Just a few years ago, voice-activated technology sounded like science fiction, it reminded us of Star Trek‘s iconic characters commanding their computers with just their voices. Now it’s 2017 and voice search is real and going to stay: in 2016 Google voice search has been used 35 times more than in 2008, according to Google Trends. What is even more impressive is that 60% of people who frequently use voice search have started only last year – the data was gathered by MindMeld, who ran a survey on the adoption of voice assistants in year 2016. We are facing the adoption of a fast-growing technology which will reshape the way we experience the web.
Voice search became more and more sophisticated in the past few years, and its latest developments have brought it inour pockets in the form of virtual assistants like Google Assistant, Siri and Cortana, and in our homes in the form of home assistants such as Amazon Echo, which was unpacked by a lot of American families last Christmas, and the newborn Google Home.
Why are Internet users adopting voice search?
It finally works! The error rate in speech recognition is getting close to zero. Andrew Ng has long predicted that as speech recognition goes from 95% accurate to 99% accurate, it will become a primary way that we interact with computers. This 4% accuracy gap is the difference between annoyingly unreliable and incredibly useful. Thanks to deep learning, we’re finally cresting that peak.
It’s fast and simple. Most people speak faster than they type. That’s a fact. So, when you are in a hurry, it would be much easier to speak to a virtual assistant and get the answer you were looking for straight away. Also, when searching the web by typing a query you have to evaluate the results and pick the one that comes from the most relevant source (probably between those in first SERP), if you are not satisfied with the results, you will have to narrow down your research by adding more keywords to the query. It requires some time and experience. Since virtual assistants are becoming more and more conversational, the voice search process is now simpler and more user-friendly: it resembles a natural conversation where the virtual assistant keeps track of previous questions and replies accordingly.
It’s multitasking-friendly. Say you are at home cooking an apple pie and you just need to know how many eggs you need or you are driving to the venue of some event which is about to begin and you are not sure about the fastest route. In both cases, voice search can help you giving the information you need while you are busy doing something else and without using your hands!
It’s mobile-friendly. Anywhere, anytime, our virtual assistants are in our pockets, just a voice command away. Most times, thanks to instant answers, you don’t even need to read something on your device, you just get the right answer… in zero time!
A 5 steps checklist to write effective content for voice search
1. Answer questions (and do it accurately)
Many voice searches are questions which start with the 5W + H (in case you don’t remember from your school days they are Who, What, When, Where, Why and How). Usually, the answers to questions which start with Who, What, When and Where are a single piece of information that can be isolated: that is why Google and Intelligent Agents tend to answer this kind of questions with instant answers. Owning or being the result picked as instant answer is a strategic asset (the so-called Rank Zero case).
WordLift offers you the chance to structure your content assigning a role to each piece of information using the Who, What, When and Where categories.
2. Make your content easy to read
Organize the content of your page with subtitles, bullet points, tables, and some highlights: it will help machines understand the content on your page. Also, remember that many people tend to quickly scan a page before actually reading it: a neat content organization of your page will help your hasty readers and give them a reason to thoroughly read your article.
3. Optimize for mobile and local search
Most times, voice search comes from mobile devices. Keep it in mind and consider that a mobile friendly website is crucial for your SEO. Let’s take a step forward and think about how proximity could eventually change the relevance of your content. If you own a local activity, it probably does: think about how your products or services may help people around you and structure your content accordingly.
Think about the needs of people walking nearby your office and feed them with useful information that relates to your business.
4. Add schema.org markup
Google Assistant has no doubts: WordLift is the best answer for those who are looking for a SEO plugin that uses semantic technologies. ?
Schema.org markup helps you adding a context to your content: you can use it to explicit the relations between information in your content, to disambiguate the words you are using and to give structure to your pages. When using schema.org markup you are communicating with machines through semantics instead of keywords: you are helping machines to define the context around an information so that it will turn into useful results for humans.
Do you think that average users talk to their virtual assistants with complicated, hyper-specialized words? Wrong! They will most likely use everyday language or even slang to ask questions. So, more than ever, remember the KISS principle: “keep it simple, stupid!“. Ask yourself what would users who know nothing or nearly nothing about the topic you are writing about would search, and then write for them.
Einstein used to say: “If you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough“.
