The Step-By-Step Guide to Testing Voice Search Via PPC

Posted by purna_v

I was conned into my love of cooking by my husband.

Never having set foot in the kitchen until the grand old age of 22, my husband (then boyfriend) — a former chef — said he’d teach me some simple recipes. I somewhat enjoyed the process but very much enjoyed the lavish praise he’d bestow upon me when eating whatever I whipped up.

Highly encouraged that I seemingly had an innate culinary genius, I looked to grow my repertoire of recipes. As a novice, I found recipe books inspiring but confusing. For example, a recipe that called for cooked chicken made me wonder how on Earth I was meant to cook the chicken to get cooked chicken.

Luckily, I discovered the life-changing power of fully illustrated, step-by-step recipes.

Empowered by the clear direction they provided, I conquered cuisine after cuisine and have since turned into a confident cook. It took me only a few months to realize all that praise was simply a ruse to have me do most of the cooking. But by then I was hooked.

When it comes to voice search, I’ve talked and written a lot about the subject over the past year. Each time, the question I get asked is “What’s the best way to start?”

Today I’ll share with you an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to empower you to create your own voice search test. It’s sure to become one of your favorite recipes in coming months as conversational interfaces continue their rapid adoption rate.

Testing voice search? But it’s not monetized.

That’s correct. It’s not monetized as of yet. However, the usage rates have been growing exponentially. Already search engines are reporting that:

  • One out of ten searches are voice (per Baidu)
  • Twenty percent of all mobile Android searches are voice (Google)
  • Usage spans all age ranges, as we discovered at Cortana (which is owned by Microsoft, my employer):

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With Cortana being integrated into Windows 10, what we’re seeing is that age range demographics are now comparable to what eMarketer is reporting for overall smartphone usage. What this means: Using digital assistants is becoming more and more common. It’s no longer an edge case.

More importantly, voice searches done on the search engines can often have PPC ads in the resultant SERPs — as you’ll see in my examples below.

Why a PPC test?

It’s easier to get started by testing voice search via PPC since you can get more detailed reporting across multiple levels.

I would recommend taking a teeny-tiny budget — even $50 is often good enough — and putting it toward a voice search test. (Don’t fret, SEOs, I do have some tips in here for you as well.)

Before we start…

Here’s a quick reminder of how voice searches differ from text searches:

  1. Voice has longer queries
  2. Natural language means more question phrases
  3. Natural language reveals intent clearly
  4. Voice search has high local value
  5. And greatly impacts third-party listings

You can read about it in more detail in my previous Moz article on the subject.


Let’s get cooking!

Step 1: See what, if any, voice activity exists for you currently

Goal: Find out what voice-related activity exists by identifying Assumed Voice Queries.

Estimated time needed: 30 min

Tools needed: Search Query Reports (SQRs) and Excel

A good place to start is by identifying how your audience is currently using voice to interact with you. In order to do this, we’ll need to look for what we can term “assumed voice queries.”

Sidebar: What are Assumed Voice Queries?

Since the search engines do not currently provide separate detailed reporting on voice queries, we can instead use the core characteristics of these queries to identify them. The subtle difference between keyboard search and voice search is “whom” people think they are interacting with.

In the case of keyboard search, the search box clearly ties to a machine. Searchers input logical keywords they think will give them the best search results. They generally leave out filler words, such as “the,” “of,” “a,” and “and.” They also tend not to use question words; for example, “bicycle store,” rather than “what is a bicycle store?”

But when a searcher uses voice search, he is not using a keyboard. It’s more like he’s talking to an actual human. You wouldn’t say to a person “bicycle store.” You might say: “Hey Cortana, what is the best place to buy a bicycle near me?”

The key difference between text and voice search is that voice queries will be full thoughts, structured the way people speak, i.e. long-tailed queries in natural language. Voice searches tend to be approximately 4.2 words or longer on average, according to research from both Google and Microsoft Cortana.

Thus, assumed voice queries would be keywords that fit in with these types of queries: longer and looking like natural language.

Caveat: This isn’t going to be 100% accurate, of course, but it’s a good place to start for now.

Even just eight months ago, things were fairly black and white. Some clients would have assumed voice queries while others didn’t. Lately, however, I’m seeing that most clients I look at have some element of assumed voice queries, indicative of how the market is growing.

Okay, back to step 1

a.) Start by downloading your search term report from within your Bing Ads or Google AdWords account. This is also commonly referred to as the search query report. You want to run this for at least the past 30 or 60 days (depending on volume). If you don’t have a PPC account, you can pull your search term report from Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools.

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