Voice Search Queries: Brainstorming and Research (Third in a Series)
November 28, 2017 by Rob Andrews
In this third instalment in our series on Voice Search (see here and here for links to the other two), we have now arrived at the point where we are going to consider, in some detail, the process of brainstorming and research tactics.
Why Is Brainstorming Such A Critical Tactic?
You may have concluded by now that, to a large extent, in the voice search world, the best, most influential content on your site, will be those web pages that provide “answers.”
But in order to provide the “best” answers to questions, you must invest time and effort in discovering what questions your target audience is asking — and this is going to take brainstorming (and researching) on your part — sometimes lots of it. But the more you invest at this stage, the greater the payouts are later.
Are Voice Searchers Finding Your Site?
The first consideration: Are voice searchers finding your site presently? You need to take a detailed look at your site’s referrer data and look for any information specific to voice searches — like phrases in the form of a question.
These types of searches usually fit a profile: They will reflect more complete thoughts, phrased more like how people actually speak when they are talking out loud, because in a true voice search situation they are doing exactly that.
If you have the capability, you could launch a small-scale PPC campaign, and then download and analyze the search query report for analysis. If you do not have a PPC account enabled, you can get some information from Google Search Console and/or Bing Webmaster Tools.
The goal at this stage is to get into your hands a basic list of “seed” questions — a set of potentially good search queries that you can work with further.
You want to make sure that your most important, highest-converting pages related to those questions are optimized for those questions — you want to drive voice searchers to those pages.
As you research and refine, you will, of course, develop (in time) further, related questions and related phrasings that could be used in your targeting.
Brainstorming Possible Voice Search Queries
It is fundamentally important that you keep in mind some of the critical characteristics of voice search queries:
Complexity: VS queries are more than a simple phrase. Instead of “plumbers 24 hour service” it might be “plumbers who are available at any time.”
Natural Language: Voice search queries are naturally phrased as a question than a typical desktop search is. This has the advantage (to the search engines) of being easier to detect the searcher’s actual intent. Natural language does not necessarily require it to be in the form of a question, but it usually is.
Situational: Voice searches, remember, usually are performed, on-the-fly, as the need arises. Need-of-the-moment rather than premeditation is the rule.
Location: Finally, voice search queries are quite often rooted in the current physical location of the searcher when the search was actually performed.
Key Words and Phrases
As you think about brainstorming voice search queries, you want to focus first on key words like the following:
Not all these words might be used in the voice search queries of interest to you, but usually at least some of them will be.
There are a couple of phrases that are of special importance:
“Where…” The use of “where” may indicate that the searcher is looking for a location near them. If you are a business that has multiple physical locations, for example, you could try to promote a store locator page – if you can get that to show as the search result (it may or may not be doable), then the searcher can refine their search while at your site and be served the relevant page.
“How…” This is a key phrase to target if you are in the how-to or DIY market. Sending them to a video is a great strategy for the DIY’ers, as they relate to them well (DIY’ers are usually visual learners and like to be hands-on. See my article on Content Marketing and Learning Styles for more information on learning styles and SEO/marketing.)
Voice Search Query Phrases Showing Strong Buyer Intent
In marketing, you focus on the sales funnel – and you need to target site content to help folks at every stage on their buying journey. The key using this in a voice search context is to really focus on phrases that are strong indicators of an intent to purchase soon:
“Coupon code for…”
“Best deals on…”
“[BRAND NAME] sale…”
Think about all these key phrases, and make a list of those that might be particularly relevant to your niche/industry/business/product/service — see if you can come up with some voice search-oriented questions that might be asked using those phrases.
Other Sources to Check
There are many other places you can go to help with your voice search query brainstorming:
Customer Service: Do you have a customer support area? Talk with the people who work there. What questions are being asked? If you can plumb your CS ticket database, even better – again, be on the lookout for questions that are being asked often. If your site offers a live chat box, if you can access those past (archived) conversations, this can also give you insights.
Emails: Just as with customer service/ticket/chat histories, emails sent to your sales/marketing/CS area can reveal customer interests via their questions. Make note of these to explore further.
Sales and Marketing Department: Don’t forget to check with your front-line sales and marketing staff. They are in the trenches and know your potential customer base well. What kinds of requests for information are they getting? Prospects always ask sales people questions – what are those?
Company FAQ: In many cases, your company FAQ pages may already be providing information to answer those questions – make sure your voice search targets those pages.
Public Databases: There are public repositories of questions and answers (AnswerThePublic is a good one, also StoryBase, QuestionSamurai and others besides) that can help you to brainstorm and refine some good prospects for voice search queries.
Some Concluding Thoughts On Researching Voice Search
Since you probably don’t have the time — or budget — to go after every possible voice search query, my strong recommendation would be that you prioritize queries based on the degree of buyer intent (or other relevancy to “action”). You want to target first those “ready to buy” or product/service comparison questions, rather than questions asked when persons are just looking for information of a general nature.
Why? Because voice search is something occurring in-the-moment, when people are ready to ACT and are not (usually) doing in-depth researching, especially on mobile devices.
In the future this may change, but for now, people will save in-depth researching for their laptop or desktop computer, as opening lots of browser pages and jumping around a lot and inputting lots of information on contact forms, etc. can be a hassle on smartphones. And when they are on a desktop/laptop, rather than a smartphone, the nature of their search queries change as well, and are less likely to be phrased like a spoken question.
If you are interested, here is a link to a great article from Dr. Peter Myers, writing on the MOZ Blog, who has experimented a lot with voice search (you’ll like his humorous touches if you read it — and you should read it).
At the conclusion of this phase of your work you will have a good list of possibilities that you could target for voice search, but you will then need to further refine them through actual testing. And that will be the subject of the next article in our services, so stay tuned!
Since 2007 Rob Andrews has worked in the SEO and Content Marketing fields and is an established writer and trusted provider of thought-leadership for hundreds of SEO, advertising and marketing agencies worldwide. Read More