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Ok Google, I Need a Lawyer

Credit: Consumer Intelligence Research Partners

Credit: Consumer Intelligence Research Partners

Smartphones help you pay bills, communicate, work on the run, tap into your inner photographer, and act as personal assistants. This technology can help people with the basics such as What time is it? Where is the nearest coffee shop? Where is the nearest fire station? It can also help people with life changes such as “I own a business, have two kids, and am getting a divorce”.

Voice search from Apple's Siri, Google Now, and Microsoft's Cortana are quickly shaping popular search queries.
While Siri first made its appearance on October 4, 2011, there is likely more development in the wings to upgrade the quality of the responses. Currently, Google is on top for voice searches even though Apple's iPhone enjoys dominating marketshare among smartphone users.

Google has been enhancing its Knowledge Vault for several years. Some industry insiders have been critical about Knowledge Vault but the system now uses a new algorithm that digests information from every corner of the Internet.

How effective is it? A recent study (October 4, 2014), Stone Temple, an SEO consulting agency, revealed Google Now returns twice as many results as Siri and close to three times more than Cortana. A closer look at those results shows Google Now returns more enhanced results than Siri or Cortana. Enhanced results include: structured snippets, knowledge boxes, and knowledge panels).
Google Now is also better at directly answering questions and is more conversational and relevant, as it returns results based on a user’s previous search intent, and that is powerfully useful technology.

Siri and Cortana either indirectly provide an answer or redirects the user to Bing search results. None of the voice-activated searches always return a correct answer, leaving the searcher to try the search another way, or find what they were looking for on their own.

How does this apply to your law firm marketing strategy?
Voice search is fundamentally different than text search and since voice searches are becoming more prevalent, attorneys need to make sure their search engine marketing efforts are going beyond generic keywords. It is not just mobile devices that have the capacity to perform voice searches. Microsoft has announced that when desktop Windows 10 hits the market, it is to be equipped with Cortana. That means voice-activated search queries will be happening in a desktop environment. Google Chrome has offered voice search on desktops since last summer.

Desktop Microsoft 10 voice-activated searches are due to hit the marketplace likely by the end of July 2015. The technical preview ended April 15, 2015. Windows 10 comes in 7 versions and will be offered as a free upgrade for one year for Win 7 and Win 8.1 users.
What does a law firm do to make sure their search engine marketing strategy is responding to this trend? The first thing to is to own the concept that voice search uses question phrases. Remember, few people speak the same way as the write.

As an example, say you are looking for tires. On a desktop you may type, “tire stores in Houston”. f you use voice search, the query would likely be “Where is the nearest tire store?” or simply “I need new tires.” In that instance, you would be given a specific location close to where you are physically located. Typically, mobile voice-related searches are three times more likely to be local-based than text searches.

Voice searches provide search engines with more important clues than text searches – thus refining search results. They have more words per search as they are conversations... because that is how we talk versus how we type.

According to Matt Cutts, Google’s Distinguished Engineer, search engine marketers need to change their point-of-view about voice-activated searches. This is because people talk in complete sentences. Complete sentences do not do well typed as a text search, thus resulting in less accurate and fewer results. As voice search algorithms continue to be refined, there are bound to be better results for spoken word searches/natural language queries.

The voice-activated search market is not just limited to Google Now, Cortana and Siri. There is a new player with a twist – a cloud-connected room speaker with a resident digital assistant by the name of Alexa, courtesy of Amazon’s Echo. This will bring searches to living rooms on devices that do not have visual displays.

Knowing that question phrases are important, a law firm can start using question phrases in their keywords or developing content that answers specific questions. Knowing that voice searches have more words, begin to track longer tail keywords to find patterns and add question phrases.

Look beyond your generic keyword rankings. As mobile searches climb (already exceeding 50% in some markets), you will need to cast a wider net so that your law firm is there when someone speaks.