Siri, What Can You Teach Search Marketers?

I recently upgraded my phone to the iPhone 4S and, like everyone else, started playing around with the Siri feature. I noticed that as I used the feature and watched others use it, almost everyone was asking Siri questions.

This got me thinking about the impact Siri might have on search queries. How often do users include terms like who, what, where, when, why, and how? Has this increased at all with the launch Siri? What is the search experience that brands give consumers when these phrases are included in the search query?

Demand Media has made a billion dollar business out of getting these queries right with and other web properties. Therefore, there has to be something worth paying closer attention to here, right?

How often do consumers include these modifying phrases in their search queries?

For financial services, these keywords appear in about 5.5 percent of queries. In retail, these keywords appear about 2.2 percent of the time.

The complexities of financial services products leads to the higher volume of questions in search queries, especially “how” and “what.” The local nature of retail leads to the higher searches that include “where.” Also, SEO gets a higher percentage of question-based queries given the content strategy that many brands employ.



Has this increased at all with the launch Siri?

As it turns out, my hypothesis was wrong (so far). With the launch of Siri the use of these terms hasn’t increased, and is in fact relatively stable. Certainly something to watch as Siri’s capabilities evolve and competitors evolve their own voice search/assistant capabilities.

The fixed nature of these queries has been consistent on mobile, tablet, and desktop devices.


The consumer expectations when question-based search queries occur is something that paid search marketers aren’t thinking about today. The experience in the cases I reviewed resulted in generic sales ad copy, and landing page experiences. This resulted in conversion rates that are five times lower than queries that didn’t contain question-based searches.

An argument could be made that these aren’t conversion-based queries, and therefore a lower conversion rate is expected.

My perspective is that brands that best answer these users’ queries will win in the long run. Consider this:

  • If a user includes “where”, give them the local results. If “how” is included, leverage some of your educational content that has most likely been created as an organic search effort. 
  • Using these queries to become a consumer advocate can be a powerful tool. If paying for these keywords given the lower conversion rate isn’t a good use of your investment, then add them to your negative list. 
  • Mobile and desktop are different in a lot of ways, and it’s no different with the use of questions. Questions appear on mobile devices 1.5 times more often than desktops.

These queries offer valuable insight into the consumer mindset. Harvest the user intent by frequently combing through your search query reports. Use this information to better understand your consumer’s needs, and use that to help drive content, bidding, and strategy.

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