voice search marketing

Featured Snippet: How to ace the coveted Answer Box on Google

  • Administrator
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  • 3 April , 2019
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    • 7 min read

If you’re trying to successfully drive traffic to your website’s blog page, getting to the top of Google’s search results is your biggest task. However, if you thought ranking at the number one position was the ultimate goal, you now have a new contender – the Google Answer Box or Featured Snippet.

What is the Google Answer Box?

Google introduced its new Answer Box feature in 2015. Referred to as the Google Answer Box or Rank 0 or Featured Snippet, this feature is a box you see above all search queries on Google. The Answer Box provides users with quick and easy answers or “snippets” of information. These answers are selected from content that ranks on page one,  but not necessarily Position One.

Google Answer Boxes are not only convenient for users who are looking for answers, but it is also an excellent opportunity for brands to gain more page visitors, as Google Answer Boxes get a 2x higher click-through rate and steal most of the organic traffic on the internet.

Before we dive into a few more details, here’s a quick video on the benefits of Google Answer Boxes and how you can rank for them.

Types of Google Answer Boxes

Before we get into how you can optimise your content to get a Google Answer Box, let’s take a look at the four different kinds of Featured Snippets.

  • Paragraphs – These are the most common type of Featured Snippets. Here, answers to a particular search query will appear in the form of a paragraph. The answer to the query might be longer in the source page, but the Google Answer Box will display a small, quick response that works.

Optimising content for Paragraph Featured Snippet

Paragraph Featured Snippets will only include a short section of your content – around 40 to 50 words, so be sure to provide your answer within that limit. To maximise your chances of getting a Paragraph Featured Snippet, use the query as the title and then answer the query directly below, as seen in the example.

  • Lists – These Featured Snippets will be either in the form of a numbered list or a bulleted one.

Numbered Featured Snippets appear for content that explains a step-by-step process. For example, a recipe or DIY project.

Bulleted Featured Snippets, on the other hand, will display content in a bulleted list where the order of the information doesn’t matter.

Optimising content for List Featured Snippets

To optimise your content for a Numbered or Bulleted List Featured Snippet, you need to ensure that your content is formatted in the form of bullet points. Like in the case of a Paragraph Featured Snippet, you can maximise your chances of getting picked up by having the query as your main title and answering it directly below, this time as a list. Another way to optimise your content is by outlining steps in your blog post, and using each step as a heading.

  • Tables – Table Featured Snippets are great for showing a collection of data. You don’t necessarily have to format your information in the form of a table as Google will do it for you.

Optimising content for Table Featured Snippets

Start by doing the work for Google – put your information in a table. Not only will this make your website’s visitors happy to get all the information they need at a glance, but it also makes it easier for Google to find your content. Finally, start with an appropriate heading followed by your table of data.

  • Video – Of late, a lot of videos have been showing up in the coveted “Position Zero” spot. Googles chooses videos to help answer a number of “how to” queries, highlighting a few seconds of a clip in a particular video that will best answer the searcher’s query. You can see the highlighted clip (the blue bar) in the image below:

For further information on how to get your videos to rank, head over to our in-depth article on YouTube SEO Tips: The Secret Sauce to Ranking Videos in 2019.

How to further optimise your content?

Now that you know the basics of optimising your content for the different types of Featured Snippets, let’s delve a little deeper into a few more best practices you can adopt for your content to get its own Google Answer Box.

Be clear and concise

The first rule of getting a Featured Snippet is ensuring your content answers specific queries. More often than not, when a user types in a query, it is in the form of implicit or explicit questions and long phrases.  Structuring your content to answer these questions and phrases effectively is how to rank in Position 0.

For example, if the query you wish to get a Google Answer Box for is “Best residential localities in Coimbatore” try and match it as closely as possible to that keyword so that you have the chance to appear as a Featured Snippet. Additionally, make sure your answer is precise and that you stay within the prescribed word limit of 40 to 50 words (a maximum of 100 words) or 3 to 4 sentences. If you’re looking for more information to rank higher in the search results, take a look at our blog on must know Google Search tips and tricks.

Target queries that already have a Google Answer Box

Efficient and effective keyword research is the cornerstone to any great piece of content. Creating content without adequate keyword research is like shooting an arrow in the dark – you stand very little chance of ranking in Google’s SERPs.

Before you begin writing content for a Google Answer Box, start your keyword research by looking for question-type queries – those that begin with what, why or how, as well as long-tail queries with no question words. The aim here is to include a seed keyword with as many long-tail keywords as you can in your article. This way, you can create well-written long-form content that answers multiple related questions in a clear and cohesive manner.

To intensify your keyword research, there are a number of tools at your disposal, namely Moz’ Keyword Explorer, Answer The Public or Ahrefs. These tools will be able to throw up more results related to your search query helping your broaden your search for keywords that trigger a Google Answer Box.

You can also browse through Google's own "People also ask" section to further research your topic or selected keyword. These related questions can offer massive insights into what Google considers related topics to your own. You can also check out our blog on On-page and Off-page SEO Tips for 2019 for more information.

