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The Friday Five

Five Things Law Firms Need to Know About Voice Search

By Mark Homer

According to the projections in a VoiceLabs report, about 33 million voice-first devices were in circulation at the start of the year. By voice-first, we mean devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home that sit on your counter and only interact with voice commands. This report doesn’t even count the hundreds of millions of mobile phones, tablets and convertible PCs that have Siri, Hey Google or Cortana built in.

With all the voice search options in consumers’ hands, here are five things law firms need to know about voice search.

1. Voice Search Is on the Rise

Google has stated searches on mobile devices have exceeded searches on desktops, but ComScore estimates that by 2020 half of all searches will be via a voice search.

Corresponding this specifically to law firms, we can look at search phrases in the law firm AdWords accounts that we manage. We have seen an increase in longer search phrases and in confusing and misspelled words in these long phrases. Here is a recent example:

“whena juvenile is at fault of a accident what does courtaid?”

Our assumption is that many of these strange longer search phrases are due to the increase in voice searches.

2. Google Really Wants to Figure This Out

As you will see below, there are things you can do to help your website appear in voice search returns. However, we also know that Google and other providers are working hard to figure out how to provide the answer with existing information on the web. In looking at changes Google has made over the past few years, it’s clear they are getting ready for a one-search, one-answer world, which is what most voice search requires.

The goal of voice search tools like Siri, Alexa, Google and Cortana is to use semantic clues to provide as close to the exact answer as they can. If you look at what Google has been doing lately in the search results, you can see where this is headed.

Over the past several years, Google has introduced knowledge cards about people, places, sports scores, etc. and answer cards with their best guess of the answer to a search question. They have also adjusted search results being based on semantic clues like your previous history, time of day, your actual location, whether you’re on a desktop or mobile device, and probably many more factors.

In fact, it is fascinating to look at the crazy searches (likely from voice) that come into AdWords that are translated pretty well by Google, because the correct ad is shown even though the phrase is very confusing.

In that “whena juvenile is at fault of a accident what does courtaid,” example, Google’s algorithm showed our client’s ad, which had the keywords “juvenile court.” Not “Cortaid.”

In fact, Google’s algorithm correctly understood that this strange voice request was really asking, “When a juvenile is at fault in an accident what does the court ask” and showed the correct ad — and that ad was clicked.

The good news is that not doing anything different from what you doing right now will get you pretty far as Google’s algorithms get better and better.

3. Schema Will Continue to Be Incredibly Important

Incorporating schema markup on your website provides search engine bots with specific semantic information in the exact language they understand. You should be marking up as much as you can on your website to help the semantic part of the search engine algorithm.

At the most basic, you should use the legal service markup to provide specific information about your law firm business to search engines. In “bot-speak” you can tell the search bots your exact business name, address, office hours, phone number, events/seminars you host, link to the Google map that you’ve claimed, area of the city you serve, awards you have won, the attorneys and employees who work at the firm, and much more.

This markup provides a lot of information to Google, which passes on its findings to the searcher. For example, if someone searches for a lawyer after 5 p.m. and you’ve listed your office as closed in your schema markup, Google may not return your listing to the searcher.

You should also consider the Question and Answer schema because …

4. You Will Need to Answer Questions on Your Website

People go to the internet to ask questions about things they are unsure about. From “Alexa, what time does Starbucks close near me?” to “Hey Google, how do I get out of a traffic ticket?”

We speak up to 150 words per minute. The average person only types at 40 words per minute, so it makes sense that we will begin to use longer, natural language questions when using a voice search feature versus typing.

To help your content match these increasingly longer queries, spend time on your website writing content to answer questions — not just focused around specific short keywords.

What questions should you answer? What are the natural phrases people use?

This is one of the easiest content marketing research projects you as a lawyer can get. “SEO experts” don’t get to try to confuse you with magical SEO terms like keyword density, latent semantic indexing and word sense disambiguation.

Just put a legal pad next to your phone. Put a big title across the top called “Questions.” Throughout your normal routine talking to prospects and clients, when someone asks a question, write it down. Use the exact words they used to describe the issue.

Now you have the beginnings of a list of questions using real-world language that you can answer on your website. The content should be easy to write since you answer these questions every day.

Bonus points if after writing the question and answer page on your website you reference the Question and Answer schema markup mentioned above.

5. Don’t Forget About People Looking for Your Firm by Name

You need to make sure the key directory listings that the voice search industry is using are completely accurate.

You don’t want someone using voice search to fire up maps and go to your office, only to be taken to the wrong location. And if you have a 24/7 call service that can get to your mobile phone for emergencies, make sure you don’t list your office as closed at 5 p.m.

Here are the key directories to optimize, at a minimum:

  • Google Assistant (Hey Google) = Google My Business
  • Siri = Apple Maps and Yelp
  • Alexa = returns Yelp reviews
  • Cortana (Microsoft) = Bing business listings and reviews from Yelp

Voice Is the New Mobile

As mobile devices began dominating search results over the past few years, those law firms that did not adjust their website to optimize for mobile searches saw a decline in traffic.

As we see voice searches increase in the coming years, start incorporating some of these techniques now to avoid a similar fate.

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Mark Homer Mark Homer

Mark Homer is CEO of GNGF, a leading law firm marketing agency. At GNGF, Mark leads the team to help empower and educate law firms to grow their practice. He is co-author of “Online Law Practice Strategies” and often speaks around the U.S. on marketing and social media ethics for law firms. Sign up for GNGF’s  Legal Marketing Academy here. Follow Mark on Twitter: @mark_homer.




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