CRI has researched the future of voice search and how it relates to the ongoing SEO strategy for our clients. Mobile search has overtaken desktop searches and companies need to tailor their SEO practices towards this growing trend, which now includes voice search.
US Local Search Market: Mobile vs. Desktop
What is Voice Search?
The popularity of voice search is growing as more searches are conducted on mobile devices. Voice searches are conducted when a user talks to their device to obtain information that would have normally been searched by typing in a query. The Google Search App for iOS and Android gives you the ability to ask a question out loud and the search app will speak your answer right back to you. Users are not given a list of SERPs and instead are receiving one piece of information at a time. This information is populated from optimizations made to the content of the pages and Knowledge Graph information. Voice search is available on desktops as well; the little microphone in the search bar gives users the ability to speak their search query.
The growing popularity of smart watches has increased the use of voice search in 2015 and that trend will continue in 2016. Smart watches provide one answer to search queries and optimizing your content towards those search queries is important.
How Does Voice Search Benefit Clients?
Studies have shown that mobile queries have strong local intent (between 40%-80%); using these stats, we can assume mobile and wearable devices are going to provide a plethora of local search results. More so, this is the kind of intent we want to make sure we’re properly optimized for, as on average, a mobile query results in two follow up actions by the user. Those follow up actions could consist of asking for more information or asking for directions.
Having optimized content that focuses on conversational keywords will help clients show up as the number one option when their keyword phrases are voice searched. By keeping ahead of the curve, and by anticipating the advances in voice recognition and natural language search criteria, businesses have a better shot at improving, and maintaining, their online visibility in the future.
Building out Google’s Knowledge Graph
The use of Google’s Knowledge Graph is an integral part of the process that gives users smarter answers.
CRI works with clients to implement conversational phrases into the FAQ page and other important pages that mimic what a user might ask on their mobile device. Using these long tail keywords will capture more of the traffic using mobile and wearable devices with voice search activated. The use of these phrases can be fine-tuned so they work with existing content.
Writing content the way your audience speaks is one of the best ways to engage with people that search for your page and it keeps them coming back. In the past, targeting specific keywords was enough to boost your rankings with search engines. Users are now searching in more broad terms that include sentences. “Where is Acme Motors located” and “What time does Acme Motors close” are a couple of examples of queries that might be searched by voice. People search for things the way they speak and ask questions, so it is important to build out pages with all the relevant information needed to achieve a positive result when one of these questions is asked.
Wearable device searches are going to gain more popularity since users will be doing more voice searches. Websites that answer questions and use common phrasing are going to outrank those that are just stuffed with keywords in their content. Optimizing a website for voice searches takes this semantic thinking to a new level. A voice search is done in a more conversational, natural way, so a website must be optimized accordingly. By shifting the SEO focus to include this portion of the search traffic, we can position our clients for success in local and voice search.
Changing the domain of a well-established website comes with some risks that may have an adverse effect on site authority, rankings, and traffic. Weighing these potential risks before the domain change is made is vital to the continued health of the site.
Authority can be divided into two pieces: domain authority and page authority. Domain authority measures the predictive ranking strength of the entire domain or subdomain; page authority measures the strength of an individual page. Both of these measurements are rated on a 100-point logarithmic scale that becomes increasingly more difficult to achieve as the scale nears the maximum possible points.
Rankings are based on a number of different factors that include keywords, content, page layout, page authority, and social signals. Each of these factors is weighed and a ranking is assigned to each page of the website based on the search engine used. The rankings are what search engines use to order websites in a SERP (search engine results page).
Traffic is simply the number of visitors that land on a website through various paths. These paths include organic, paid, direct, social media, and others. The volume of traffic greatly depends on the ranking results that are assigned. Therefore, if a page shows up low in the search results then it is less likely to be clicked on and visited.
Analysis of Current Domain
This example demonstrates one of the highest authorities in Google’s index with a domain authority of 96 (remember, 100 being the highest) and a home page authority of 83 (100 being the highest again). These results are very significant and demonstrate a strong ranking, both which would suffer from a domain change.
One other factor to consider is social signals. In the example above, this company has substantial social metrics which result in increased social signals that Google weighs when ranking a site within search engine results. Social signals do not transfer when a domain is changed so this company would be forfeiting their current metrics and need to rebuild.
Domain Change Next Steps
There are a number of steps that should be implemented to properly execute a domain change if it is decided that the change is necessary or worthwhile.
Before the Domain Update
1. Do an Audit
It is important to audit all statistics before transferring domain names. This will help get a better understanding of everything going on associated with the domain and will give a benchmark in which to see progress from after the switch. The biggest component to audit is the inbound links coming to the site. This is important because it is the biggest SEO ranking factor and when changing domain names it is important to minimize losing good links.
Next, review all the links to look for the best quality ones and highlight them. The best links should be revisited and checked that they are still linked and 301 redirecting properly after transferring domains.
Additionally, conduct an audit on the top keywords that are being searched for that drive visits to the website. This will be used after the launch as talked about below.
2. 1 to 1 301 Redirect Everything
Setting up a 1 to 1 301 redirect will not only send the user to the correct page but will also tell search engines that the page has permanently been moved and will transfer the link credit to the new page. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to take time and make sure everything is getting 301 redirected properly. This is very important for both traffic and search.
3. Keep the Same URL Structure
It is highly recommended to keep the exact same URL structure while switching domains. There are enough changes that both the site and Google have to account for in a domain name switch, to change all the URLs as well would result in even more loss in rankings and traffic. If you want to make changes to the URL structure, it’s best to wait a few months after the domain transfer, once things have settled, and then make the changes.
4. Tell Google You Moved
Submit the new domain to Google and update the domain in their system so all listings are up to date.
After Domain Update
1. Thorough Check
The day of migration, double and triple check everything is linked properly and 301 redirected appropriately. Use the keyword audit performed to review all the keywords that were driving traffic to the site and search for them on Google. Then confirm that they are 301 redirecting properly. Additionally, review the top inbound links and check to see if they are properly redirecting.
2. Monitoring 404 Errors
A 404 will happen when a page doesn’t get redirected properly. Be sure to monitor and update any 404’s that might occur. Check every day for the first week and update any pages that might be returning a 404 error. Continue to review once a week for the first month after the change to keep track of any possible 404 errors that might happen after the launch. Sometimes it can take a few weeks for some to surface.
3. Plan a Big Marketing Push Post Launch
It is pretty common that after the transfer of a domain, search rankings will decrease. Knowing this in advance, it’s important to plan a big marketing push for right after launch to help bump the rankings and return to or, better yet, exceed previous success.
4. Content Push
Implement new site content. Blogs are a particularly good way to expand content and getting multiple blogs posted will drive traffic to the site, and are more likely to get linked to and shared.
Some domain changes are a necessity and have to be completed for the betterment of the company. Even if the domain change is completed correctly, it can result in a drop in the authority numbers which will decrease the rankings, and therefore, an overall drop in traffic as domain authority is not transferable.
Websites that are well established and have years of successful data should stay on the existing domain whenever possible. The history of data can be lost with a domain change and the site would need to start building authority all over again. It would be difficult to recapture the examples’ numbers with a domain change and, in fact, they may never return to such high levels.
If the domain were to change it would undoubtedly lose authority in the process. Instead, consider leaving the domain in the current location and build the changes directly into the site content. If a change must be made then the list of steps and processes above should be executed to ensure the lowest amount of lost authority as possible.