Getting Your Content Ready For Voice.


On an episode of NCIS (Season 13), Tim McGee and his girlfriend Delilah Fielding (both computer experts and self-professed geeks) had an argument about moving in together. At one point, they switched to a modified shorthand binary language to keep the details private.

Delilah: 'Honey…00 100.'
Tim: ’11 01 01.'
Delilah: '01 011 1.'
Tim: ‘001.’

It was impressive.

But the scenario also highlights that humans and machines use language very differently.

Machines prefer binary with its 'no-muss, no-fuss' structure and consistency of meaning. Humans opt for unstructured communications: words and phrases layered with dialect, slang and idioms, not to mention sarcasm and irony, subterfuge, double entendres and mis-pronunciations.

Is it any wonder that humans and machines struggle to understand each other?

As voice technology and natural language processing continue to develop and improve, we’re taking steps toward better understanding each other. And brands are vying to capture 'share of ear’ across a seemingly endless parade of channels: websites, mobile apps, chatbots, smart homes and cars, wearables and beyond. Customers embrace technology that makes their lives more convenient, their time more efficient and their tasks easier. Mobile technology can tick all those boxes while the addition of voice technology takes the experience to a new level. As is so often the case with disruptive technology, the travel industry is at the forefront of the movement. Below we look at a few of the recent trends with voice and travel and then look at how travel marketers can keep up with the pace of change.

Recent trends in voice technology and the travel industry

‘On average, travellers use 10-12 apps throughout the searching, booking and travelling parts of their trip’ according to Travelport’s 2018 Global Digital Traveller Survey of 16,000 travellers from 25 countries. And over half of respondents said they used voice search to help with the booking process or while they were travelling.

A recent survey of 1,040 adults in the United States discovered that 50% of respondents use voice assistants while in the car to ask for directions and navigation and 17% ask about restaurants in the area. If people are using this technology at home, it’s safe to assume they’re even more reliant on it when travelling to unfamiliar destinations.

The integration of voice assistants as part of the hotel or vacation rental experience is also on the rise, with two areas standing out:

  • Bringing the comforts of the (smart) home with them: Hotels are providing voice-powered assistants that allow guests to control the temperature and lights in the room, play music, check the weather, contact room service or housekeeping and check out easily. Marriott has partnered with Amazon in the US and Alibaba in China while InterContinental has joined forces with Baidu in China.
  • Driving curiosity and exploration in the local area: New apps and platforms, like Virtual Concierge Service, help owners or managers of boutique hotels or vacation rentals deliver ‘insider information’ to guests about the local area - things to do, good restaurants, hidden gems, local favourites that they may not otherwise have seen through mainstream tourist checklists. This can be delivered through smart speakers or via an app that guests download.

So how can you get ready for voice technology?

Your customer may be interacting with your content in a number of ways:

  • They may be speaking their query into a voice assistant like Siri that draws its results from search engines and directs users to websites that they’ll still need to interact with on screen.
  • They might be asking their smart speaker for information which has been programmed directly into an Alexa Skill or Google Action and the entire experience occurs without a screen interface. Or they may be using a chat bot on your website or other platforms, like Facebook, where the conversational interface mirrors the verbal back and forth of a human conversation. 

It will come as no surprise that data powers the experience, so be sure your data is clean, stored properly and integrated into your digital ecosystem.

Then it’s all about the content.

1. Make a list of all the questions your customers have

You’ll want to perform user research with customer representatives within the business or with customers directly to capture all the questions they have around your subject domain, your product or service and any related topics.

This step is about identifying user intent.

So dig deep and explore the context. Ask yourself, what are my customers looking for that they’re not saying?

Where to look:

  • SEO research (Google, Bing, Answer the Public, SerpStat, Question Samurai)
  • Internal feedback from Sales, Customer Service, social listening
  • Subject domain mapping
  • User interviews / focus groups / surveys

2. Incorporate those questions and answers into your content

A useful exercise is to then map the key questions against your typical customer journey - awareness, research, consideration, purchase, use and advocacy.

Are all your questions in one or two specific stages? If so, you may need to do more research to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Next, create evergreen content specific to that position in the user journey and be sure that you're answering the questions your customers are asking.

  • Awareness / Research: high-level destination guides, inspirational content, customer stories, FAQ cotent
  • Consideration / Purchase: product/service information, comparisons around price or quality, staff stories
  • Use: local recommendations, cross-sell / up-sell opportunities, loyalty programme
  • Advocacy: user-generated content, testimonials, refer a friend

Be sure you’re optimising your copy for the device and use question words in subheads where appropriate.

3. Write in plain language and use structured data

Cut out the jargon and technical terms and use conversational phrases and words that reflect the ones your customers use. 

In the same way that featured snippets and schema markup can help your results appear at the top of the search engines, they’ll provide the direct answers that voice search interfaces are looking for.

By using structured data and considering natural language processing, you’ll make it easier for the machines to interpret your content and know when to show it to the right customer.

