Is Your Business Ready for Voice Search?
The “10 blue links paradigm” traditionally used by search engines has been with us for more than 20 years, and it works so well that there’s no reason to think that it will go away anytime soon. But new forms of search are emerging, and one of them – voice search – has been a topic of great interest among SEOs for the past several years. Voice search is a new model in which users speak commands, questions, and queries to smart devices that understand their speech and can respond intelligently to their input.
Voice search-capable devices include smart phones equipped with software from Google or Apple, and smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo and Alexa. Currently there are estimated to be at least half a billion devices capable of supporting this new kind of search, and the number is growing rapidly as smart, voice search-capable speakers march into the home.
As a digital marketer you may be wondering what this evolution means to you, your websites, or your clients’ web sites. Does the emergence of voice search mean that you’ll need to rethink your content strategy? Your site’s U/X? Your site’s technical infrastructure?
Here’s a guide to getting your company’s internet-based assets ready for voice search. The good news is that if you’ve adhered to good site practices in the past, any changes you’ll need to make won’t require reinventing the wheel.
How to Prepare Your Web Assets for Voice Search
- Start by searching for your own company – and your competitors — using a voice search-capable device.Chances are that you’ve probably done extensive research on how your competitors are ranking for business-driving keywords on desktop SERPs. But how are they ranking on mobile devices using simple conversational queries? Researching the visibility (or lack thereof) for a variety of conversational queries can give you valuable insight into what you must do to rank with your own content.
- Build on what you have.The advent of voice search doesn’t mean re-building your web properties from scratch. If you’re already adhering to good SEO practices, especially in relation to optimizing your site for Hummingbird, Google’s 2013 algorithm update, and in terms of making your site fast and mobile-friendly, you’ll be in a good position to exploit voice search. Hummingbird, as you’ll recall, represented a major advance for Google in terms of being able to better able to understand the implicit meaning of the kind of short-string queries typically made from mobile devices, including voice queries. Bottom line: if your properties are optimized for Hummingbird, you’re already in an excellent position to handle voice-based queries and commands.
- Create “conversational content.”Put yourself in a voice searcher’s shoes to understand how he/she might phrase a spoken query for which you hope to be relevant. Create content that’s likely to rank for such specific conversational queries, for example, Q&A-style content that discusses a topic authoritatively using the question/answer format. Answerthepublic.com is a site providing a useful tool for creating conversational content focusing on the operators Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Use its results to create an outline for one or more FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) about your company and its products. These FAQs can exists as pages or blog posts on your site. To source content for these FAQs, Interview some of the knowledgeable people who make your organization tick. Obviously, your CEO and other C-suite people can be sources for these interviews, as will people with deep, granular knowledge of the mechanics of your company’s products, e.g. your CTO, head of operations, Chief Engineer, and other detail-aware people.
- Create local content for local searchers.“Near me” searches (“pizza near me,” “plumbers near me,” “marketing agencies on Long Island” etc.) use geography (of both the user and sites eligible for listing) as a filter and these proximity-filtered queries are growing more than 100 percent per year. Becoming relevant to local queries starts with making sure that your location(s) is correctly entered and verified via Google My Business, but don’t stop there. Create a body of original content focused on your location: its landmarks, community resources, and history that makes it clear that your local roots are deep. Add these to your site and use Google Posts to publicize them.
Is Voice Search Overhyped?
While the predictions of several years past that voice search would soon overtake typed queries have proven to have been overhyped, there’s no question that voice-powered search query volume is growing. Consumers – especially younger consumers, are growing accustomed to making voice-based queries, receiving product and pricing information, and consummating purchases via voice.
According to data published by SCORE, 58 percent of U.S. consumers used voice search in 2018 to find information on businesses. Those business categories most likely to be the targets of voice searches were:
- Restaurants / Cafés (51%)
- Grocery stores (41%)
- Food delivery (35%)
- Clothing stores (32%)
- Hotels / Bed & Breakfasts (30%)
Even if your business is not in one of the above B2C categories, it’s prudent to expect that an increasing number of queries for your company’s goods and services will be made via voice search. If you’ve taken the steps listed above, you should be well-prepared; if you haven’t, it’s not too late to get your properties in shape for tomorrow’s wave of voice-enabled customers.