06 – Optimizing for Voice Search
In this episode of Suite Spot, we concentrate on the rise of voice search in the hotel industry. Amber Wojcek, content manager at Travel Media Group, joins host Ryan Embree to study the impact of voice search in the industry and where it might be heading.
In the What's News segment, Ryan speaks to several reports with some powerful statistics on the growing trend of voice search. The report shows the increase over time of voice and its projections for the future. In The Suite Spot, Ryan and Amber start by defining the difference between voice and traditional search. Next, Amber gives hoteliers tips on what they can do to optimize their websites for voice search and shares best practices on voice search traffic conversion. Ryan and Amber also predict what hoteliers can expect in the future of voice search in regards to reservations and guest experience.
In the Q&A segment, we answer a hotelier who questions if he should shift the majority of their focus and time from traditional desktop bookings to mobile bookings. As a reminder, to submit a question for future episodes, call or text 407-984-7455.
Our podcast is produced as an audio resource. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human editing and may contain errors. Before republishing quotes, we ask that you reference the audio.
Ryan Embree: Welcome to Suite Spot where hoteliers check in and we check out what's trending and hotel marketing. I'm your host, Ryan Embree. Hello everyone and welcome to another exciting episode of the Suite Spot. I am your host, Ryan Embree, and today we are going to be talking about voice search, a very popular subject and trend in the hospitality industry. And we're going to be reviewing some statistics. We're going to be reviewing, how travelers are using voice search and we're actually gonna go into the future of voice search. So let's go ahead and jump right in. We're going to go into our What's News segment and for today's What's News segment. We're going to be looking at two different reports that were published on think with Google. And in these reports they gave some pretty powerful statistics as far as what's happening right now with voice search and the trends year over year.
Ryan Embree: So the first statistic that that is mentioned in this report has to do with the percentage of searches that are now done by voice and this report published that according to Google, 20 percent of all searches are now done by voice in 2018. That's a pretty incredible stat. That's one out of every five times that someone goes on Google, they're actually searching via voice rather than typing. And this trend is gonna continue to grow according to these statistics. Another interesting fact that Google published was the popular phrase in "near me," right? We've seen that very, very popular in the hospitality industry, the hotel industry when travelers are searching for "hotels near me," near attractions.
Ryan Embree: But that phrase "near me" grew more than a hundred and 30 percent year over year. So travelers are now asking for more information about their location and what's around them. Uh, so that is ultra critical for hotels to know when they're looking to attract these travelers that are doing these searches. So not only are we going to be looking at the stats and voice search as it is today, but also we want to prepare our hoteliers for what voice search holds in the future. So in saying that, another article that we wanted to bring to your attention was actually an article published by Gartner Inc, which predicts that in 2020, 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen, which is a pretty incredible stat when you think about that. So this is a fast growing technological trend that hoteliers need to be prepared for. So what better way to prepare for this then bring in our very own Amber Wojcek who has done some extensive research on voice search, she's written some blog articles about the subject and in today's Suite Spot we're going to be interviewing her and talking about what this is all about and what the future holds for this growing trend. Hello Amber, thanks for joining me.
Amber Wojcek: Thanks for having me back.
Ryan Embree: Absolutely. Um, so let's go ahead and get [started]. Just start off pretty simply. You know, what's the difference when we talk about voice search and traditional search?
Amber Wojcek: Yeah. So if we're going back to basics searches generally when you open a browser on your phone, your computer and you type something into Google or Bing or Yahoo and then Google gives you back what it thinks you're looking for. So the only difference is on voice searches, you generally hit a button or use a voice command and then speak your search query instead of typing it. So some examples of that would be, you know, your Siri on Apple products or Cortana if you use a Microsoft computer all the way to Amazon Alexa and Google Home. So the voice commands that start that are, you know, if you say, "okay, Google" or "Alexa" or you can generally hold down a button and then it will activate your voice search on your device.
Ryan Embree: And as we kind of talked about it and the What's News, this is a very big growing trend when it comes to how travelers are, you know, not only looking for hotels but just, you know, finding information in general.
Amber Wojcek: Yeah, definitely. And I think you're going to see a growth with that that goes along with, uh, just how many devices are out there because once you get a phone that has this capability, it kind of trains you how to use it and you'll just keep getting more comfortable asking more of it the longer you have them. So I think it's definitely gonna keep growing.
Ryan Embree: I agree. And you know, I think I'm really glad we're doing this topic because I think a lot of the times when, you know, you mentioned it right with Amazon and Alexa and Apple and Siri and even the Google Assistants, hoteliers have really only thought of that in one way as far as, you know, guests interacting with the hotel. So whether that be Alexas in the room and you know, asking for information or something from the hotel, like they need more towels or something like that. And we've seen these companies and you know, we've talked about even at HITECH, how, you know, this was a big push. But I think it's really interesting to take a look at how travelers are using voice search to actually make their booking decisions. They're looking for hotels and they're looking for information to make a actual booking decision.