Very often, many of Google’s Answer Boxes are filled with content that doesn’t fully answer user queries. Target such examples and ensure your content is better aligned to what users are looking for. If your competition has a Google Answer Box for a particular keyword, read through the content and analyse if you can create similar content or can modify your own existing content to better respond to the search query. This increases your chances of getting your own Answer Box and staying in Position 0 for much longer.

Optimise your UX for better crawlability

Getting a Featured Snippet isn’t just about the quality of your content. You can also improve the design and experience you provide your visitors. Not only do phenomenal UI and UX play critical roles signal Google to rank your website higher, but also heighten your chances of holding on to your Featured Snippet.

Constantly monitor and track progress

Once you’ve achieved your Featured Snippet, work does not end. Answer Box results can change in mere seconds, so the onus is on you to constantly track your progress – for how long you have managed to sustain your Position 0 or if you have slipped down the rankings. Try different things like opting for a table or a list instead of giving information in the form of a paragraph, or answering queries that appear in Google’s related search queries. Including high-resolution images with the right captions and tags and structuring your content with appropriate headings and sub-headings in H2 and H3 tags are also a few ways to help you improve your content and the user experience you provide.

Optimise for Voice

The final point to keep in mind is optimising your content for voice search. India is seeing a 270% year-on-year growth in voice searches, as revealed in the 2017 Google India ‘Year in Search’ Report. As marketers, it becomes imperative for you to action change and leverage the power of Voice Search marketing to tap into India’s next billion users. A vast majority of them will be accessing the internet from Tier II and Tier III cities and Voice Search is a more convenient option than typed queries, particularly because they will be engaging in vernacular languages.

Additionally, Voice Search queries are very often picked up from Featured Snippets, particularly by smart speakers like Alexa and Google Home. Brands will need to constantly update and optimise their content to stay in Position Zero to feature prominently for Voice Search queries. You can also check out our detailed video on Voice Search Marketing for more information.

With these tips in hand, you’re now ready to win your own Google Answer Box! Remember to implement all of these strategies as Google’s Answer Box feature is in a constant state of flux, with rankings and results changing overnight. Keeping yourself up-to-date with the latest trends in digital marketing, will enable you to rank higher, achieve a Featured snippet and sustain it for an extended period of time. Before you go, take a look at our informative video that further explains how to optimise your content for a Google Answer Box.


Is SEO really dying? It’s complicated

  • Rhea
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  • 25 March , 2019
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    • 9 min read

Quite possibly no other component of digital marketing has been as subjected to the imaginations of conspiracy theorists as SEO has. Almost every year, new claims come out about the death of SEO which are then consequently debunked by experts in the field. But this time, the assertion isn’t coming from marketers pushing for more PPC campaigns, but from concerned content creators themselves.

So why are experienced professionals in the field worried that 2019 could signal the death knell of SEO? Here are a couple of factors that might explain their fears.

  1. Organic CTR is the lowest it’s ever been

With every SERP feature that Google adds, click-through-rates take another dip. In the past, if a user were to search for the weather, they would have to click on a result, enter the website and look for their answer on the page. But now? The search results would look something like this:

This feature is great for users who can now get their queries answered faster, but for a website? Not so much!

These new features don’t just affect broad searches but long-tail queries as well. A first-time real estate investor, for instance, might search for ‘how to calculate stamp duty’ to clear up their questions on it. When they do that, Google will present them the answer neatly packaged in this featured snippet:

If you are wondering how to get the coveted featured snippet. Here is an interesting video:



Since the user already has the answer to their question, they might not feel the need to actually click on the website. What this means for content creators and website owners is that while their search rankings might improve, overall organic traffic to the website might not grow proportionally.

  1. Google Maps eats up local search traffic

Businesses, understandably, want users to visit their website for all information related to them. This is especially important for local businesses such as restaurants and cafes since purchase intent is typically higher for local searches. However, Google might be hoarding most of this traffic for itself. If a user searches for cafes or restaurant, for example, their search results today looks very different than it did just a few years ago. In the past, they would see a restaurant listing when searching for ‘Chinese food near me’, click on the website link that appealed to them and check out the menu and contact details on their website.

Today, while they will still see restaurant listings, clicking on one will take them to Google Maps and not the restaurant's website.

 

 

Of course, a user will still be able to utilise the information provided by Google to visit the restaurant or make a reservation (and thereby convert into a customer). But a business’ website might have less reach and decreased organic performance.

  1. Mobile search is most heavily impacted

For the last few years, a mobile-first approach to SEO (and almost everything related to digital marketing) has been adopted by marketers everywhere by implementing strategies like AMP. The number of mobile users and mobile searches have also been on an upward trajectory in the last few years, underlining the importance of mobile SEO. However, recent statistics about the nature of mobile searches have emerged, making marketers wonder if mobile SEO still has the same ‘do-or-die’ effect that it did a year ago.

According to Rand Fishkin of Moz, mobile no-click searches have grown by 11 percent, almost 2.5 percent higher than no-click searches on desktop. With these seemingly gloomy numbers, it’s no wonder that websites and brands are worried that they might be losing out on a chunk of their organic mobile audience.

