We are in the midst of a rapid technology shift with the rise of voice search. Google projects that 50 percent of all online searches will be voice searches by 2020, and the devices for these will be in 55 percent of U.S. homes by 2022.
The most frequent voice searches now are for directions, weather, and traffic alerts. However, many anticipate a not-too-distant future where more consumers ask Siri or Alexa to find them a hotel near LAX. or book them a flight to Tokyo. In fact, according to Travelport's 2018 Global Digital Traveler Survey, half of all respondents reported using voice search at some point during their trips.
Travelers can already tell some devices to book flights and rental cars, but the possibilities to create optimized user experiences from voice search are endless. Marriott, for example, is working with Amazon to offer a version of their Echo devices in select hotel rooms to order room service, control heating, find out the weather and more.
To prepare for this growing trend, travel and hospitality companies need to start rethinking how to optimize their web content to ensure they return the best voice search results.
Here are some key areas to consider:
1. Key phrases versus keywords
Voice search queries are often longer than their text counterparts and more conversational in tone. Part of this is due to speaking speed versus much slower typing speed. However, unlike written searches, people also tend to ask devices complete questions or make demands in complete sentences.
Someone may type "Getty Museum hours" in a search box but will ask a voice search technology, "When does the Getty Museum open?" As a result, long-tail keyword phrases (more than three words) are more important than generic keywords when it comes to optimizing your website for higher voice search results.
2. Optimize content for questions or develop robust FAQs
Your web content should offer responses to anticipated queries. Voice searchers will want to ask things like "find a flight to …," "what hotels are near …," "how far away is …," "can I get a room at …," and similar queries.
They will also use commands like "Find me a …" so content that's optimized for voice should answer common customer questions on the website. You should use a conversational tone in phrasing questions to rank well in search queries. It may be advantageous to address questions in a FAQ section.
3. Integrate structured data
Search engines crawl the structured data in a site's HTML (Schema markup) to understand the content better and, in voice searches, find answers. Schema markups help search engines to interpret the content and pull out relevant information to enrich search results.
Making sure structured data is integrated and current can drive more traffic and, in the new voice search world, make it easier for a search to return information about your brand.
4. Ensure localized searches
People frequently do "near me" searches to find businesses, restaurants and particular services located close to them. On trips, this need is heightened by lack of familiarity with their surroundings. So, for example, someone could ask for nearby hotels, sushi restaurants or car rental agencies.
Making sure a firm's Google My Business listing is complete helps ensure that it ranks in geographic-based inquiries.
5. Use loyalty programs as enticements
Travel companies with loyalty programs can use them as enticements and tools to establish partnerships valuable to Amazon and Google. Offering loyalty program members special rewards and discounts to use smart-speaker channels could be advantageous for all.
6. Plan for multilingual capabilities
Language barriers often creates a challenge for travel planning, especially when people are on-the-go. The multilingual ability of voice recognition tools can ensure better communication and customer service.
And, voice search is a global trend. According the Travelport survey, over 70% of travelers in China and Turkey use voice search, and 69% of those surveyed in India reported using voice search when planning and researching a trip.
Google's assistant can accommodate people speaking a combination of languages (such as "Spanglish"). However, the process for optimizing search for different languages is complex. So, to make sure you're getting good ROI for this, you may want to consider only optimizing for languages or segments of the global population that you know you get a lot of traffic from.
Also, pay attention to plainspoken speech when considering voice search optimization for other langauges. Voice search uses conversational language, which includes colloquialisms that do not translate cleanly or include idioms. So, within your site, it can be advantageous to translate keywords and phrases rather than relying on automatically translated content to find them.
Additionally, consider special FAQs for languages important for your business to optimize voice searches in that language.
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