in our omnichannel ecommerce platform.

4. The local impact is important

Voice search is three times more likely than text search to be location specific or used for local queries. Location signals are an important factor in search optimisation.

Optimise your airport website for voice search

It’s important not to lose the purpose of a website in the rush to optimise. Pages need to retain value. Over-targeting content can actually cause more harm than good.

Advice from Google on successful optimisation suggests the following steps:

  • Use Schema Structured Data.
  • Create natural sounding content – it should be clear, well structured and flow freely when read out loud.
  • Avoid pages of links or large tables of data – if you’re targeting for voice search you’re looking to satisfy a customer who appreciates convenience. Acknowledge this in your page formatting. For example, consider discussing the contents of a table in a clear manner and using the table itself as a visual device to back up the text.

Google’s Voice Search rater guidelines indicate that Google designs its technology around searches that are brief and to-the-point. It follows then that content which is easy to read and understand will perform better in voice search.

The principles of basic SEO also come into play. These include:

  • Domain Authority/Trust
  • Website speed
  • Current Rankings

4 Steps to build voice-friendly keywords

1. Begin by researching keywords

We’ve already seen that voice search means longer key phrases rather than short keywords due to the nature of speech. Although the user is speaking to a device, the experience remains founded in linguistics. Questions are longer; sentences contain more conjunctions and idiosyncrasies.

Equally, many voice-activated devices will bypass search results for certain questions and head straight to a product action. For example, if a customer using an airport app says, “Book airport parking,” they won’t be directed to a list of airports with car parks – the app will take them straight to the booking page.

2. Look at long-tail keywords

Keywords have always been essential for SEO. But as we’re learning, the keywords for voice SEO are not always the same. One of the necessary components with the more conversational style search prevalent with voice is the long-tail keyword. Long-tail keywords are phrases that are similar to the questions a customer will ask of their smart device. This means the keywords are often phrased as questions.

3. Apply long-tail keywords to your airport website

Start by working out what it is people may search that your website can answer. You can look at keywords that have brought customers to your site in the past. These search terms can then be turned into questions. Remember, you’re looking for keywords that are genuinely conversational.

4. Create a FAQ page

A page answering common questions allows you to source more long-tail keywords about your content. By discovering the questions that site visitors ask about your products and services you can identify long-tail keywords specific to your airport that you can then optimise. FAQ pages also provide valuable content for your customers.

Where do voice search results come from?

When a user asks a question and the voice-activated device answers by reading out the top results, the answers it shares tend to come from Google’s Answer Box. Sometimes known as the ‘featured snippet’ or ‘position zero’, this is featured right at the top of the search results page.

If you can optimise your content so it is likely to appear in this spot, you will be best placed to benefit from relevant searches.

Google’s Answer Box works well for searches like:

  • FAQs
  • Question-based searches
  • How-to guides
  • Calculations and conversions
  • Health (particular symptoms of illnesses)
  • Requirements
  • Processes

Your content is more likely to appear in the top spot if it already ranks well organically. Strong SEO and ranking can be boosted using the following techniques:

  • Make sure your content appears in short, easily digested paragraphs
  • Include how-to guides or answer questions
  • Optimise page content for long-tail, conversational keywords
  • Include lists that Google can easily understand
  • Provide the best answer to the question asked by the user

Optimise for local search

Many voice queries are location specific and local. Even with a ‘near me’ question, Google will track the user’s location and suggest relevant answers.

The phrase ‘near me’ is a keyword that is relevant to every business. Whenever that term is present, Google’s voice search algorithms will search business listings. Add to this the fact that 58% of consumers have used voice search to find local business information within the last year, 46% of voice search users look for a local business daily and 27% visit the website of a local business after conducting a voice search, and the importance of setting up a Google My Business listing becomes clear.

Make sure you fill in the essential business information including category, contact information and opening hours. By making this information available, you will help boost your site’s search rankings with Google. You can also use the insights available in Google My Business to optimise your listing.

Optimise for search on mobile

A significant number of all searches are conducted on mobile (over 50%) and 50% of B2B search queries are made on smartphones, expected to grow to 70% by 2020. According to Google, 20% of these mobile searches are taking place using voice technology.

The integration of mobile is unquestionable, so mobile optimisation is a no-brainer when it comes to incorporating voice search into your airport’s strategy. Check these steps to ensure you’re achieving mobile optimisation:

  • All the resources on your site must be ‘crawlable’. This means that the links to and within your web site are discoverable and can be followed by search engine spiders.
  • Social proof and reviews are important for ‘best of’ searches.
  • Local queries are three times more likely on mobile devices than on desktops, so focus your mobile optimisation on local content – this includes title tags and meta descriptions
  • Your site must have a responsive design.

Your airport’s voice search optimisation strategy

Voice search is an incredibly convenient way for travel customers to search. Airports are embracing the technology and passengers are seeing the benefits. Voice search devices are now accessibly priced and mobile technology is continually advancing, influencing a significant change in search linguistics. Airports must continue to adapt their current and future strategies to customer expectation and search habits. The good news is, if your airport website already has good rankings this is not difficult.

Adapting to voice search begins with the relatively simple task of evaluating the keywords that draw visitors to your site and rephrasing them as questions. These questions, and various versions of them, will form the basis for long-tail keywords that will get your airport seen in voice search results. Produce new content including an FAQ page, but remember to write naturally. Quality, contextual, consistent copy attracts good rankings.

While there will always be a place for traditional SEO, any airport that wants to embrace customer focused operations will need to adapt. In 2019, voice search is the most logical SEO transition for all businesses to make.

Rezcomm is the partner of choice for airports worldwide. We are experts in accelerating airport revenue through smart, intuitive tech. If you have any questions about how you can use our integrated platform to optimise your website for traditional and voice-activated search, contact us for a chat.