  1. Voice search is increasing no-click searches

Voice search can be interpreted as both a boon and a bane for marketers. On one hand, it’s a growing new platform to make their brand more visible to users and one of the biggest digital marketing trends of 2019. On the other hand, no-click searches are most prevalent on voice search. For brands and marketers, this poses a unique conundrum: is voice search worth ranking for or will it provide absolutely no value in terms or traffic and brand awareness?

But does this mean SEO is dying?

The simple answer to that question is, no. With SEO, when one door closes, another opens. There are certainly many facets of SEO that are dead or dying today, but that has always been the case since its inception. As users, platforms and Google’s algorithm evolves, SEO needs to adapt to keep up.

Instead of getting bogged down by all the alarming statistics being thrown around about the end of SEO, marketers should instead focus on realigning their SEO strategy in the following ways.

  1. Grow branded searches

If there’s one keyword that Google cannot steal traffic from, it’s searches for your brand. For example, if a user were to search for just ‘digital marketing companies in India’, Google would first list out map listings of companies.

However, if they were to directly search for ‘Social Beat’, none of Google’s SERP features would show up to distract them from clicking on our website.

Going forward, therefore, brands need to focus on building the strength and volume of branded searches if they want relevant traffic on their website.

  1. Shift focus from volume to CTR%

Most keyword research today consists of analysing keyword volume and difficulty alone. But with the new SERP features, high volume keywords don’t necessarily guarantee high traffic from them. To counteract this, content creators should include a third dimension when choosing keywords to optimise their content with: CTR percentage. By carefully choosing a keyword that has a high click-through-rate, content marketers can be assured that they will be creating content that will drive organic traffic to their website and not just adding to Google’s no-click search percentages.

You can do a simple CTR analysis through most keyword research tools. In this example, we used Ahrefs to dig deep into our focus keyword, ‘digital marketing blogs’. According to the results that the tool gave us, this keyword is worth trying to rank for as 65% of those searching for the keyword have clicked on a result.

  1. Design content for SERP features

In the case of SERP features, content marketers are better off following the adage, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them!’. A featured snippet, can either steal traffic from your website or increase it depending upon how you tailor your information for it. If a user can get all the information they require for their query from the snippet without having to actually click on the link, chances are they aren’t going to visit your website. But if you can offer users just enough information and intrigue them so they click on your link to read more, then the featured snippet can be the most powerful tool in your arsenal to drive traffic to your website.

For example, if a user knows that this list includes 10 mobile wallets, but the snippet only displays a few of them, they will be more likely to click on the link to read the full list.

  1. Develop innovative content based on long-tail keyword

Creating 10x content and using long-tail keywords have always been the cornerstones of modern SEO, but they were never more important than they are today. The goal for content marketers today is to create in-depth content on nuanced topics that cannot be pigeonholed into any of Google’s SERP features. Essentially, the longer a keyword is, the greater the chance of your actual website ranking for it and not an answer box or any other feature.

Even if parts of your content can snag a featured snippet, it should offer your audience several useful elements that they need to click on your link to explore. The demand for interactive content is on the rise and thankfully, Google hasn’t found a way to display interactive tools directly on SERP yet. Tools like calculators, interactive maps, planners and more can drive organic traffic to your website and offer immense value to your readers.

If SEO is dying, then the one thing offering it CPR is pillar content. This unique comprehensive content format has created waves in the SEO sphere, promising almost an instant surge in traffic and even several high-quality leads. The secret ingredient that makes pillar content so powerful is that it is linked to several related articles within your blog, providing instant link juice to each of them. Because of this, organic traffic to your blog and overall website improve dramatically.

For example, we created a pillar for our client Shriram Properties on ‘A Complete Guide for First-Time Homebuyers in India’. Within a matter of weeks, it started ranking for over 1000 keywords in total and for 100 keywords on page 1. Achieving similar results for a regular page within such a short time span would have been close to impossible with a regular page.

  1. Meta titles and descriptions still matter

If there’s one thing that has stayed constant in the ever-fluctuating landscape of SEO, it’s that meta descriptions and titles can make or break your organic traffic. These two elements are the simplest, yet most crucial aspects of SEO. If all your hard work has helped your content reach Page 1, but the title and description aren’t compelling enough for users to click on it, your traffic is unlikely to show any improvement. It is also important that content creators don’t get disillusioned by the variety of SERP features available today. A study by Ahrefs found that featured snippets get only 8.6 percent of clicks, while the next result gets 19.6 percent of the clicks!

So even if your brand has lost out on the featured snippet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your organic traffic will drop because of it.

  1. Branch out with barnacle SEO

Instead of putting all your eggs in a single basket, barnacle SEO offers you a way to spread your chances to drive more traffic and increase brand visibility. Today, ‘aggregator sites’ are more visible on Google than they ever were. These sites, for example, Zomato, Urban Clap and Little Black Book, list companies and services on their website. If a user were to search for best massage parlour in Chennai, their search results are most likely to throw up aggregator sites and not individual massage parlour websites.

