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Voice search and SEO

Is Voice Search a Game Changer for Digital Marketing?

As we become increasingly comfortable with speaking to our electronic devices the number of people using voice search is growing.  This shift in the way people search means businesses and websites need to adapt their online strategy in order to stay ahead of the game and thrive.

Just as you thought you were getting to grips with how to optimise your website for typed search engine queries, technology advances and gives you a new dimension to learn about!

According to a survey by Comscore, 40% of adults now use voice search once per day.  If your business hasn’t started to at least consider how to optimise your website for voice search then you could be at risk of getting left behind.


What is voice search?

Voice search is a basic form of AI, you probably know it best as Siri on the iPhone, Alexa on Amazon’s Echo, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s own voice search feature.


Voice search and SEOHow is voice search changing digital marketing and SEO?

First of all, it’s important to understand that voice search is not taking over from typed search, so don’t panic, all previous digital marketing and SEO work undertaken is still relevant!

In order to adapt for voice search businesses need to add a new dimension to their strategy rather than changing anything existing.

Voice search requires a different SEO approach to typed searches as users deliver their queries in a different way.

Think about what you may type to search for a hairdresser versus what you might say via voice search.

For the majority of people a typed search will be 2-3 words long, written in ‘computer speak’ and narrowed down to just a few essential keywords.  Whereas when we use voice search we expect the technology to be able to understand full sentences, so we tend to talk as though speaking to another human being.


Common features of voice searches

  • Longer query length
  • Generally these are question searches
  • We ask as though speaking to another human
  • More frequently performed on mobile devices
  • Queries often have greater intent
  • Often used when speed is of the essence
  • More likely to be used for local-based queries


How to adapt online for voice search

Eager to get your business’ online presence optimised for voice search? We’ve come up with a few tips on what to consider and changes to implement to keep your business one step ahead when it comes to voice search.


Research, research, research!

Keyword/phrase research for voice search is essential.  Find out what questions people are asking on voice search in order to discover your business.  Once you’ve got some idea on what kind of phrases and questions are being used, identify which ones are your highest value questions.

Remember that generally people using voice search tend to use more specific search queries that are capable of revealing their level of intent a lot more accurately than with text search.


Update content accordingly/create new content

Once you’ve identified which voice search queries people are using to find your website you can begin to tweak existing content or create new high quality content around these questions and queries.


Adjust bids

Of course if you’re able to identify the highest value queries and long-tail key phrases, then it makes financial sense to adjust your bids on any Adwords campaigns that you may have running to reflect your findings.


Update local business listings and ads

Due to the speedy nature of voice search, a high percentage of searches performed this way are local searches, meaning that local businesses that adapt will reap the rewards and have the advantage over competitors who are slower to adapt.

People performing local searches on the move often want quick answers with minimal actions before a decision is reached.

This is why local voice searches often trigger business listings/ads in search results, making it essential to keep business listings up to date.  Local voice searches often have high intent, resulting in searchers bypassing business websites and instead taking action directly from the search results by using the ‘call now’ or ‘book now’ call to action buttons.


With new and emerging technologies like Amazon’s Alexa Smart Home becoming more popular and wearables like smart watches now being released by popular brands like Michael Kors, speaking to our devices is becoming more and more commonplace.

Businesses with their finger on the pulse should begin adapting their online strategy now if they haven’t already in order to stay ahead of competitors and save themselves a bigger job down the line.


Need some help or advice with optimising your online presence for voice search? Get in touch with our team of experts here at Aqueous Digital by giving us a call on 0800 285 1424.

Google 2017 algorithm changes - Aqueous Digital Services

Google’s FRED Update: What? Why? And how to recover

Google’s latest algorithm update which first hit on March 8th has been causing waves in the SEO world as some websites reported almost a complete loss of organic traffic overnight.

The update hasn’t been bad news for everyone as some savvy webmasters have reported positive results since this date, but for many affected this has been the most devastating update of the year so far.

We’ve taken a look at what we know so far about the Fred update, who has been affected and what steps you can take to recover if you’ve suffered a drop in ranking.


8th March – Fred update is rolled out

It first became apparent that something big had occurred on 8th March.  Unsurprisingly Google responded vaguely to accusations of an update, leaving it unconfirmed at this point.

The update was quickly christened ‘Fred’ after Google’s Gary Illyes recent joke that all new updates should be named ‘Fred’.



What we knew one week on

After about a week and some intensive investigation from SEO professionals and webmasters worldwide, it became evident that this new update was another attempt to improve the quality of search results.  Sites negatively affected by the update tended to have low quality content and a lot of ads or affiliate links featured on-page.

Many of the websites hit were non-specialist blogs covering a wide range of topics that appeared to have been created with the sole purpose of creating backlinks or generating income through ads without offering much in the way of valuable or unique content to users.



