How conversational searches change your search strategy

icon with two faces

Be Relevant. Be Useful. Be Responsive.

graphic 65 percent increase in do i need searches

Source: Think with Google

As technology becomes more intuitive, people are changing the way they interact with it. In search, we are seeing that people are beginning to use more conversational search queries, which allow them to ask more pointed, specific, and personally relevant questions about the products and services they’re interested in. This not only enables people to cut through the clutter, getting them answers quickly and efficiently, but it also gives them the confidence that they’re getting exactly what they need.

We’ve written before about a rise in searches for needs specific to an individual, or “for me” searches. What we’re describing here is searching with natural language in a manner reminiscent of asking for advice. Much like when they talk to a person, people are starting to use “I” in their searches.

In the past two years:

  1. Mobile searches for “do I need” have grown over 65%. For example, “how much do I need to retire,” “what size generator do I need,” and “how much paint do I need.”
  2. Mobile searches for “should I” have grown over 65%. For example, “what laptop should I buy,” “should I buy a house,” “what SPF should I use,” and “what should I have for dinner.”
  3. Mobile searches starting with “can I” have grown over 85%. For example, “can I use PayPal on Amazon,” “can I buy stamps at Walmart,” and “can I buy a seat for my dog on an airplane.”

It’s not just a matter of “can I” or “should I.” Two years ago, people were more inclined to use simple, utilitarian search queries to find what they were looking for, typically typing in the service or product and little else. Today, in addition to those utilitarian searches, we are seeing search questions that are becoming more specific and conversational. And this is happening across a variety of categories.

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  1. Finance: From “bank account” and “open bank account online” to “what do I need to open a bank account?”
  2. Personal Care: From “best shampoo” and “[shampoo brand]” to “what shampoo should I use?”
  3. Auto: From “car brands” to “which car should I buy?”
  4. Real Estate: From “mortgage calculator” and “mortgage rates” to “can I get approved for a mortgage?”

What does it mean for marketers? Whether a person’s intent is obvious or masked behind something that seems more like seeking advice, create responses that meet nuanced customer needs.

  • Because consumers are growing more and more at ease with technology, consider using more natural language and creating intuitive experiences across all of your digital touchpoints.
  • In search, after locking down the key words and phrases typically associated with your business, think beyond those to consider more conversational phrases that customers might be using to find you.

Reach More of The Right People

A keyword strategy for your content. Reach the right people at the right time - the moment of interest.

Google Search 2018 Consumer Insights for 2019

People are always shopping, using natural language

graphic 84 percent of people are shopping

People are using more conversational search queries, which allow them to ask more pointed, specific, and personally relevant questions about the products and services they’re interested in. This not only enables people to cut through the clutter, getting them answers quickly and efficiently, but it also gives them the confidence that they’re getting exactly what they need.

Much like when they talk to a person, people are starting to use “I” in their searches. Mobile searches for “do I need” have grown over 65%. For example, “how much do I need to retire,” “what size generator do I need,” and “how much paint do I need.”

Marketers should lock down key words and phrases typically associated with their businesses and then consider natural language search phrases that customers might be using to find them.

They want things nearby and now

graphic near me searches

Whether it’s a jar of spices or a restaurant, today’s impatient consumers want things at the moment they need them — which is typical “now.” Even “near me” searches aren’t just about finding a specific place anymore. A “near me” search is about finding a specific thing, in a specific area, and in a specific period of time. And if you want a crystal clear example of purchase intent, consider this:

  • “Near me” mobile searches that contain a variant of “can I buy” or “to buy” have grown over 500% over the last two years. These include things like “where can I buy stamps near me,” “places to buy scrubs near me,” or “where to buy vinyl records near me.”
  • We’ve also seen over 200% growth in mobile searches for “open” + “now” + “near me” (for example, “restaurants near me open now,” “stores open near me right now,” and “pharmacy near me open now”).

To read the full article click here to go to Think with Google.

More research = fewer regrets

Consumers use search to optimize their lives. It lets them feel more confident and less anxious.

Search isn’t just about buying things. People use it to find experiences as well. Whether it's taking a vacation or going out to dinner, people curate their experiences before they go.

The research process becomes part of the experience itself, helping to build anticipation before they even set foot out the door. Working out the details in advance — prices, maps, schedules — reduces anxiety and allows people more time to enjoy themselves once they arrive. One person, Google spoke to boiled it down to one simple, powerful statement: “I wanted to research so I wouldn’t have regrets.”

Source: Think with Google

graphic people search for restaurant wait times

They’re looking for look-alikes

Sometimes shoppers must face the reality that the exact thing they want is out of their price range. But today’s research-obsessed consumers aren’t letting price get in the way of aspiration. They realize they have the tools to find something similar to that aspirational product, but that’s more practical for them.

