When was the last time you asked Google a question? Take a look at your browser history (if you dare) and it probably won’t take you long to find one. Search engines have become our go-to knowledge providers and the rise of mobile devices has made it easier than ever to get an answer instantly.
Of course, this isn’t groundbreaking news. Micro-moments have been around for years now and continue to define the way most users search on mobile into four main categories: want to know, want to go, want to do, and want to buy.
However, more and more people are turning to search engines to ask personalised questions, rather than friends and family. As Google’s recent study on the rise of personal searches shows, mobile queries that include language such as “I”, “me”, and “my” have soared in popularity over the last couple of years.
Take search queries that include “should I”, for instance. These have increased by a remarkable 80% over the last two years, indicating more users are turning to Google for advice. For example, Keyword Planner tells us around 3,600 users search for “what should I have for dinner” each month – that’s a lot of hungry people! Compare that to the impersonal “what to make for dinner”, which only gets 1,600 searches a month, and the shift in search behaviour is apparent.
So, what kind of results do you get for this search query? Well, recipes first and foremost. The featured snippet belongs to Cooking Light and presents a variety of dishes to rustle up for dinner tonight. However, the first organic result is actually a quiz, which arguably better satisfies the query.
Think about the intent behind the question – the user doesn’t want to have to trawl through a host of recipes to find one they want to make, they want a definitive answer. Someone who was looking for a few suggestions for dinner would search something along the lines of “dinner ideas”. This means content marketers need to think outside the box to better answer personalised queries.
According to Google’s report, the most common personal searches can be classified in one of three categories: problem-solving, getting things done, or exploring. “What should I have for dinner” falls under the getting things done category:
Other queries in this category, such as “show me my shopping list” (880 monthly searches), suggest these are voice searches. Undoubtedly, the rise of voice search has played a huge part in the increase of conversational language seen in queries. Sales of virtual assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home continue to rise – in fact, Amazon reported a sales increase of 38% in the last quarter of 2017, which the CEO attributed to the success of Alexa-enabled products. With sales not expected to slow any time soon, it’s likely we’ll continue to see personal searches increase.
Let’s take a look at a problem-solving example highlighted in the report under ‘pet care’:
“What breed is my dog” receives 720 average monthly searches, according to Keyword Planner. “What breed is my cat” is even more popular, clocking up 1,000 searches a month. While this may seem obvious to some, there are countless mixed breeds out there and owners may not know what theirs is, especially if they have adopted.
So, what kind of content best answers these queries? While informative articles may be useful, the search results for “what breed is my dog” are dominated by apps. These apps allow you to upload a picture of your pooch and analyse it to give you the best match. This takes the effort out of reading articles yourself and let’s artificial intelligence do the work for you!
The third and final category in the report tends to feature queries that contain “near me”. These have risen in popularity thanks to the location feature of search engines, which localises results for you.
If we take “hair salons near me” as an example, this receives an enormous 27,100 searches a month. The search results for these types of queries usually generate a Knowledge Graph, which shows the location of nearby businesses on a map alongside their contact information.
While optimising for “near me” terms is up for debate, seen as your ability to rank will depend on the user’s location, there are a few things businesses can do to help their chances. Firstly, ensure Google My Business is set up and enable location extensions in AdWords to help people find you. It’s also important not to rely solely on brand searches, so optimising your site for generic “near me” queries is crucial.
The rise of personal searches provides a golden opportunity for content marketers to get creative. While it’s still important to have good quality content on your site, particularly informational, the variety of searches you’re up against means this won’t always be enough to satisfy each query. Try experimenting with tools and calculators, apps and interactive quizzes to provide the best answer to each question – the possibilities are endless!