Amber Wojcek: Yeah. And I think what's important when, when you look at this, uh, you know, kind of customer journey is there's a lot of stops along the way between when someone decides they want to take a trip and when they book that hotel. Um, and I think voice search is still kind of in the middle of that when people are researching, Google calls it micromoments. So if you're in a waiting room or something, you're just Googling for a few minutes to try and figure out some details of your trip, but you're not necessarily ready to make the big purchase decision. And that's kind of where voice is right now. But we're going to see if it's gonna grow to be kind of the all encompassing way to search and make your buying decisions.
Ryan Embree: Absolutely. And, you know, it's funny because hotels, his past, you know, decade have been doing such a big push to be up there on those desktop searches, right when people go and they say, you know, hotels near me or hotels near a particular city, they are doing everything that they can to be up at the top of that organic search on computers and on mobile. But now we've introduced a whole other platform. What this voice search. So what's the most important thing hotel you should do to optimize that to make sure that they are coming up on these voice searches?
Amber Wojcek: Sure. So I think the best thing to remember right now - and this could change in the future - is you can assume that if someone's doing a voice search, then they're probably on a mobile device. Uh, people aren't yet at the point where we can use Alexas and Google Homes to book. I'm sure they're pushing for that in the future, but we're just not there. Uh, so generally someone's going to be on their phone or tablet. I'm not sure of how common it is to use your desktop voice search assistant. But we would usually assume that you're on mobile, so what's the most important thing is that your website is mobile friendly, that it resizes to fit the screen so people can read what you have on the page, look at your photos, and of course use your booking engine on any device. And then secondly, I think you want to really think about your SEO on that website. Generally, what's really interesting is when you look at the actual search queries people are using, when you search on your phone and you're typing, you'll use much shorter sentences, you might say like "hotels in Charlotte," but if you're using voice search, people tend to talk to it like they're talking to a person.
Amber Wojcek: So you might open up and say, "okay, Google, find me cheap hotels in Charlotte that are pet friendly." So you really need to think about those, what we call long tail keywords and implementing them in your website, your content, and really writing about everything that your hotel offers to help you come up further in search results.
Ryan Embree: That's a really great point, that language that travelers are going to be using on a computer versus, you know, maybe talking to a device so you know,. Let's walk them through the process, right? That traveler does end up finding that hotel through web search or I'm sorry, voice search. How do you convert them?
Amber Wojcek: So honestly the best thing you can do is open up your own website on a mobile phone and see how it shows up. You need to remember that in website terms, we call something above the fold, just like in a newspaper. What's on your screen before you start scrolling is above the fold. So you want your most important information up there. We'll generally include a booking engine are you know, important, special, something like that. And then when you look at a phone, it's vertical and your room above the fold is much smaller. So you want to make sure that people don't have to scroll really, really far before they get to the information that they need. You want to make sure your navigation and your menu is set up so that they can get to it really easily. And just kind of make sure that on a phone it's the best experience possible and it's just as good as being on a desktop as far as getting people the information they need to feel comfortable booking and getting them to that booking engine.
Ryan Embree: So one thing that I'm hearing from you a lot in this conversation is mobile. Yes. Is there any research that tells us how, how many travelers are booking on mobile?
Amber Wojcek: Yeah, there definitely is. Some of it's a few years old, so I've, we're keeping our eyes out for if there's any newer research from Google, but from some of the most research recent research I've found it said about a third of leisure and half of business travelers have booked their travel on mobile. Um, and it is also unclear how many started with voice or even ended with voice and got there. What is also really interesting is you're looking at a much lower conversion rate though on mobile. So even though people are getting more comfortable booking on mobile, it's still not everyone. Um, so if you are looking at travel websites in general, their conversion rate's about two point four percent on desktop, on mobile, it drops to just point seven percent. So what we're seeing is again, those micromoments where people are researching on their phone and then once they've made a choice, they're still kind of switching to desktop to make that booking decision. Um, but I think we're definitely gonna in the next few years see a lot more growth in that booking on mobile.
Ryan Embree: I think so too. And you know, that is my kind of leads into my next question is the future of some of this technology, especially voice search. I mean we talked about it and the, What's News about, you know, where this is expected to grow in the next couple of years. So where do you think the future of voice search is headed in this industry?
Amber Wojcek: Yeah, so I think it is really interesting how Marriott, I think it was Marriott, right? That put it Alexas in every room - is coming. So the way that they're securing it is it's really more of a way where someone inputs their search query, they'll ask, you know, their Alexa for more towels and that kind of sends a text to the front desk to fulfill that request. So it's a very, like one in one out relationship, it's not more complicated. Um, in the same way voice search is a much higher level, top of funnel way to search. And really when you think about it, it took us a long time to get comfortable with mobile. That half of business travelers are booking on mobile. For a long time, websites weren't responsive, the font was too small, you're worried you'd pick the wrong dates or your credit card wasn't secure.