Mobile searches for “that looks like” grew by over 60% in the past two years. For example, “inexpensive tile that looks like wood,” “Honda that looks like Ferrari,” “furniture that looks like pottery barn,” “rock that looks like a diamond,” and “new furniture that looks like antiques.”

Voice-activated-speaker owners welcome brands

Voice-activated speakers were a hot holiday item last year and were gaining in popularity even before Christmas. So Google surveyed over 1,500 people who own Google Home or Amazon Echo voice-activated speakers. Among things we discovered, it turns out that parents are power users and Boomers see the devices as empowering companions with serious potential.

Importantly for marketers, people who own voice-activated speakers welcome brands as part of the experience. And they are open to receiving information that is helpful and relevant to their lifestyle. In fact, one respondent said the ability to purchase things made it feel more like an actual assistant. “I went from asking it questions to now it's sending me actual products. Way more involved, way more real,” he said.

What would voice-activated speaker owners like to receive from brands?

chart showing interest in topics for voice activated search

Search Intent Marketing

graphic showing woman searching on phone

How intent is redefining the marketing funnel foundation for sensitive skin

graphic showing woman searching on phone

Forget everything you know about the marketing funnel. Today, people are no longer following a linear path from awareness to consideration to purchase. They are narrowing and broadening their consideration set in unique and unpredictable moments. People turn to their devices to get immediate answers. And every time they do, they are expressing intent and reshaping the traditional marketing funnel along the way.

Researching the best brands — and beyond

graphic showing makeup searches

"For some people, research is paramount — and their journey widens and narrows as they not only consider multiple brands but entire categories. Jill turns to search to first learn about hypoallergenic makeup. And though she eventually narrows her search to a brand, her journey doesn’t stop there. It widens and narrows a few times, as she considers a few other brands before ultimately heading in-store to purchase. " Or purchase online.

Align marketing to business outcomes:

graphic for analytics

Be there. People now expect to be assisted everywhere. And that means it’s critical that you’re measuring and understanding the impact of your media touchpoints on the consumer journey. Look past impressions, clicks, and online conversions and connect your media to revenue, gross margin, and profits.

Stop marketing to the average:

icon with two faces

Be useful. People respond to brands that understand their needs. So, it’s important to optimize your media for both relevance to the consumer and lifetime value for the brand. Some customers spend more — a lot more — and many customers spend less. Understanding that can mean the difference between paying to acquire profitable customers and paying to acquire the customers your competition didn’t want.

Understand the ways you can maximize an intent driven program.

Concierge digital e-commerce consulting services for established brands.

Does Keyword Stuffing Hurt Rankings on Google?

screenshot of twitter exchange between john mu of google and SEO person

So many people I speak with are overly worried about things that are in fact irrelevant when it comes to rankings on search engines. Or they are afraid to use strategies that in fact do work very well when applied rationally.

People have heard that "keyword stuffing" will result in a penalty. Or that by having less than perfect crawls of their site (miscellaneous errors), that their site content will be penalized and shunned by Google.

Who hasn't gotten an email from an "SEO Company" offering to do a "free analysis" of their website? Then they send you a report showing all these errors, and prey on peoples fear and lack of technical expertise and experience to lead them down a trail of actions that don't mean anything.

John Mu from Google says - "lots of sites get things wrong, but they are still useful". Focus on what actually matters to your business and branding.

Key Takeaways

  1. Focus on being useful, which means being relevant. Google ranks the most relevant content to the search. Keywords.
  2. Keyword stuffing isn't a penalty. In a perfect world, content will have a delightful balance of keywords, related terms, and information that is relevant to the reader. In reality, our clients don't always have the resources, or it isn't a priority to have perfectly composed content.
  3. Don't sweat the small stuff.  Creepy SEO companies will tell you are doing things wrong and that these errors will result in terrible penalties unless you pay them to fix things. Google is simply looking for the most relevant result for queries using keywords and context.
    Do care about using keywords, and keyword phrases. Using the right words, in the right context allow us to be relevant, and get in the game. This is particularly important for e-commerce where we are selling a product, and we need maximum visibility - ASAP.
    Implement the right words, in the right places - and if you have the resources or the topic is important to your business, go back and make the content perfectly balanced with informative, interesting or compelling content with balanced keyword density, variety - etc.


Focus On Results

Effective Search Engine Marketing

Learn More!

SEO and Searching for Best Everything

graphic and mobile search stats for best

This article was published by Google in August 2018 and is authored by Ken Wheaton.

It seems fairly straightforward. When people set out to shop for an item or service, they hope to end up with the best possible outcome. But it turns out that “the best” isn’t an objective absolute. In fact, finding “the best” isn’t necessarily about finding the best thing that exists, it’s about finding the best thing for your needs.