Is this disheartening for individual businesses? Not necessarily. Trying to compete with aggregator sites will be a David vs. Goliath situation since these sites are typically larger and have a higher domain authority. Instead, businesses should try to get featured on aggregator sites to make their target audience aware of their brand and increase traffic to their website. Getting featured on a compilation can also increase the brand’s credibility in the eyes of the user.

  1. Get a headstart on YouTube SEO

With all the panic about Google’s CTR shrinking, many marketers tend to forget the second largest search engine in the world: YouTube. YouTube is beneficial for marketers for two reasons: 1. It’s a new platform to reach out to users and 2. It can help brands rank on Google as well.

The number of subscribers and video views on YouTube is growing exponentially - particularly in India. If you are finding it challenging to rank for a relevant keyword on Google because of high competition, YouTube could be an excellent way to circumvent this. You can read our in-depth blog on YouTube SEO Tips: The Secret Sauce to Ranking Your Videos to get started!

The second reason to optimise your videos for YouTube is just as important. One of Google’s SERP features is video listings pulled from YouTube that are related to a search term. If your brand is able to create a video that also ranks on Google’s SERP, then you will automatically be able to increase visibility and awareness of your brand.

This strategy is a great way for marketers to beat Google at its own game and use SERP features to their advantage.

You can also check out our video on 'YouTube SEO: 8 Powerful Tips to Help Rank Your Videos'.

  1. Gear up for voice search

Voice search can be viewed as a disruptor or facilitator, but one thing’s for sure: marketers cannot afford to ignore it. Here are just a few incredible statistics on the growing importance of voice search:

  • 28% of search queries in India are through voice
  • By 2020, 50% of all global searches will be in voice
  • There is a 270% YoY growth in voice searches in India

To avoid being left behind in the voice search wave, marketers need to optimise their websites and brands to appear for voice queries. This can also help them reach out to new internet audiences, those who are from tier 2 and 3 cities and are more comfortable using voice than typing out a query.

If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, it’s that content marketing backed by continuous optimisation still has the highest ROI compared to any other type of campaign. By getting an early head start and implementing these elements in your content strategy before your competitors do, you can cement your position on Google’s SERP.


9 digital marketing trends in India that will shape 2019

  • Divya Premkumar
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  • 25 February , 2019
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    • 6 min read

It’s no secret that the world of digital marketing is constantly in a state of flux. What works today might be completely obsolete tomorrow. If your brand is still continuing to use the same techniques in 2019 as you did in the previous year, expect to see declining results. To ensure your brands stay on top of its digital marketing game this year, here are nine of the most important trends to stay ahead of.

An explosion of vernacular content online

The online space in India is set to get even more colourful and diverse. As even larger numbers of users get access to low-cost internet and affordable mobile phones, there will be a greater demand for internet content in the languages they understand best. To cater to this growing internet audience, brands need to push vernacular to the front and centre of their digital marketing strategy. Right from their websites, to their apps, social media campaigns, performance advertising and even social media listening, Indic languages should be the focus.

Speaking to regional audiences involves more than just taking a brand’s main communication and translating it into various languages. Instead, it requires them to develop communications aimed specifically at these audiences, keeping their unique needs, challenges and desires at the core. Only by doing this can they create that all-important personal connection with consumers. 22 Languages, one of the top vernacular startups, is designed specifically to help brands reach out to a larger audience in vernacular languages.

Read our case study on How Multilingual Ads Helped Generate Higher-Quality Leads With Lower CPL to learn how vernacular techniques can produce unprecedented results for your brand.

Growth of voice search

The seeds of voice search were sowed back in 2018, but it is in 2019 that this trend will fully come into its own. Today, it isn’t just mobile that’s driving voice search, but the proliferation of smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Voice Assistant. The push for voice search will also be coming from the other end of the spectrum, from users who are just starting to use the internet or who might not even know how to type. But regardless of who the audience for voice search is, one thing is certain: SEO as we know it will have to change. Traditional keyword research will become obsolete since user queries will be completely different when using voice search. Voice also means that position zero, the ‘featured snippet’ will become even more coveted. 99% of voice search results draw from the featured snippet, so content creators will have to focus even harder on optimising their content for Google to pick it up. 

Be sure to watch our detailed video on a complete guide to Voice Search Marketing for more tips and insights.

Videos and interactive content

While videos have been around for decades, they have only recently started exploding on digital platforms and social media. In 2019, if your brand doesn’t have a strong repertoire of engaging, high-quality videos, you could be missing out on a sizeable audience. YouTube, the world’s second largest search engine, can become even more essential in 2019. Through techniques like YouTube SEO, brands can ensure that their content is visible to relevant audiences. For tips on how to rank your videos, read our in-depth article: YouTube SEO Tips: The Secret Sauce to Ranking Your Videos in 2019.

But the importance of videos extends beyond just YouTube. Videos on landing pages and in emails have been shown to improve performance and conversions. Facebook is also witnessing a growing popularity of videos. In one survey, around 44% of respondents admitted to watching at least 5 videos every day on the platform.

