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The impact of voice search on the travel industry

How will voice-search affect the travel and tourism industry? And how can travel and tourism brands make the most of this increasingly popular technology?

This article aims to give those in the travel and tourism industry an idea of how voice search will affect them as its use grows and specific things to do to make sure your brand is ready.

Voice search in 2018

There are dozens of articles that talk about the proliferation of voice search, so we won’t get into too much detail here. The important thing to note is that voice search is on the rise as technology improves and people use voice for more and more tasks including search.

The key takeaway is: we all need to be ready for voice search

Click here for a long list of statistics that support the prediction that “50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020”.

How we search

Internet users learned to how to write queries for search. A quick look at AnswerThePublic shows how we developed a search engine lingua franca – ‘Googlanguage’. We modified or removed grammar, and only recently started to ask direct questions. We thought of what we wanted, thought of the question you would ask a person, and then translated it into Googlanguage.

In recent years, search engines have moved away from keywords towards Natural Language Processing to give better search results. Keywords alone don’t allow for the complexity of how we might be looking for something, or which answer we want. Google wanted to know the intent of our search.

Universal adoption seems assured

How good is technology getting at recognising conversational language? This good…

Nudge Theory holds that if you want someone to adopt something, make it easy. And what’s easier than asking for something out loud, as you would of a human? Universal adoption seems assured.

Voice search in travel and tourism

While voice search will no doubt affect all industries and markets to a certain extent, how will it affect your niche? How will flight searches differ from hotels? How will different demographics search differently? And what content should we create to make sure we’re at the end of those queries?

Informational vs commercial

For example Moz predicts that voice search will be used more for when people want ‘instant answers’ and not want to click through to a page to find the answer. These are served by ‘snippets’ (the boxes that appear directly on a Google results page, drawn from a third-party site). While this may not bring you traffic, Moz say that snippets do in fact drive traffic – as well as valuable brand awareness.

In this way, some sites compete with Google for traffic. Will your site be safe? If your site delivers facts and information, you may not be. But if your site is ecommerce, has recipes or tutorials or entertaining content, you are more likely to be.

Maybe a portion of your business comes from meta-search sites such as SkyScanner. How they optimise for voice may affect your business.

Microsoft claims that travelers in Great Britain are increasingly researching accommodations through their Cortana digital assistant on mobile devices with hotel searches seeing an increase of 343% year-over-year and flight searches increasing by 277%.

Monopoly

A key question: what will happen to the small number of big players who continue to have the monopoly in the world of online search?

According to EyeForTravel’s Tim Gunstone, the dominance of the big four (Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple) in the voice search space could mean there’s trouble in store for travel firms.

“Google was the most amazing way to sell hotel rooms out there, they [travel companies] piled in and Google ratcheted up the price so it is no longer affordable. The industry has developed strategies to cope with effectively a media monopoly currently, but this is going to happen with Amazon voice, and Google voice and all the other voices coming along. The monopoly aspect is the most worrying thing.”

The problem will arise for travel businesses when the big players in voice search start selling the chance to be listed in results. Businesses are asking what they’ll have to pay to be referenced in Google Home. Small businesses may be priced out of the market

The tourism industry needs to be ready for voice search

 

Travel and tourism: get ready for voice search

Voice search optimisation (VSO)

The key to success is for travel businesses is to address the following questions:

  • Are people using different keywords from when they do a normal search?
  • And, does Google return different results because of it? IE: is there an opportunity to discover how people search differently with voice, and to optimised for these new searches?

Content on websites must be optimised to follow a conversational tone, to offer responses to anticipated queries, and to optimise for longer keywords that voice searches are typically characterised by. This may also mean demand for new keywords.

It is important to note that many businesses get most of their revenue via meta-review sites such as Trivago.com who will have their own voice search optimisation – and this will therefore be applied to your content.

The importance of long-tail keywords

Because people are increasingly using voice searches, it is important for your business to review its SEO strategies and activity. When users decide to conduct voice searches, they have a tendency of using several words or even complete sentences. In fact, the way people search for content using voice is completely different; they actually have discussions with their connected devices. Long-tail keywords (more than three words) are therefore more important than generic keywords.

How to find your long-tail keywords?

Tools such as AnswerThePublic can give a good idea of how people are searching for things, but what insights will we be able to access about voice search? The data itself will be more disparate and we will have to wade through to find patterns to define those keywords, and create content to directly answer that question.

Optimising content for questions

In addition to optimizing content using more multiple keywords, brands and marketers must also take into account that voice searches are often in the form of complete sentences, often in the form of questions or requests (“show me…”).

For example, someone typing into Google, might write ‘best music venues in London’, but people speaking are more likely to ask the question: “What are the best music venues in London?”