It was pretty clear to us from consumer search data that people’s quest for the best is still on the rise. Mobile searches for “best” have grown over 80% over the past two years.1 And they’re searching for “best” for even the smallest stuff: We’ve seen strong growth in things like “best toothbrush” over the past couple of years.

But Google wanted to understand what was driving people to search for “best” and what the word meant to them. To better understand how people are defining “the best” — and using it as a tool in their shopping — I sat down with Google’s Head of Ads Research and Insights Sara Kleinberg to discuss what her team has been finding in Google data and hearing from consumers.

How has online research changed the quest for the best?

Sara Kleinberg: With so many options and so much information online, consumers increasingly can and have to make decisions based on differences beyond quality, price, and basic features. The deciding factor is often personal criteria for that product and how it solves their individual needs. Convenience, for example, can enter the “best” equation. One person told us, “A taqueria 10 miles away might have 400 5-star reviews, but I'd be fine with a 4.5-star taqueria a stone’s throw away.” One person might be swayed by product features, whereas another won’t. “I don’t care if a vacuum cleaner has a light on the front or an automatic cord winder. The best one for me is best at picking up pet hair,” another person said. That’s not to say price and quality aren’t part of the picture. But how they fit in depends on the shopper. As one person said, “I don’t necessarily look for the best product in the market, but for something that would be the best for what I need the product for.”

With so many options and so much information online, consumers increasingly can and have to make decisions based on differences beyond quality, price, and basic features.

How are people searching for ‘the best’? What kind of things do people search for?

They’re using search across the spectrum, for items big and small. Sure, people are still going to search for “best car” or “best TV,” but we’ve also seen significant growth in mobile searches for things like “best face lotion” or “best moisturizer,” which have grown over 115% in the last two years2 (for example, “best moisturizer for face,” “best face lotion for dry skin,” etc.).

And they’re looking for specific answers. It’s not just “best car insurance,” it’s “best car insurance for me.” It’s not only “best shoes,” it’s “best shoes for standing all day” or “best walking shoes for women.”

We also see how “best” takes on different meanings in different contexts. Someone searching for “best champagne” is likely looking for different answers than someone looking for “best champagne for mimosas.”

Any insight into why getting ‘the best’ is important to consumers?

It’s about confidence. We’re seeing people do more extensive research for both big and seemingly small purchases so they can be confident they’re making a good decision. “Getting the most for my money” is something people told us. That and they want to be sure they won’t “later regret buying the items.”

Schema Markup: Increasing Clicks With Rich Snippets

Schema Markup and Rich Snippets

One of the most exciting new developments in SEO is called Schema markup. This new form of optimization is one of the most powerful, but least used SEO strategies today. Adding Schema markup to your website helps search engines better understand the content on your webpages. Search engines use this information to provide viewers with rich results on their searches. These rich results are search engine results (like you would see on Google or Bing) that show extra information like ratings, prices, event dates and links, images, and more:

Rich results are great for SEO because they increase performance without costing you any money. They provide about a 30% increase in clicks compared to non-rich results because they look more attractive to viewers and provide more information about your landing page. Using Schema markup is a no-brainer if you want to increase relevant traffic to your website and provide attractive and informative search engine results.

Schema App

Schema App is a tool that we use at The Keyword Agency to efficiently add Schema markup to our clients’ webpages. It also allows us to update Schema markup on the fly when clients change content on their webpages. Whereas other agencies might charge expensive fees to re-code your Schema markup if you change around your webpages.

SEO Ranking Factors for Search Results Page from SEMRush 2017

The Keyword Agency SEO Ranking Factors from SEM Rush

A 2017 study published by SEMRush has quantified the factors that influence rankings on search engine results pages. This study is valuable, in that it helps us understand what matters, and how much it matters.

ranking factors for search results page

If we put these factors into categories – these are the most important.

  1. Brand Popularity and Engaged Visitors
  2. Links-in from other reputable sites
  3. Content length and Keyword Density
  4. Security (HTTPS)
  5. Video on Page


The Cream Rises To The Top

Popular brands with a lot of visitors who are actively engaged in content get priority in algorithms. If your customers are interested in what you have to say, the search engines will agree you are important.

ranking factors for search results page brand 2

Links In from Other Sites

Links to your site and content from other sites with high-domain authority increase your credibility.

Links In


On-Site or On-Page SEO Tactics

The least important on a relative basis, but critical to the process for small to mid-sized companies are on-site and on-page SEO.

The process is necessary, but will not ensure rankings without people already interested in you and coming to your site.

On site or page SEO


Keyword strategy isn’t just about words. Keyword listening allows us to understand what people are interested in, and drive both content creation and navigation choices to provide a positive user experience.

A brand or company with a lot of user interest and engagement onsite will win, online -offline and on the first page of search results.

Your brand and branded keywords implemented correctly will result in top rankings for people searching for you.

semrush key takeways

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