As videos gain momentum, multiple video formats are also being developed and explored. Interactive videos are emerging as a popular option due to the higher user engagement they deliver. In these videos, users are required to take some form of action which can influence the video. This could be either in terms of the content displayed or the storyline that the video takes. Apart from interactive content, live videos are also creating a stir. Currently, they are available on Instagram and Facebook, while YouTube is also starting to introduce it. Live videos are a great way for brands to showcase ‘behind-the-scenes’ footage and develop a more personal connect with their audience.

Smarter interactive chatbots

Chatbots have been slowly making an entry from 2017, however, chatbots in 2019 will be more intelligent than ever before. Most chatbots currently have a limited script, usually offering a fixed set of options that users can choose from. Once the query is narrowed down, users are often transferred to a human representative to resolve it. With the advent of AI, however, chatbots are likely to completely replace the human aspect previous involved. They are programmed to be smarter, respond to a wide number of queries in a meaningful way and resolve issues without requiring any human intervention. In fact, through AI, chatbots are likely to be able to keep up a long conversation with users without coders having to input a long script beforehand. As the technology matures, you can expect chatbots to become even more ubiquitous as brands capitalise on their low cost and higher efficiency. 

AI for better audience targeting

AI isn’t just for smarter chatbots; it is also becoming the most accurate way for brands to identify their core audience and develop core messaging for them. Through a combination of machine learning and artificial intelligence, predictive customer analytics can eliminate much of the guesswork involved with digital marketing.

One way they do this is by assigning a ‘lead score’ to leads generated. AI can analyse large volumes of leads at a time, identify common patterns, group them into various buckets based on their behaviour and help you create hyper-personalised content for them. Since personalisation is key to nurturing leads, AI can almost certainly lead to higher conversions for marketers. AI can also identify similarities in current consumers and generate custom targeting options that marketers can utilise to ensure more accurate delivery of ads. This will help improve the quality of leads generated via digital. 

UX and AMP for desktop 

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) was a crucial mobile ranking factor for websites in 2018. In 2019, the importance of AMP will not be limited to mobiles alone. Google recently made AMP available for desktops versions of websites as well. With this feature, users will be able to enjoy the same speed and easy navigation that AMP offers even while browsing on their desktop.

With the introduction of this feature, it’s time for brands to re-look at their website and how user-friendly it is. By making their websites (or at least critical, content-heavy sections like blogs) AMP-friendly, brands might be able to enjoy greater visibility on search engines. Since AMP pages are also easier for users to navigate through, an improved UX can encourage them to spend more time on the website and learn more information about the brand.

Find out how AMP landing pages helped us achieve a 33% lower cost-per-lead.

Growth of Programmatic Advertising

In 2019, almost 65% of all digital media buying will be programmatic. Programmatic is without a doubt the most cost-effective, efficient way for advertisers to purchase digital ad space. Unlike previous methods which required human intervention and manual bids, programmatic algorithms can determine the best media mix and automatically purchase it. This technology enables marketers to reach a scale previously unthought of. They can target larger audiences over a wider variety of channels with absolutely no time or effort lost. Since it can optimise in real-time, markets can do a lot more with their budgets and reduce their cost-per-leads.

Decline in organic search and traffic

With every new SERP feature that Google introduced, organic traffic takes a hit. Click-through-rates have been steadily dropping and 2019 will be a continuation of this trend. Answer boxes, for instance, answers a user’s query without them having to actually click on a link. So while your page might show up on a featured snippet, you might not notice a significant rise in organic traffic to that page.

So does this mean the sun has set on the SEO empire? Fortunately, no. This just means that marketers will need to re-align their SEO strategy. For example, they will need to start focusing more on creating brand awareness and driving up brand searches. When users start searching for your company’s name, Google cannot prevent users from clicking on your website. It also means tailoring your content specifically for higher click-through rates. You need to give users enough information that Google picks it up and displays it, but not enough for their curiosity to be satisfied. If users are only getting half an answer from your snippet, they are more likely to click on your page to get the full information.

Decline in organic reach on Instagram

Previously, organic reach on Facebook had taken a hit, with pages showing close to zero reach without paid promotions. In 2019, all signs are pointing towards Instagram going down the same route. As Instagram grows in popularity and adds new users every minute, it predictably wants brands to start paying for higher reach. If your company page doesn’t have adequate promotional budgets, then it’s time to scale up this year. But while showcasing your brand on Instagram might become more expensive, it’s still completely worth it. India currently has around 71 million active users and this number is only set to grow from here. Clearly, brands cannot afford to neglect this audience, paid or otherwise.

2019 is proving to be an exciting year for brands, giving them opportunities to experiment with new ad formats and strategies. By taking advantage of these upcoming trends, brands can gain a strong lead over their competition.

This article was originally published in Campaign India.

If you're looking for more information into digital marketing trends that will shape India in 2019, doc check out our co-founder Vikas' in-depth video


The most definitive guide to Voice Search Marketing

  • Rohit Uttamchandani
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  • 19 September , 2018
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    • 6 min read

Did you know that 28% of search queries in India are already done by voice? And that by 2020, 50% of all global searches will be voice searches? In fact, India is seeing 270% year on year growth in voice searches, as revealed in the recent Google for India event.