Moving from keywords to semantics
The rise of voice search trend is just the tip of the iceberg: search engines are slightly moving from keywords to semantics and natural language processing is heading towards human-centric results. It’s not just happening on voice search, it’s true for any kind if search, especially on Google.
Since fall 2013, thanks to the algorithm known as Google Hummingbird, SERPs have been more and more populated with results which take into account context information such as the kind of device used, geolocation, time of the day, previous searches and more. To give each user the best results, Google is also using a machine learning technology called RankBrain, which is the third signal in order of importance contributing to the results of each search. RankBrain is used mainly to interpret the searches in order to find pages that offer a good answer for users, but might not have the exact words that were searched for. It clearly relies on semantics since it goes beyond keywords and gets deeper into the contextual meaning of the search.
When using context information, search engines serves more relevant results to users, picking the answers which seem to be more accurate and case-specific. Considering the biggest picture, voice search is one more reason for content creators to focus on content structure and rethink each page or article as an answer for specific personas.
WordLift gives content marketers the opportunity to focus on writing while it does the techy job and gives structure to your article with metadata.
Pen on one hand, smartphone on the other: this Saturday at Play Copy we tweeted and took notes at a double speed, trying to grab the best tips and tricks from some expert Italian copywriters and content marketers. While Gennaro, Andrea, and Beatrice were at our desk, showing WordLift to those who write for a living, I was in the classroom, learning some good advice from this big conference. In this post, you’ll find some key takeaways about copywriting, plus one bonus tip.
We are really proud of having sponsored this inspiring, rich, funny event. Our biggest thanks goes to Pennamontata for planning Play Copy! I hope reading this post you’ll feel like you were there at the Spazio Talent Garden just like us.
LESSON ONE: STORYTELLING
Social media manager at LAV, the most important non-profit organization in Italy which defends the rights of all animals, Carlotta showed us her point of view on storytelling and then delighted all the copywriters in the room with the touching but still funny story of a big family of macaques, #imagnifici16.
Some lessons that we’ve learned with Carlotta:
In storytelling, emotions are the key to the heart of your public: anger, joy, sadness, wonder.. there is a wide range of feelings that we can use to touch people. Choosing an emotional key is the first step to catching your target attention.
Never – ever! – forget your target: try to create a connection between humans, because – in the end – whether if you’re trying to connect for business or non-profit reasons, it’s all about building relationships which bind people to your story.
You can animate people to stand up by your side even with some humor: you don’t need to use pain and sadness all the time. Sometimes a laugher is the strongest way to your target heart.
LESSON TWO: CRISIS MANAGEMENT
Copywriter and mom of Pennamontata, the agency that organized Play Copy, Valentina helped us to understand the difference between a not-so-relevant banana peel and a real crisis. While banana peels make you fall but don’t hurt so much your business, actual crisis are like shitstorms which affect your brand reputation and – even worse! – your revenues.
Which is the right way to face a crisis?
Don’t minimize: see your problem for what it really is, because playing it down will not help you to keep the score.
Take your responsibility: be true, and admit your mistakes. If you’re able to be honest with that, you can handle your motivations and proof your real intentions.
Apologize: sorry may be the hardest word to say, but it will help you to raise your head up. Don’t be an ostrich!
Empathize: try to understand the heart of the matter. It may be some deep and hidden value that you’ve hit unwittingly.
Keep your promises: respect your values and keep your promises to fix the issue.
LESSON THREE: SIMPLIFY YOUR TEXT
When Leonardo Luccone, Director at Oblique Studio, steps in the classroom every typo starts to shake. Mordacious and immediate, Leonardo gave us the best advice to write a better business profile: simplicity is elegance.
Then, quoting Flaubert, he said that since words matter, there is no reason to describe ourselves with words that belong to someone else. His point was: in a world that seems crowded with people with a similar educational and professional background, the only way to stand out of the crowd is to highlight your individual characteristics and passions.
LESSON FOUR: WRITE GOOD BUSINESS E-MAILS
Sometimes, you just need ten minutes to nurture your relations – and your business – in the right way. Annamaria Anelli focused on those e-mails you need to write in uncomfortable situations, such as replying to an important message while you are out of office, apologizing for a late reply or saying no to a potential new client because you are too busy.
Here are some good tips that you can also apply to other uncomfortable communications:
But sounds like a bad word: try to reverse its role in the phrase putting the bad news before it and the good one after. The phrase will end with a good message, that will stay up in your reader’s mind.