In order to improve your SEO and ranking for voice searches, you must identify questions that people could potentially ask regarding your business. Once you have completed this step, you can include these questions in the FAQ section on your website or create content, such as blog posts, that answer these questions.

Play ‘Jeopardy’
This is a worthwhile exercise for any content optimisation, but especially relevant for voice search.

  • Look at your existing content
  • Write questions that would be answered by this article
  • Check that this is a keyword (question) with search volume
  • Answer these questions out loud (maybe do this with a colleague).
  • Is your page optimised to say exactly what you just said? Is it written like an answer to the question? Does the page contain everything it needs to answer that question?
  • If not, make it so!

Further’s Head Of Search Jon Falgate, delivered a great presentation in which he delivered the perfect metaphor and method for defining on-page content for ecommerce sites. Treat your website like a shop.
Someone walks into your ‘shop’. What do they ask? “Do you sell pens?”
What would your answer be?
Probably not: “PaperRight has been selling pens since 1945.” But so many websites put the wrong content in front of its visitors.
The simple metaphor shows how jarring the wrong answer is, but so many websites end up losing potential customers who come from Google because, once on-page, they can’t find the answer they were promised and end up bouncing.

A travel example might go:
Customer: “Hi, do you have cheap flights to Zante?”
Shop: “We fly to over 200 destinations!”

Using the ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘shop’ exercises you should be able to hone your on-page content to answer all searches more efficiently and more productively.

Testing
When you test your content and SERPs, you should add voice search as part of your testing and reword it a few different ways to see if you rank.

There will doubtless be a tool to do this testing automatically, and may even suggest common/average voice searches.

 

Images and voice-only search

Some predictions state that more and more search will be done without a screen. Voice searches being answered vocally. Others predict the ‘death of the mobile’ as we move to smaller tech such as networked earpieces and other wearables like Apple Watch.

But images are essential to travel marketing, so how will this be affected by voice search? Everyone acknowledges that photography is an irreplaceable part of booking a holiday, so voice-only search may be low for the industry.

Algorithms take away the need to browse, but travel still involves the most complex algorithm of all, us. We need to process a huge amount of information that no one (or no thing) else can, so just as we still have to browse hotels in TripAdvisor and airlines in SkyScanner, so voice-only answers, snippets and simple information/answers won’t work for travel content (especially ‘conversion’ content).

Even so, there may be some queries that can be answered by voice, and you can work to define what these are. See section on FAQs.

Best practise: FAQs

You may find that the best way to address all of these questions, is to create an FAQ. Create an FAQ with sections on important web pages that ask questions users would ask and provide useful information that satisfy the queries. This way, the answer will directly address the question in a way that makes sense to the question, ie: grammatically, syntactically as well as semantically.

As mentioned above, some of your ‘answers’ may be suitable for voice answers, and you should bear this in mind as voice-only grows, amending copy to be more colloquial if demand (and opportunity) grows.

Despite your FAQ being informational, you might consider including a call-to-action. For example:

Q: What is the best time to go to Costa Rica?

A: March to September if the best time to go to Costa Rica as the rainy season runs from October to February. Would you like to look at flights?

Local search

Voice search is highly localised, so how will search engines respond to the broad nature of many travel searches? Many travel and tourism-related searches are local: ‘beaches near here’, ‘tours near here’, ‘best restaurants in New York’. Will Google serve you more results for Manchester airport if you’re searching in the North? And what will this mean for your brand?

Is there an opportunity for you businesses to optimize for local searches? Does your site answer questions that tourists ask when they’re travelling? If so, you could reference any well-known landmarks or nearby attractions that could help gain visibility when travelers are trying to find the business. Not only will this help travelers find the business when they’re out and about, but it’ll also make your listing rank better.

Website navigation and UX

More than ever, brands will need to re-think product-first content navigation. Many people have learned to navigate sites that seem to have been created for the brand, not users. As voice-search grows brands must build sites that are more intuitive so that Google can deliver the great customer experience it is striving for. Who does this well? What can you learn from them?

Youth opportunity

Younger demographics are using voice search more, so you might choose to focus on optimising content that relates to younger couples and families first.

Current limitations

  • Amazon Alexa (working with Kayak.com), offers voice search-powered hotel bookings to those a Kayak.com account, but it doesn’t allow for price comparisons. Instead it just returns a single highly ranked result. There is also no payment via Amazon yet.
  • Kayak’s voice search integration requires users to have a Kayak account so only Kayak’s results are affected. This may extend to Google results if they expand this feature in the future.
  • Apple, Google, and Microsoft have already enabled voice search for hotels and are working on applications for users to complete bookings.

Do you want help with aspects of your SEO strategy, including voice search? Why not give us a call to see how we can help grow your business?

 

 

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