The rapid adoption of personal assistants - Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana - is changing the way consumers search the internet. Voice search is fast becoming the preferred mode for people to interact with their connected devices. The Mary Meeker 2018 Global Internet Report also noted the advancements made in voice technology and its growing adoption. 

So how do we as marketers adapt to this change? Well, that's what this article is all about!

We'll talk about the growth of voice search, what it means for you as marketers and how you can use it to drive awareness, engagement and sales for your brand.



Well, to start with…

Why is voice search so important?

The traditional screen interface is losing out to voice

Over the last decade, laptop and mobile screens have been the primary ways users have interacted with the internet. However, with the advent and growth of voice assistants, particularly smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo, this is changing.. and changing fast!

The interaction has now started happening through voice, with smart speakers, without using a screen in most cases.

As marketers, we have spent years optimizing for screen User Interfaces and screen User Experiences but when there is no screen anymore, then these aspects become obsolete. The focus is now shifting to building conversational User Interfaces and screen User Experiences, which we will talk about later in this article.

For new internet audiences, voice is the preferred mode of input

The second thing which makes voice so important is the ability to reach new audiences.

Think about it - the next wave of India's Internet growth - the next billion or so internet users - are going to be largely from smaller cities and towns. For most of them, voice is a much easier and effortless way to interact as compared to typing on a small screen device. While there are indic keyboards to help these new users, voice is also a natural way to ask a question or query. Google is seeing a 270% year-on-year growth in voice queries in India. As a marketer, voice is your gateway to reach them.

Great, so now that we've seen why voice is important, how do we leverage it?

How you can make voice a part of your marketing strategy:

1. Relook at your keyword strategy:

Almost all the keyword research that we do today is based on keywords that are typed into a search box.

However, the queries that people type in are drastically different from queries that people ask a personal assistant.

Think about it - let’s say you wanted to know who the CEO of Google is. If you're using a laptop, you would just head to Google and type "Microsoft CEO".

If you're using a personal assistant like Siri or Alexa, you would ask "Who is the CEO of Microsoft".

The first query was two worlds long while the second one was 6 words long!

Voice queries are almost always conversational, tend to contain questions and tend to be much longer. The average query length on desktop is 1 to 3 words, while voice is 7 to 8 words.

In fact, Moz pulled out data for query length for Cortana searches and compared that with the query length for general text searches. This is what they found:

 

This changes the way we as marketers should approach our keyword strategy. Brands will need to start optimizing for longer voice-based queries, as compared to shorter keywords that are more used with traditional typed search.

2. Optimise for the Answer Box:

For those of you who use voice assistants frequently, where do you think the assistant pulls up most of its answers from? Well, most of it comes from something called an answer box.

Let me give you an example. Let's say you ask - "Hey Google, what are the top marketing blogs in India?"

Google gives you this answer:

 

Your browser doesn’t support HTML5 audio

You can see that the assistant credited the brand site here, from which it pulled out the answer.

Now, type in the same query into a Google search box and you will find that the assistant actually read out the answer from the first search result:

 

This is the answer box, also called a featured snippet or "position zero". To ensure your brand gets featured in answers to relevant voice queries, start building and optimizing content for the answer box.

Here’s a great guide from Moz on how to optimize for featured snippets.

3. Prioritize Local SEO:

A good percentage of voice searches are for local queries. For example, "What are the best Chinese restaurants around me" or "Where is the nearest coffee shop?"

Owing to this, optimizing for voice search becomes all the more imperative for businesses with a local physical presence. Ensure your local SEO strategy takes into account location-specific conversational based queries.

Here is a useful article on how to capitalize on voice search for Local SEO.

4. Leveraging Google Home Actions and Alexa Skills

The smart speaker market, led by Amazon Echo and Google Home is projected to reach 225 million installed devices by 2020.

Currently, there’s no way to run sponsored ads on Amazon Echo or Google Home, though I personally feel this will roll out at some point in the near future. However, as marketers, you can use Alexa Skills and Google Home Actions to drive audience engagement, product use and even a new point-of-sale.

Quite a few brands have already started doing this. Just search for Alexa skills in India and you will find all the skills that are currently available.

 

Brands like ClearTrip, UrbanClap, Byju's and FreshMenu have been early movers here and are already using this to engage their audiences in different ways:

 

 

 

 

In the US, Tide has a very useful stain remover skill, with step-by-step voice instructions on how to remove over 200 types of stains - a great example of digital marketing for FMCG brands tailored for voice.

 

Another example of a brand using Alexa Skills really well is Nestle Purina, which helps you find the best canine companion for you, based on your lifestyle.

 

 

5. Build a conversational UI and UX

As the interface to interact with the internet moves from screen to voice, brands must start focusing on building more conversational user interfaces and experiences, modelled on natural human conversation. To start with, this could be as simple as adding voice functionality to the search bar on your website, which can now be done fairly easily by using the Google Web Speech API. Chatbots are another example of a conversational user interface

Voice is here to stay

Voice is one of the biggest trends in digital marketing in India at the moment. As marketers, the faster you begin adapting to it the better.