4. Remember the four Cs of conversational interface

Purna Virji, the senior manager of global engagement at Microsoft, gave a presentation at Brighton SEO in 2018 that outlined four principles for building more effective conversational interfaces. These were:

  • Clarity: Pose short, clear questions to the customer and give them options or examples rather than open-ended questions that they have to spend time thinking about
  • Character: Customers expect voice assistants and chat bots to have personality, but be sure you stay on brand and professional. And never pretend that the machine is a human or you risk losing trust.
  • Compassion: While we’re not pretending machines are human, we want to ensure the experience retains a sense of empathy and compassion that a human interaction would have.
  • Correction: It’s inevitable that there will be misunderstandings or incomplete data sets. Find ways to get back on track quickly that don’t irritate or make the situation worse.

5. Put stories at the heart of your customer experience

A final point to consider is that as voice technology becomes more commonplace there will be an increasing demand for high-quality audio-based storytelling.

For travel marketers, this is fertile ground. Start thinking about the customer stories that your brand makes possible and map this into your content strategy now.

Whatever your business, be it a regional or global brand, the content you produce plays a vital role in your success. You know that… hence you’re reading this.

A well formulated and executed content strategy not only drives more traffic, at the core, it defines what your business is and helps build a strong connection between you and your audiences.

So let's quickly look at why developing a coherent content strategy is important and how setting clear goals and understanding your audience will elevate your online performance. 

What is a Content Strategy?

It's basic right? Content is at the core of how you define the way your business presents itself and an effective strategy should look to ensure that tone of voice, messaging and the core values are surfaced across all channels, from service or product pages on your website, to blog posts, through social media updates blah blah blah.

But let's keep it simple - your content strategy should be a clear roadmap that connects your marketing activities to your business goals. Align to your customer’s wants and needs and engage them at every interaction point and boom, you're in business. 

Who are my Audience?

You likely start all your projects with this chalked on the wall because your business knows “exactly” who its customers are right? Sounds obvious but we often find its not been done forensically enough (not based on data), is too old (more than 12 months ago - forget it) or its a spin off from some brand work that was legitimately aspirational but doesn’t face the reality of who you your business is actually engaging today.

So start (or circle back) with audience research, building out those personas to understand their ambitions, their lifestyle, their pain points or concerns, and crucially their wants and needs - in your context. 

Do I need to tailor content?

As part of your research find out where your audiences spend their time online and how they interact with content: Some may spend time thoroughly researching a product or service, whereas other audiences may want their content to be quick, snappy or easily digestible in the form of a video, infographic or short blog posts.


Ultimately, the key is to produce a strategy that creates the type of content your customers want to see:

  • What are the problems that your product or service will help them solve?

  • Who are they most influenced by?

  • What voices influence their behaviour?

  • What type of content do they consume?

  • Where do they consume content and engage with brands?

Different Content, Different Objectives

 All content is not born equal: When producing your strategy, it is important that the objectives for each individual piece are defined, that these fulfil your marketing objectives and tie to the overarching goals for your business.

There are various content frameworks that exist to aid content development in this way, but one that is popular and effective is Google’s hero, hub and hygiene method: It provides a framework on developing content to achieve different goals and gives guidance on the effort needed to create each type of content.

Hero Content

Hero content is essentially campaign content, it is big splash ideas designed to appeal to a large audience with the aim of telling your brand’s story at scale. 

Ways of measuring hero include the amount of PR mentions or links from authoritative domains plus social interactions and mentions of your brand across all channels. 

Considering the scale of hero campaigns, this content is not regularly produced and is reserved for peak promotional times where it’s important for a business to stand out from their competitors.

Hub Content

Hub content is the stuff that keeps your audience engaged, it expands on the themes of product or service level content, educates users and helps create a connection between themselves and your brand.

Hygiene Content

Hygiene content is the bread and butter of any website, it is the BAU content for products and services, it is SEO focused and targets important keywords at a product, service or guide level.

How do I manage all this?

Content development is only one part of the ongoing work needed when working with an effective content strategy. We call it “feeding the beast” because it really is the fuel in your brand vehicle and once you start you really can’t stop (if it’s delivering results) but that’s where performance measurement comes in.

Your greatest gift in managing the outputs from your hero/hub/hygiene style efforts is to understand If your content is working. To truly deliver results your business must first understand the objectives and goals of each piece of content to effectively measure its success. That as a guiding light from day 1 will let you slow down, speed up, stop or start new content briefs and projects.

Remember - content strategies are not set in stone. They are living breathing things and should adapt and pivot as insights become available and your brand naturally evolves.

If ever you want to chat content and explore new initiatives we’re always here to help.

want to speak to one of our experts?



06 Mar 2019 - 6 minute read
share this

stay in the know, stay ahead.

Get the latest from the agency, including news, events and expert content.
explore services in the article
find out what we can do for you
read some of our case studies