Search Laboratory’s Take on Global Voice Search
An Interview With Nicola Winters

Search Laboratory

Nicola Winters is the Head of International for Search Laboratory, a global digital marketing agency with two locations within the United Kingdom and one in Brooklyn, NY. Search Laboratory has been offering data-driven, multilingual digital marketing services since 2005. But Search Laboratory isn’t your typical global digital marketing agency – they stand out above the crowd.

Digital Marketing and Optimized Translation Services

With his background in the translation industry, Search Laboratory’s founder, Ian Harris, noticed that generally speaking, the digital marketing translation services were in not linguistically faithful. In other words, the content used in multilingual campaigns was not effective for the market into which it was being fed. His role as Chief Technology Officer also highlighted a need for a more audit-able and statistical approach to PPC and SEO services.

Ian recognized that by marrying both translation and digital marketing services together, he could provide businesses with a more streamlined and effective way of expanding their websites internationally.

To me, it’s more than languages. It’s understanding how people engage with brands across the globe.”

– Nicole Winters

Alongside their international digital marketing services,  Search Laboratory manages a team of translation specialists who work alongside Nicola’s team of international digital marketing experts to provide optimized translation services. Nicola’s team focuses on keyword research, user behavior and cultural analyses, as well as identification of conversion barriers in order to help their clients achieve success. The findings are communicated to the translation team who then develop key ways to execute the translated copy.

In addition to key findings, the translators are provided with a map of each client’s site which explains the typical user journey. This helps translators to develop a clear understanding of what the translated content requires to ensure the message resonates with the audience. Maintaining in-house international and translation teams means full control of translation quality and complete assurance that all content is SEO ready. In order to provide clients with SEO and digital marketing best practices, Nicola and her team need to stay ahead of industry trends – one such industry trend is voice search queries.

A Peek Into Voice Search Best Practices

After seeing a huge increase in the number of adults around the globe who are turning to voice search with their mobile devices, Nicole decided to conduct an in-depth study into international voice search. As Nicolas states,

… with [the] Global Web Index claiming 1 in 5 adults online are using voice search on mobile each month (over 300 million people), it’s hard to see this trend slowing down anytime soon.”

What Exactly Is Voice Search?

Voice search enables Internet users to speak into their mobile devices in order to obtain valuable information. Some users prefer voice search to conduct research on any given subject; some perform local queries, while others use voice search to shop online. Since it is quicker and much easier to speak into a mobile device simply, a growing number of global Internet mobile users are moving to voice search.

People generally resort to a more natural speech pattern when using the voice search option. This differs greatly from text searches which take on more of a machine communication rhythm. When text searching for Italian restaurants in your hometown for instance, you might be inclined to type, “Italian restaurants, Manhattan”, but when voice searching, you’re likely to say something like, “Ok, Siri, where are the best Italian restaurants near me?” – and this slight shift in search patterns means a slight shift in a company’s search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.

What the eCommerce Market Needs to Know

When voice search first started hitting the Internet, some companies started panicking, thinking their SEO strategy needed to be thrown out the window, and all that time learning the art and science of SEO best practices had been lost. Not so, says Nicola:

Historically, people have been quite scared of SEO. They see it as sort of like dark art, as though only geeky robots with their laptops are controlling the whole scene. But quality SEO remains a very good practice even in light of voice search.”

Nicola advises companies that there is no need to panic and suggestions four basic, straightforward strategies to keep at the forefront:

  1. Continue your SEO practices but just make sure you’re doing it right
  2. Focus some of your content on long-tail queries and build up content hubs that answer “specific” questions
  3. Build a customer journey from start to finish on your website
  4. Focus attention on spotting opportunities to rank in the Answer Box for relevant queries (Google)

According to Nicola, voice search hasn’t completely replaced good old-fashioned SEO, and it likely won’t for a very long time. There are still many glitches that the top dogs, Google, Amazon, and Apple have to work out. So, stick to your SEO practice but consider adding a slight twist. Identify the most logical places on your website to add long-tail words, and begin to build these into your website’s content. But the true crème de la crème is focusing on the customer journey:

Customer Journey


Consider your ideal customer persona. What are her motivations, and what are her intentions when visiting your website? How can you build your website to help her along the journey?

How Does Voice Search Affect the Global eCommerce Market?

Mobile voice search has definitely gone global, and the Asian-Pacific market is driving the largest demand:

The below data shows the percentage of usage in one month in 2018

* The above data shows the percentage of usage in one month in 2018

Even with these impressive figures, the move toward multilingual voice search is gradual at best. According to Nicola, although there are dozens of languages spoken across Europe, “online spending from the UK, France, and Germany accounts for over two-thirds of all eCommerce spend in Europe. For that reason, voice search is used more in those countries.” Nicola believes that eventually, however, voice search software will have no choice but to push out into additional languages to meet the needs of a growing global, mobile-friendly, Internet-savvy audience. But for now, eCommerce remains quite dominant in limited markets. Google Home is currently offered in only eight languages. Echo is only available in countries that rely on English, German, and Japanese, and Apple Home Pod is only available in English-speaking markets.

What Does the Future Hold for Voice Search?

Arguably, for many people, voice search has become the primary online search method simply for ease of use and near-immediate results. However, voice search is still working on some growing pains. Responses are not always accurate, and sometimes the voice assistants get information quite confused. Results still heavily dependent upon a person’s location, which can render quite frustrating at times, and users often have to change the way they phrase a certain question in order to achieve the desired outcome. And while Google has advanced to the point of handling compound queries, it can still be duped by customer reviews that lead them to “best” and “worst” results that may not, in fact, be accurate. Inconsistencies and complex language structures aside, voice search is likely only to advance, and will eventually be capable of handling complex queries in multiple languages.

Want to learn more about Nicola Winters and Search Laboratory? Interested in learning how to optimize your site for a global audience? Contact the team today.

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