So, which of the points that we have just talked about are you going to act immediately? Are you going to relook at your keyword strategy? Are you going to optimize for position "0"? Or are you going to try building Alexa skills? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments below!


Google India Search Report 2017: Online Consumer Behaviour

  • Mrinali Fernandez
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  • 17 June , 2018
  • |
    • 8 min read

While bidding farewell to 2017, Google India came out with a comprehensive report titled, ‘Year in Search’ which throws light into the way Indian consumes content. Google’s annual report offers a unique perspective on India’s most significant trends, major events and local and topical interests that reflect the ever-changing psyche of India’s online millions.

As of 2017, India’s internet users were estimated a little north of 400 million. Today, that number is closer to 450 million. While that number constitutes less than 30% of our total population, it is the second largest online market after China – and it is only growing. By 2020, the Year in Search India report estimates more than 650 million Indians will be online. That’s double the population of the United States.

Every day, more and more Indians are discovering the internet and integrating it into their daily lives – to look for information, entertainment, answers and everything in between.

The report spans 11 verticals and delves into consumer behaviour to reveal what goes on in the minds of India’s next billion internet users and the implications this has for brands and marketers. Here are the top five emerging trends identified in the report.

Non-metros emerged as superstars

Non-metros in India are quickly catching up with the major cities regarding internet usage. Voice, vernacular and video are three key pillars that are showing strong and steady growth. Search queries are growing at a faster rate in non-metros than metros. In fact, 2 in 3 queries are from non-metro cities. And given the growth of regional content online, Hindi is of course still the dominant language; other regional languages like Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Punjabi are swiftly gaining prominence online.

This only goes to show that brands would have to focus on Tier II and III cities and digital marketing strategies would have to focus on languages apart from English. This is the only way to reach the right target audience.

Digital drives revenues

2017 saw digital undergo a major paradigm shift – from a support-marketing channel to a full-fledged business platform of its own. According to the digital marketing industry report that we recently released, 68% of brands leverage digital marketing to promote their products and services.

Sectors like auto, banking, finance and insurance (BFSI) showed a direct correlation between online research and offline purchase. A leading OEM’s sales were driven 20% by digital. Similarly, sectors like FMCG and banking saw entire transactions being carried out online. Consumers relied on Search to educate themselves and discover products before finally converting online. For instance, consumers not only searched for hair care tips online but also looked for products that would help them solve their hair problems. As per the report, the Internet will influence $45 billion of FMCG sales in India. This is further proof of how digital will revolutionise the FMCG sector.

Digital transactions and e-commerce

Growth spurts in e-commerce, travel, finance and digital media have driven online consumer expenditure, which is expected to grow 2.5 times to $100 billion by 2020. Furthermore, the report projects that India’s online spender base will expand 2-3x its current volume to reach an astounding 180-200 million by 2020. There was a 70% growth in Telco-owned owned mobile wallets like Airtel Money, Vodafone mPesa, etc. All these figures point to a robust e-commerce ecosystem.

The omnichannel experience

The online and offline are merging to create a holistic story. The lines between digital and physical consumer behaviours continue to blur. Take for example – a 50% increase in search volume for “stores near me” indicating that online searches for stores are an now an integral part of a consumer’s shopping experience. Similarly, the auto industry saw an astounding 79% of car buyers making purchases after watching a video online. These examples reinforce the fact that what happens online directly affects what happens next offline.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence

Newer technologies like AI and machine learning are upping the ante, leveraged as marketing and business solutions. Across categories, Google’s Year in Search shows several examples of a market primed to take on the benefits of AI and machine learning. India’s auto industry saw intending car buyers take favourably to 360-degree video and virtual reality, which could potentially replace test drives. Insurance players turned to AI-chatbots to efficiently answer user queries at scale. Concurrently, content consumption patterns on video viewing platforms continue to be influenced by machine learning.

Sector-specific trends

Auto

As per the Google trends in India report, online searches related to the auto sector are on the rise. This is more so in non-metros where digital sales drove 20% of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) sales.

Two wheeler insurance saw a 100% increase in queries, while searches related to parts and accessories and servicing saw a 43% and 70% rise each.

The report also states that car buyers are now looking for a more omnichannel experience. This is evidenced by a 50% reduction in offline touch points during the buying process. Car buyers are relying more on the internet for videos regarding their vehicles and virtual test drives prior to finalising. In fact, 71% of consumers believe VR test drives and 360 videos could replace the conventional method of test-driving a vehicle. Videos are the simplest way of building your brand and utilising the video medium was one of the key digital marketing trends of 2017.

Banking, finance and insurance

Business and personal home loan queries saw a massive surge, as did searches related to banking solutions and information about mutual funds. BFSI brands have also seen a significant impact on driving consideration and overall digital acquisition as a result of using a “search bar” as a call to action. Businesses also began utilising machine learning for speech to text translations and sentiment predictions in their call centre transcripts, all of which have resulted in a seamless experience and improved efficiency for customers and businesses alike. All in all, leveraging digital marketing for the financial industry has proved beneficial.