Amber Wojcek: Um, so that's a lot of the reasons why people are still booking on desktop. And just in my own experience, I mean the voice assistants get it wrong a lot. Um, I mean every day at home I play a trivia game on my Alexa and I tried to play it today and it thought I wanted it to play a song and it started playing a song from my Spotify, which was bizarre and annoying and frustrating. So I can't imagine that I would trust it even if I know the exact hotel name and city and dates, I don't know [if] I would trust it right now to book me a hotel. Um, so we're gonna have to keep an eye on kind of where the technology goes. Maybe now that they're making the vocals or voice assistance with, you know, display screens where you could kind of double check what it's doing. Um, but yeah, I think a lot of people are projecting by about 2020, which is really soon that people are gonna start being able to do these things and I think we're going to see that companies like Amazon are investing a lot of money in being basically another OTA resource to compete with all of that. So, uh, unfortunately it's a lot of, "We'll see." But I think it's coming really soon.
Ryan Embree: and we've talked about this before. I mean, there's definitely going to be some learning curve with some of this, with these, with these voice commands. Um, especially with, with integrating some of these voice commands within the hotel, there's going to be some aspect of having to teach these travelers. What is, what is a command? What is a skill? Um, so I, I am right there with you. I think, you know, in a couple of years we're gonna kind of see this blossom into what it potentially could do for hoteliers. Um, any final thoughts or closing thoughts about, you know, voice search?
Amber Wojcek: I mean I just think it's a really fascinating section and I think it's a good opportunity for hotels to kind of step up and optimize their websites. We saw when mobile did catch on as a way to book hotels, the OTAs, we're kind of at the forefront of creating apps or better mobile websites and they took a lot of the market share. So now hotels are catching up a bit and I think that they have a big opportunity to kind of gain the trust back of travelers and mobile optimize their websites and get some direct bookings back.
Ryan Embree: Awesome. Awesome. Well we're gonna go ahead and transition into our Q&A section here. Again, our Q&A segment is where we take questions from our listeners and hoteliers like you and answer them live on the air. So if you have a question about hotel digital marketing and you're looking for some more information, we'd love to give you some insight on that question as a reminder, that phone number is 407-984-7455 again, 407-984-7455. And you can text or call that number. Okay. So for our Q&A segment today, we have a question that was texted in and they say, "I keep hearing the term mobile first. Should I forget about desktop and focus totally on mobile marketing?" So Amber, I'm going to pass this on to you.
Amber Wojcek: Yeah. So I think there's actually a two pronged answer to this, one is, I mean, no, based on what we were just talking about, um, a lot of people are still really comfortable on desktop. Um, and there was actually some research that showed that 94 percent of travelers switch between devices while they book. So I'd assume that a lot are still coming to you from desktop. I think the second part of that is that there kind of isn't a difference anymore between mobile and desktop. I think the New York Times actually just disabled their mobile.NewYorkTimes.com website because they are fully responsive now. Um, and you no longer can really have the mobile website in the desktop website. It's all the same thing and you just need a good desktop website that also looks really good on mobile.
Ryan Embree: Right. And you know, with websites, responsiveness obviously is a huge factor. Um, it's very, very critical, but also listing management, right? And making sure that your website is found on these listings.
Amber Wojcek: Yeah, definitely. So again, this will help both the desktop and mobile, so you don't really need to think about it as two different things, you just want to make sure your business name and your address and your phone number are consistent anywhere you show up online. So whether it's a Yelp listing or your website or TripAdvisor or Google or Facebook, that all of your contact information shows up the same way and that helps Google and search engines to know that you are the correct website when people are looking for you and that you'll come up when people are looking for hotels near you.
Ryan Embree: And this also helps and facilitates with voice search, is that correct?
Amber Wojcek: Yeah, definitely because those listings are what feeds into something like Google maps or GPS system. So, [if] someone opens up their maps and just search searches for hotels. Then if your address is correct, you'll show up and in one tap they'll be able to call you and check your availability.
Ryan Embree: Yeah. And, you know, it is, is so frustrating to hear when, you know, with the investments that these hoteliers put in some of these websites to just have it kind of floating out there -
Amber Wojcek: Someone needs to be able to find you or else they won't be staying with you.
Ryan Embree: Exactly. So, um, I think overall, yes, mobile is, is super critical. It's going to, that trend's going to continue. Um, but as of now, you know, people are still using desktops, uh, to, to book.
Amber Wojcek: Yeah. And I think you also need to think about your demographics as well. A lot of research about, you know, the big rises in mobile technology, it's totally true. But you'll see certain groups, maybe your millennial travelers are much more comfortable on mobile. Um, you know, if you have people staying at your hotel that are 55 and up, they're probably gonna be more comfortable maybe searching on a desktop or calling and talking to a person there. So you want to make sure that they can, you know, find your phone number and get in touch with you.
Ryan Embree: Absolutely. Well very interesting stuff. I'm sure we're going to have you back on, but I appreciate your time.
Amber Wojcek: Yeah, I'll keep you posted on any changes.
Ryan Embree: Absolutely. So thank you so much, Amber.
Amber Wojcek: Thanks for having me.
Ryan Embree: Thank you all for listening today and have a fantastic rest of your day. To join our loyalty program, be sure to subscribe and give us a five star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group, our editor is Anne Sandoval with cover art by Bary Gordon and content support by Amber Wojcek. I'm your host, Ryan Embree, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.
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