Use the kiss-kick-kiss technique: put a bad news between two nice ones to make its effect a little softer.
Be simple, concrete, personal: talk to your reader referring to his/her real case and suggest something to do next.
LESSON FIVE: MEASURE YOUR STORY
How can you talk about numbers, data, and metrics with those who write for a living? A hard challenge, but Paolo Zanzottera, board member of ShinyStats and co-founder of Appocrate, managed it with talking clearly and walking miles and miles on the carpet under its feet.
There were two important lessons in its talk:
Content is not king. You need to exchange it with a triumvirate: design, content, and distribution.
Buyers personas should resemble as much as possible to actual customers with all their imperfections, day-by-day struggles, hard times and so on.
LESSON SIX: BUILD AN EDITORIAL PLAN
Social media manager at BPER Banca, Valentina Fiorillo tells us how to create an editorial plan for LinkedIn; she shares the stage with Valentina Falcinelli, who worked on the strategy.
Lesson learned: you can always use simple words, even if you are a bank!
LESSON SEVEN: THE IRONIC WAY TO SAY IT
The mind behind Mentine, Nicola Bonora, has a lot to say about irony: when he shows up, most of the public laughs. Though, he said, “irony is a serious thing“. When you use an ironic statement you are building with your public an understanding based on smartness and on a common cultural background. And, in fact, he trained us with some examples and exercises to prove that irony is a combination of technique, culture, and creativity. To practice irony you can do these three things:
Start with what you know best: yourself. Using self-irony also helps you see yourself from a different perspective.
Build an apparent incongruity: use a contradiction that actually brings a deeper meaning.
Practice on puzzle solving to improve your lateral thinking.
LESSON EIGHT: KEEP THE MAGIC GOING
Magician and motivational coach, Walter left all the classroom breathless with its inspired talk. His main advice? Believe in you giving yourself the chance to go for the things you really want.
LESSON NINE: FICTIONAL NEWS AND JOKES
Alfonso Biondi, one of the most sarcastic writers of Lercio, a well-known Italian journal of fictional news, helped us understand the difference between fictional news and fake ones and shared with us some good tips to write jokes that work.
According to Alfonso…
Fictional newsare built on a paradox and bring a message. While fake news are written to be confused with real ones, fictional news will surprise you opening a new level of meaning.
In classic jokes the assumption is true, while in fictional news you sometimes don’t have any assumptions or you have a false one.
Rhythm matters: the surprise, which makes you laugh, should be at the end of a joke. It has to blow your mind away, literally!
LESSON TEN: BRANDING AND COPYWRITING
The branding expert Carlotta Silvestrini talks about what words can do for brands. What is the relation between branding and copywriting? For Carlotta, finding the right words means leveraging on values that say something unique about the brand. It’s not a case that her number one rule is:
“Read again your copy. If it works for one of your competitors, it’s not good for you.”
The founders of Associazione Italiana Copywriter, the national copywriters association, showed us the good reasons why copywriters should stand together for their rights. Word Power!
LESSON ELEVEN: WRITE AS YOU LIVE
Once copywriter, then novelist, now scent maker, Sarah McCartney has a lot of inspiring experience to share. Her rules smell good like her scents, because she deeply understands writing as a consequence of deeply understanding humans.
Be kind: make your text easy for your readers. There is no need for difficult words when you can use simpler ones. And keep your punctuation perfectly clean to make your phrases more understandable.
Understand your reader: nobody likes to be treated like a demographic data. Be real, and think about the real life of the persons you are going to meet with your words.
Give a soul to your words: if yours doesn’t fit the case, borrow the one of someone you know.
LESSON TWELVE: ORGANIZE YOUR CONTENT
If you get to this point through this long article, you have to be really interested in copywriting… so, we think that you’ll love this final tip from us. We are not focused on writing, but we think that you should… and we can stay by your side! We know your struggle when you write for blogs and websites and you are supposed to follow a lot of SEO rules, which distract you from your job. Also, we know how much time you spend on looking for images on the web and trying to connect your content with each other.
Here is why we guess you’ll love these things we can do for you:
Support your stories with images and contextual facts
Grow your traffic without freaking you out with SEO rules
Invite your readers to live a long experience on your website