Many of these websites have been affected quite dramatically. According to the guys at Search Engine Roundtable, after they reviewed a number of websites that were hit by the update, most of them had experienced at least a 50% drop in organic traffic overnight – with some seeing up to a 90% drop!


23rd March – Google confirm update

It wasn’t until March 23rd that Google openly acknowledged the update. First Google’s Gary Illyes stated during the AMA with Google session at SMX West that sites suffering from the update were rightfully hit as they were going against Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Later that same day John Mueller from Google said during a Webmaster Google Hangout that the update was to hit sites that weren’t following webmaster guidelines, and that websites affected must have content quality issues that need to resolving.



What can you do to recover a website affected by the Fred update?

If you think that your website has been affected then the first thing to do is make sure that you fully understand the Fred update and revisit Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

At Aqueous we have identified a few of the key areas that most affected sites could do with brushing up and improving in order to conform to Google’s guidelines and improve their content and regain their rankings.


Reduce the number of ads

Although there is no set number of how many ads is too many, we would advise webmasters to review their website and ask themselves honestly whether the ads featured are intrusive.  If more than one ad can be seem at a time on any one page or piece of content then it’s probably too many.  Remember that your website should appear user-friendly and attractive and professional to look at, not ad heavy.


Write specific not generic content

Anyone can write generic content, but not everyone can write unique content.  With so many people writing shallow generic content, a lot of content on the internet becomes samey and so loses its value.  Remember that Google values unique, relevant and high quality content, so instead of writing shallow articles on broad topics try to drill down into a specific angle or aspect of a topic to make your content different and interesting.


Make sure content provides users with value

Don’t blindly write a piece of content because the title has sprung to mind, think carefully about whether the content will provide readers with value.  Think about who your audience is and what pain points they’re looking for solutions to in order to create content for real people rather than for search engines.


Reduce backlinks (quality over quantity)

Google have been making it clear that ‘black hat’ SEO techniques involving ‘spammy’ backlinks are bad and will be penalised for almost a decade now, so there’s no excuse to still be featuring them on your website!  If your website has forced or artificial links pointing to it then you need to work with the Webmaster who owns the website that they feature on to get them removed.  Equally if your website features a lot of these kind of irrelevant links to other websites then you need to be removing them and reviewing your content.


Ensure keywords are included naturally

Make sure you’ve not gone over the top with keywords in your content.  Instead, write well researched and valuable content with the reader in mind.  Good quality content should naturally use synonyms and be keyword rich, there should not be any need for unnatural keyword stuffing.



Have you seen any changes to your website’s ranking over the last couple of months? If so tweet us @AqueousDigital.

Need some help recovering your rankings? Get in touch with our SEO team by giving us a call on 0800 285 1424.


Google 2017 algorithm changes - Aqueous Digital Services

What do we know about Google’s algorithm updates so far this year?

Google’s updates in 2017

With Google keeping the details of any changes to their algorithm firmly up their sleeve, we’ve rounded up some information on what we know or suspect has happened so far this year.

Here at Aqueous the last couple of months have been a mix bag when it comes to SEO ranking.  Google refused to comment on whether or not there had been any changes made to their algorithm earlier this month, but evidence suggests that there has been some upheaval, with some websites noticing significant fluctuations in traffic whilst others remained unaffected.

Let’s take a look at the three potential dates so far this year when the SEO community suspect Google may have made changes to or tweaked their algorithm.

Google's algorithm changes in 2017 - Aqueous digital marketing services UK


January Update

After Google made a very rare announcement about a future update to their algorithm back in August 2016 the SEO community prepared themselves for the worst and waited with baited breath to see what the effect would be.

Said update was the January 10th Mobile pop-ups update which it was said would penalise websites making it difficult for those browsing to access the content on the page due to intrusive pop-ups.

The SEO community looked on with interest on this date and then during the days and weeks that followed but saw very little (if any) change to rankings as a result of this update.


Potential Update in Early February

It wasn’t until early February when we really started to notice some unusual fluctuations in rankings, but there hadn’t been a peep from Google, so as usual we were left to investigate possible causes ourselves.

Minor changes to website rankings began to get picked up around February 1st and these fluctuations became even more apparent around February 7th.  Google have kept their lips sealed and refused to either confirm or deny if they have made any changes but we suspect that there has either been a new update or a tweak to an existing one.


Who has been affected?

The cause and effect of any algorithm change is still unclear, but research and talk amongst the SEO community suggests that the changes may be related to backlinks and so could have been caused by a tweak to the Penguin update.

Amongst a number of huge changes that aimed to improve the quality of search results, the Penguin update cracked down on websites that had gathered ‘spammy’ backlinks (eg. paid for links or links to their website from unrelated websites that weren’t seen to be genuine).

