People search differently on mobile than they do on the desktop and that affects reputation management companies. Big changes to Google like voice search and contextual interpretation alter the way online reputation experts and SEO professionals manage the search results of their clients.

Mobile search recently surpassed desktop in Google search, and mobile searches are increasingly voice-based. Voice queries are different than typed queries because voice relies on natural spoken language. Here is an example: a search on a desktop device that is typed may be something like “Donald Trump KKK” but a natural language based search that is spoken might be “Tell me about Donald Trumps reaction to KKK support”. These two searches are quite different and both searches might return different results based on the location of the user or for for other reasons like searches made previously. Reputation managers must be aware of these differences and plan for them when creating an online reputation strategy.

The Goal: Star Trek Federation Computer

The future of search is a Star Trek type computer assistant voiced by Majel Barrett. The then-imaginary assistant used a voice-based input almost exclusively. For example: Kirk: “Computer, what is the nature of the universe?” Computer: “The universe is a spheroid region 705 meters in diameter”. These natural voice searches are part of an ever growing trend that is improving rapidly. With speech recognition word error rates dropping (they are currently 8% across all Google queries) natural voice queries could become the norm and typed queries a quaint remnant of the past. This represents a big change and one that search marketers need to keep their eyes on. It is another step away from keyword-based queries and instead toward user intent.

Context is another important change becoming far more important in search. Context takes into account what a person may have said in a search before, what they see onscreen at the time of a query, and also where they are or have been recently.

For example, a person standing in front of a restaurant using their mobile device can ask “show me the menu” and the menu will appear on their mobile display. Notice that the search results are returned without even mentioning the restaurant because geographical context has been taken into account by the mobile device. This type of query often brings up knowledge graph information, ratings, and the website of the business – all results that can positively or negatively affect the reputation of the restaurant.

Context can also change during a series of searches. When a user searches from home while looking at the website of a restaurant (not standing in front of the restaurant) on the same device and asks “show me the menu”, Google can assume they are asking about the menu of the restaurant whose site is being viewed (Google is in effect watching you). This contextual query affects the way search engine reputation managers understand user intent and adjust strategy accordingly to take advantage of the new reality of mobile search.

Effect on Reputation Recovery Practices

Whether an in-house SEO, PR agency, or marketer is planning a reputation strategy, best practices for reputation recovery now mean taking into account not just branded search queries but contextual and natural language as well. Keyword lists that make up the silo of content sites designed to assist clients recover from a reputation catastrophe must now take into account both typed and voice-generated user intent rather than simple keyword lists. This complicates matters, but the end result is the same: to help users find the best possible search experience while eliminating negative results.