The new search trends eCommerce marketers should embrace

Paul Delaney is the head of digital marketing at PushON, an award-winning full service e-commerce agency based in Manchester.

From search engine algorithm updates, to new technology permanently altering user behaviours, the search marketing landscape is constantly evolving.

These evolutions keep us on our toes and, for savvy marketers, present an opportunity to ensure their clients always have the edge over their competitors. Recently, the biggest disruptor to the industry has almost certainly been the advent of voice and visual search – changing SEO forever.

These new search technologies are particularly pertinent in the world of e-commerce, where a retailer’s organic search ranking really can make or break a brand. However, by understanding how these new search trends are affecting the way people shop, you can help your clients to harness them to increase traffic and, as a result, sales.

The rise of voice search

Speech recognition technology was first brought to mobile devices with the launch of Google’s Voice Search iPhone app in 2008. Since then, voice search usage has become increasingly widespread, with Google suggesting that 20% of mobile search queries made via its app are now conducted using voice search.

Quicker and easier than traditional text-based searches, consumers can enjoy the convenience of being able to search for products or information while doing other activities.

Already popular on mobile devices, voice search has been given a further boost by the success of smart speakers. Despite the first smart speakers only launching in 2014, 10% of UK households now own one, and voice transactions are currently worth around £0.2bn.

The number of households with a smart speaker is predicted to rise to 50% by 2022, and as a result, voice transactions are expected to be worth an astonishing £3.5bn, which is great news for the e-commerce sector.

So how can marketers optimise their clients’ e-commerce sites for voice search?

1. Optimise for questions

The majority of voice searches take the form of questions. This is one of the key differences between voice and text-based searches. Website content should therefore be structured to answer potential customers’ questions, instead of just targeting specific keywords. One of the easiest ways to do this is by creating a carefully considered FAQ page.

2. Aim for featured snippets

Not only are featured snippets now the first organic result to appear, they are also the only result that will be read out by a virtual assistant. This is particularly significant for voice searches made through smart speakers, where the user will hear the featured snippet but not be able to scroll down to look at other results.

According to a report by seoClarity, over 20% of featured snippets are triggered by the same 25 keywords. Among the top 12 are “how”, “what” “where”, “when”, “why” and “who”. Targeting these words gives websites a better chance of ranking highly in voice searches and appearing as a featured snippet.

3. Identify long-tail keywords

The language used in voice search is much more natural and conversational, closely resembling everyday speech. Consequently, the emphasis should be on long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords are longer, more specific keyword phrases. For this reason, they can be an effective way of ranking highly in voice searches, when users are likely to use more detailed search terms. As a result, the traffic they generate tends to be of a higher quality, with visitors more often already at the point of purchase.

Why is visual search relevant?

Newer than voice search, we are still discovering the full extent of the possibilities of visual search. However, a few trailblazers in the e-commerce sector, such as Amazon and ASOS, are already showing how effective it has the potential to be.

ASOS added a visual search tool to its app in 2017, with the aim of improving its customer experience. Users can now upload a photo of an item, either from their own camera roll or an image they’ve found online, and be presented with a selection of visually similar products.

Visual search is a great way for customers to find what they’re looking for more quickly – particularly when a retailer has a large volume of products. It is also a way for brands to expose their customers to items that they would have been unlikely to come across through the traditional filters, for example, products that were added to the site a while ago, or that have not been selling well.

While the way we search visually is likely to continue to evolve over the coming years, here are three strategies that can be easily adopted by your clients now.

1. Assign textual elements to all images

Images should have a descriptive name that incorporates relevant keywords, in order to provide additional information to search engines and help them to recognise what is in the image. Similarly, they need to have a descriptive alt tag and caption, as these are also used by search engines to decipher and index images.

2. Grow a Pinterest presence

Pinterest is currently leading the way on visual search following the launch of Pinterest Lens, a first-of-its-kind camera search app that recommends ideas to try based on a user’s own photo. The technology has proven extremely popular, with over 600 million visual searches carried out using Lens every month. It is therefore important for retailers to have a presence on Pinterest if they want to increase their chances of being discovered by potential purchasers this way.

3. Launch a native app

For brands looking to replicate ASOS’ visual search tool, all they need is their own app. Visual search functionality can be easily incorporated into a native app using an API such as ViSearch. The more quickly a potential purchaser can find what they’re looking for, the more likely they are to convert into a sale, so the addition of a visual search tool is particularly effective for retailers with larger product catalogues.

The main goal of any digital marketing strategy should be making your client’s brand as visible as possible to the right audience. With voice and visual search transactions on the rise, users of these technologies will be key target demographics for online retailers going forward. Helping e-commerce clients to keep on top of emerging search trends will be crucial to their success now and in the future.

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