Google is on the receiving end of an average 63,000 searches per second each day. That equates to some 3.8 million searches per minute, 5.6 billion searches per day, and more than 2 trillion searches each year. Yeah, that’s a lot. And hats off to Google for managing the workload as well as it does. According to the Wall Street Journal, an industry study showed that Google’s search engine answered nearly 74.3% of 5,000 queries, logging a 97.4% accuracy rate.
Still, the paper writes, given the trillions of questions Google juggles each year, “Even a 2.6% error rate suggests Google serves billions of answers a year that are incomplete, irrelevant or wrong.”
So third-party search is still imperfect. The challenge is, how do you not let your brand surface incomplete, irrelevant, or wrong answers.
The best way to thwart incomplete, irrelevant, and just plain wrong answers is by providing rich, specific answers everywhere your customers might be searching, in a way that is intelligible to the AI-powered discovery services they use.
Make your brand the authority on owned, objective facts.
When consumers turn to the internet to find out exactly how many calories there are in a Big Mac, they aren’t looking for answers from a random nutrition site or from some guy on Yelp, or even from the Lifestyle page of the British tabloid Mirror. For queries with objective, fact-based answers, they want to hear straight from the source — in this case, that’s McDonald’s itself. Really, who else has that kind of kitchen access? (The answer according to the official McDonald’s site: 550 calories. The answer courtesy of a Mirror article: 508 calories. You pick.)
That’s what you want for them, too, when it’s your brand that they’re asking about. You want them coming directly to you, the source. But what do you do when your brand isn’t showing up with the answers for key questions across third-party search experiences like Google, Bing, Alexa, or the rest of the gang? What do you do if you’re a small-scale burger joint and a Google search about the number of calories in your prime menu offering doesn’t show up as the featured snippet, or even rank in search results at all?
Back in the day, you could pretty much count on all consumers making their way to your homepage and navigating from there in search of your hours and offerings. This is no longer the case. Today, they’re likely to conduct those burger calorie searches using Alexa or Siri or another digital assistant.
With numbers like these, adapting or modifying your SEO for both “traditional” search and voice search optimization is essential. At the end of the day, capturing and directing traffic from search engines or voice assistants back to your brand’s website is still the best way for you to get information out into the world. So make sure the information you’re putting out there is easily accessible and regularly updated — both on your brand website and across third-party sites like Yelp, Google My Business, and more — because immediate delivery of accurate information is the first step in ensuring a great customer experience, and driving higher ROI.
Optimization is next, and it begins with you ensuring you’re equipped to handle natural language — i.e., the way humans talk when they’re not thinking about what they’re saying. It’s the difference between asking something like “Where is the best Chinese restaurant in town that is open now” rather than something more robotic and keyword-based like “Chinese restaurant.”
More often than not, natural language queries involve long-tail keywords, which today’s AI-enabled search engines don’t even blink when processing. Longer, complex questions that are asked using natural language indicate a more focused user search intent — and convert to page clicks more than twice as often as they did just two years ago. And because they are so specific, long-tail keywords are also less competitive to rank for.
The result: increased traffic as you rise above the noise.
Consumers may not always start with your website when they’re looking for information. Gain control of the public-facing facts about your business, however, and that’s exactly where they’ll end up.