Tag Archives: Language

Stepping into the future with voice SEO

Did you know that.. there’s such a thing as voice SEO?


According to PwC, 65% of 25-49 year olds use voice assistants daily and with this ever-rising popularity in devices such as Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, Cortana and Siri, it makes sense that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is now being carried out for voice searches. The optimisation of keywords and phrases for searches of this nature is now just as important (and could even soon be more important) than standard SEO for keyboard searches. Whilst it is true that most standard SEO techniques are still relevant since voice searches are converted into text before returning results, there are some key differences between keyboard searches and voice-activated searches that make voice SEO important to consider. 

Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, searches carried out using voice assistants are phrased differently to text-based or typed searches. When asking questions to voice assistant devices, users naturally use more conversational terms and phrases. This means it is important for businesses to ensure that their online content reflects this natural, conversational tone of voice, not only in terms of keywords but also in terms of semantics and context, in order to be returned as a relevant search result that answers users’ questions.

It is also important to note that the most common use of voice assistants is to search for local amenities, stores and businesses. The increasing use of voice search to find out what time the local takeaway shuts, or where the nearest hairdresser is, means that now is the time for businesses to focus on their local SEO. This can include making sure that they have an up to date “Google My Business” page as well as building up online reviews to increase visibility on Google Search and Maps, in turn, making them more likely to appear as a search result. 

Finally, don’t forget that when using voice search, users are often not returned a selection of results as they are with keyboard searches. Unless the voice assistant includes a screen, users expect a single, verbal response to their query. The most relevant option is selected by the voice assistant and if there is a “featured snippet” this will always be the result chosen to be read out. With this in mind, it is more important than ever to be aiming to reach that “Position Zero” on search results. 

With ComScore predicting 50% of all searches in 2020 to be voice-activated, and the BBC set to launch their own voice assistant, Beeb, next year, it is time to step into the future with voice SEO. For more advanced tips, check out Search Engine Watch‘s six essential factors to consider in voice search optimisation.

The Power of Language

Mélanie Chevalier

Words have the power to define the success or failure of communications. The weight of words is crucial and will ultimately affect the way a message resonates with your target market, locally or across markets.

The question therefore arises as to why words are perceived differently. And more importantly, how brands can use words and phrases according to the markets they would like to communicate in. In other words, how can they fine-tune messages using more relevant terminology, and in turn, tone-of-voice?

The basics

 - How are words perceived? (connotation, denotation)

To begin with, it is important to distinguish between connotation and denotation.

Denotation refers to the literal meaning and definition of a word. On the other hand, connotation refers to the implicit meaning, i.e. the positive or negative associations that we identify with a word. More often than not, the connotation associated with a word is what most influences people.

Late 2015, Bloomingdale’s publish a print ad in one of their holiday catalogues. It featured a man looking towards a woman with the advice to ’Spike your friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking’. In this instance, Bloomingdale’s were referring to the practice of ‘spiking’ eggnog with alcohol, however they didn’t consider the connotations associated with the term ‘spiking’. Colloquially, it is also associated with date-rape and is widely used to refer to a drink has been tainted with alcohol or drugs, with women more frequently targeted than men. The inappropriate nature of this advert therefore becomes evident when a man is pictured staring at a beautiful woman...

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- Who’s the audience? (country, region, market)

With this in mind, you should also consider your target audience. Are you addressing a country? A region? A market? Who is it made up of? What is the current cultural context?

Unless really segmented or specific, most of the time the target audience can be  diverse – in terms of socioeconomics and culture – and it is simply impossible to adapt your message to specific individuals. Without intending to be too general, it is important to highlight some traits or characteristics commonly shared by individuals in a group.

Once identified, these groups can be studied and it is possible to highlight what would be pertinent to use in order to reach them without making any blunders. Assessing the audience’s culture, values and habits is critical to avoid conveying the wrong message. A distorted message could lead to audiences turning their backs on the sender.

Following the April 2017 Boston Marathon, Adidas found itself in a PR nightmare. To congratulate all the runners who made it until the end, they sent an email that said “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon”, failing to consider the fact that a fatal bombing occurred during the same event in 2013. Public apologies followed pretty promptly but these crisis management measures could have been avoided with further intelligence into the target audience and contextualisation.

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One step further

It is common for organisations to call on in-house resources such as team members or even colleagues from overseas branches to copywrite, adapt or translate some content into a foreign language. However, this is often inadequate and unsuccessful because being fluent in a language does not make you a language specialist, even if you are a copywriter.

Linguistic professionals are trained and understand the nuances in meaning; they are also able to adapt to different registers and tones of voice according to the requirements. Cultural sensitivity is also of great importance. It is worth noting that a comprehensive understanding of a country’s culture allows for better expertise when accurately producing content in a target language.

A careful choice of words, structures and expressions can go a long way. Regardless of your audience, there are implicit rules to be followed to be as accurate as possible. Most blunders by international brands will be due to limited outsourced expert resources or internal processes that prevent local due diligence to be undertaken when it comes to word choice, either in English or the local language.

Audiences will always take note of brands that try to reach out to them by tailoring their messages to the market. The better an advertiser knows its audience, the more effective its advertising efforts will be. There are no shortcuts. Researching your audience and utilising professional services are key elements to consider when communicating with your targets.

by Mélanie Chevalier MPRCA, CEO




Mobile technology designed to improve language diversity

Language diversity

In the technological world of mobile media, it’s not always easy to preserve language diversity. Communication technologies, and social media in particular, present benefits such as the opportunity to improve the prestige of a language and promote its use among younger generations. But they also present challenges when we consider, for example, that interaction and input rely more on processes like speed recognition and gesture typing, than on traditional keyboard typing.

Predictive text has been implemented for global languages, but there is not enough support for minority languages with smaller commercial markets. The global trend is towards less linguistic diversity, as local and indigenous languages are being replaced by languages like English, Spanish or Chinese, with speech-controlled applications failing to take minority languages into consideration.

Irish (Gaeilge) for example, despite being the first official language of Ireland, is only spoken by about 40-70,000 people daily, out of the Irish population of 4.6 million. The remainder of the population uses English. A recent report shows that some of the obstacles encountered by Irish speakers included mobile interfaces inhibiting the use of Irish, the audience for Irish being smaller than the audience for English, and their networks being linguistically pluralistic.

Interaction designers should consider these issues when designing for minority language users. The computerization of minority languages, together with software localization or translation, provide new opportunities for language preservation and revitalization. On Apple devices, for example, basic input of text for minority languages with a script closely related to a majority language is not a problem, but most Irish people would still use English on social media, as using a minority language might limit engagement.

Preserving minority languages is really important, as a language represents a particular culture, and contains unique information about the world. As global technology giants like Facebook and Google try to enter developing regions of the world, linguistic self-determination is becoming of great importance.

By Maria D'Innocenzo

Hieroglyphs: left to right or right to left?


Hieroglyphs are pictures and symbols used by the Egyptians as a form of writing. When looking at a bunch of pictures of birds, gods and eyes, do you have any idea where to start reading? From left to right? From top to bottom? The trick is to look for a figure with a head – if it faces left, read from left to right and vice versa. Also, you always read from top to bottom.

The Egyptians believed that they were taught how to write by the god Thoth. While Thoth wanted to make Egyptians wiser, he was stopped by the god Ra who believed that the Egyptians would become lazy by relying too much on writing rather than memory. Nevertheless, Thoth gifted the art of writing to a selected group of Egyptians, the scribes.

If you're interested in knowing more about hieroglyphs, here's a very interesting documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXV30Aymnew

By Man Kit Leong