E-Commerce

2017 was a good year for the e-commerce sector. There was a 41% growth in shopping queries, most of these coming from non-metros. The most significant growth markets are Patna, Lucknow. By 2020, digital spending and women shoppers are expected to grow by 2.5x.

The largest e-commerce category is fashion with a 53% growth in fashion e-commerce queries. Other fast-growing sectors include baby care, growing at 36% and groceries showing an average growth rate of 65-70% between 2017 and 2020. The report evidences that online shopping is increasing beyond India’s metros; searches in Hindi and other regional languages have gone up by 61% with Hindi commanding the highest share.

Education

Education is rapidly coming up online; it comes as no surprise that learning and education related searches grew by 2x, while education content on YouTube grew to 4x. Non-metros showed more than 100% growth, with maximum interest in courses that taught new technology, i.e. machine learning, cloud computing, artificial intelligence.

For young Indians today, there are a plethora of jobs and career options you can take up with the reach and convenience of the Internet. Follow our YouTube channel Arrear Irundalum Career for tips and tricks on making it big in life by following your passion. Here's a quick video on Job Interview Tips to help get you started. You can also check out our Arrear Irundalum Career website for further career guidance tips!

Fast Moving Consumer Goods

Digital is spearheading business for the FMCG category, particularly the beauty industry. 2017 saw a 60% increase in beauty related searches and searches related to parenting and baby care buying decisions.

Much of this is also influenced by YouTube as there is a 4x growth in watch time for baby care videos. According to YouTube Brandcast 2018, more than 50% of women professionals watch YouTube videos for more information before purchasing in categories like beauty, real estate and automobiles.


Trying this for one of your FMCG clients, On1y, we created an unusual video to advertise their brand and to keep their viewers engaged. The overall reach for the video was over 10,000,000, the total views on YouTube were over 480,000.

Local and classifieds

Online gaming is showing a staggering growth rate; online gamers are expected to reach 310 million by 2021. There was a 2x growth in online gaming queries, with 55% of them coming from outside of the top metros. There was a 70% growth in online food ordering and home deliveries, with 4 lakh orders daily on average. Foodtech startups like Swiggy Zomato have completely transformed the way urban India eats, and currently, rule India’s food tech landscape. Google search is also playing matchmaker and headhunter with a 40% increase in job searches and a 38% growth seen in dating app searches and matrimonial websites.

Real estate

Real estate, too, saw a 43% jump in search queries and a 49% growth in searches related to affordable housing.

Showcasing properties on digital platforms is one of the most effective ways for developers to sell their properties. With a multitude of techniques including advertising on various platforms, multilingual content and a strong search engine marketing, real estate developers can generate even a 190 crore in revenue using the digital media.

Media and Entertainment

Regional content ruled all aspects of entertainment with a 100% growth in vernacular entertainment watch time on YouTube. There were high conversions and growth in watch time when viewers were exposed to a TV ad for a show online.

We have witnessed first-hand the power of regional content on YouTube. For the ‘Good Netizen Good Citizen’ Campaign by The Murugappa Group, we at Social Beat conceptualised for a video that would resonate with their audience base. Since The Murugappa Group is based out of Tamil Nadu, Tamil language content would be more natural for their audiences to understand and relate to.

These videos performed incredibly well on YouTube - one of them even received over 570,000 views. Users actively engaged with the video, commenting and sharing it on various social media platforms.

Retail

Providing shoppers with an omnichannel shopping experience is proving valuable for businesses. Shoppers Stop worked with Google to connect their offline sales with their digital marketing spends. This got them a 2.5x Return on Ad Spends (ROAS).

Our client Gehna, too, follows an omnichannel approach with a physical boutique and presence online, selling on Facebook, Amazon and on their website.

Tech

Indians in non-metros embraced India’s fast-growing internet penetration and used it to research before buying new gadgets, which resulted in a 45% growth in queries for consumer electronics. New and niche technologies also witnessed a boost in search queries to the tune of 3x more interest in smart home devices and 2x growth in both in smart homes, appliances and lighting, and smartwatches and fitness bands.

Business-related tech took off in a big way as well, with an increased interest in accounting software, website builders and HR and finance/payroll categories.

Telecom

With the advent of 4G in India, most of our internet traffic this year came from outside India’s top eight cities. Consumption patterns fluctuated with searches for mobile data jumped to 70% for 4G and dropped to 30% for 2G and 3G.

With the top 4 telcos offering competitive prices, consumers took full advantage – searches for offers shot up by 141%. There was a substantial increase in payment bank searches – nearly 174% as consumers are now looking beyond cash and card payments.

Travel

India loves to travel, and by 2020, the Indian travel market is poised to hit $48 billion, with Tier 2 cities leading this growth. Voice and fast loading mobile experiences and brand awareness are emerging key factors in travel-related searches.

This report only proves that digital marketing is the most important medium to market your brand. Whether you are a real estate giant or an FMCG brand, if you have an ambitious project in mind, reach out to us.

For more information, insights and opportunities in your vertical, download the report here.


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