Although most SEO companies have now moved away from this kind of activity, some websites may still have some remaining ‘spammy’ backlinks out there pointing to them.  It has been reported that some websites that have backlinks from PBNs (Personal Blog Networks) seem to have been negatively affected so there is speculation about whether Google may have implemented a tweak to stamp out the effectiveness of backlinks from these kinds of websites.


Have you seen any changes to your website’s ranking over the last couple of months? If so tweet us @AqueousDigital.

Need some help recovering your rankings? Get in touch with our SEO team by giving us a call on 0800 285 1424.

Need a plumber?

Is Google testing advertising in Google My Business listings?

We have warned about this for some time and here’s the first UK based evidence that Google will be monetising the Google My Business listings.


This appears to have been a test as it isn’t possible to recreate this on a mobile since this screenshot was taken but it substantiates our earlier reports that Google is looking for more ways to drive advertising revenues through its search results pages.

This is not the first time we have seen Google looking at different options to generate money from search results. You may recall an earlier test example from the Bay Area of San Francisco, where we reported that a search for a plumber was bringing back a new set of listings. This was billed as a trial but is still running leading us to believe that this ‘trial’ is sufficiently successful to warrant continuing, at least for now.

Here’s how it currently looks if you search for plumbers in the Bay Area of San Francisco;


You will notice that this ‘Pre-Screened Plumbers’ pack actually replaces the Advertising which normally sits at the top and it pushes the Google my Business listings underneath the map like so;


This brings up another issue which is, of course, that of ‘pre-screening’. Can Google effectively do this? Are they capable of policing it? On what basis can they say a firm is good or bad? And what determines your position in the list? The amount you pay Google or the quality of work you do?

If current form is anything to go by all it would take is one complaint from a customer and a business could be removed from this list, at least temporarily. If that is the case and assuming it is the dominant form of advertising, they may well face legal challenges if they deny firms the right to be included in the list.

In short, it appears to be a minefield.

Elsewhere in the States the same search still displays a standard results page;


Meanwhile, back at the ‘Pre-Screened plumbers’, this has changed slightly since the first screen shots we took earlier this year and if you click on the ‘More Plumbers’ link in the bottom left it opens up with this;


As soon as you click on the ‘Request Quote’ button on the right hand side it pushes you to refine your query so you can be sure that the Plumber actually wants this type of work. You need to put in a valid zip code and type of plumbing job;


Then you are asked to input the job details;


Then finally you enter your details and your request goes off to the Plumber, who of course gets charged by Google for delivering a real live sales lead to him.


The problem of course with this is that the system allows you to enter up to three contractors at a time which essentially means that whoever gets back to the customer first is pretty much guaranteed the job, particularly if it is an emergency.

This will lead to some major changes in the way that businesses answer their phone calls in the future and could lead to a rise in the ‘mobile landline services’ or call handling services. Will you need to have someone monitoring your inbox on a minute by minute basis waiting for these leads to arrive?

Whilst still a trial in the USA it is highly likely that this, or something like this, will become a feature in the near future. Serious thought should be given now to ways in which this will affect your business and how you intend to adapt to meet this new way of advertising.


Google knowledge boxes are still experiencing problems

I’ve written a lot about how Google knowledge boxes are a more and more frequent visitor to our search results and in a lot of cases they are a welcome addition. As an end user if I am searching for the current time in Sydney for example I am happy when the box pops up showing me the exact time.

Of course if I were a website owner that derived a lot of revenue from visitors to my ‘what time is it anywhere in the world’ website I might not be quite so impressed. Even less so if I found that Google was taking the result it showed from my website.

As this is an automated service it will get some things spot on and others will be wide of the mark. As time goes on more and more results are accurate but there are still some notable examples where they are missing the mark.

Here’s another one that arrived today. Ask Google for the price of a second class stamp and it happily shows the price to be 62p…


If you read further down the answer box you can see that it really does know the answer, it just doesn’t know which if the four figures to pick out.

So nice try Google; nearly there…..

But to be fair, Yahoo is no better. Its top answer proudly boasts that it is 53p which is also wrong. I knew that Royal Mail’s pricing in proportion was a little bit more complicated than the old flat rate but not that hard.

PS – The actual price is currently 54p


Google knowledge boxes are not always the authoritative answer…

Of later there have been more and more instances of Google dominating particular search results with what are supposedly the ‘definitive’ answers.

As an example when you search for ‘weather in Australia’ you get this sort of result;

Australia Weather


This week however we searched for ‘UK Average Temperatures’ and above the Met Office, and Wikipedia came this result;

Google Knowledge Box

Naturally we’re delighted to see a result (even though it didn’t actually answer our question at all) but we would question whether Woodlands Junior School is more authoritative in this respect than the Met Office?

On the brighter side however I know I can now rely on the answers from my nine year old when I want to know anything. Kids are so bright these days I sometimes wonder why we need Google at all….