With the arrival of Google’s new voice search tool on mobile, optimizing your web presence for voice searchers has never been more important. If you missed the announcement, Google launched a new microphone icon on Android phones within the Google Search bar, allowing users to use the voice search feature a lot easier. It’s certainly a signal that Google is trying to encourage users to perform voice searches across their multiple platforms.
They certainly have reason to.
In 2016, Google released a statement saying 1 in 5 searches were made by using the voice search functionality on its mobile app and on Android devices. While they haven’t released an updated figure since then, many experts agree voice search has only increased since then with the growth of virtual assistants.
So, what can you be doing to optimize for voice search?
We’ll dive into how you can get more search traffic to your site and take advantage of tools like Amazon’s Search Skills that will further enhance your voice search results.
What is Voice Search?
Voice search is the ability to deliver search results using speech recognition instead of through typed words.
While voice recognition software has a long (and very complex) history, voice search really didn’t have mass market appeal until the late 2000’s when Google created ‘Google Voice Search’ for iPhones. With the release of Apple’s own voice search program “Siri,” this started the race to build the best “personal assistant.”
Since then, voice search has swelled in popularity, becoming one of the most important ways to connect potential customers with businesses around the world. With 60% of searches originating on mobile devices, this medium is only going to grow in the coming years.
How to Optimize for Voice Search: Starting the Conversion
So how can you start optimizing your business for people searching for your products or services?
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is take everything you know about conventional SEO and apply a real-life conversation filter to it. This means logically thinking through what people are actually saying out loud compared to what they type on a day to day basis.
Think about it this way: people communicate very differently via text than they do over a phone call. Why? Because it makes more sense to abbreviate words like “ppl, ttyl or cya” than it is to actually type out those words or phrases.
Voice search is all about conversions. Using speech recognition software, users are able to interact in a more conversational way with their machines, making longer keyword phrases and commands more important than singular or shorthand phrases.
This means that Voice Searches are going to be longer tailed keywords than text ones. This is an important distinguisher because it shifts the paradigm of what constitutes a longtail keyword between the two mediums.
Typically, a text-based search is only two to three words while a voiced search keyword phrase is six to seven words. That’s double the amount of words!
If you aren’t looking into longer tail keywords as an SEO strategy, you should invest the time and resources to focus on targeting questions in a more conversational setting. Remember, the goal here is to mimic how real people talk and ask questions verbally rather than in written word. You would be surprised at how different that can be.
A great place to start is to interview your sales department to see what kind of questions they get in the call center. This should give you a better idea about the words your customers are using around your product and the questions they have that you need to address.
A Quick Word on Text Search
Just because voice search is increasing in popularity doesn’t mean you should entirely discount text-based searches.
As it stands today almost 80% of who, where, when, what and how questions are Google seem to be delivered from the rich snippet of a search result. This means that if you are winning snippets, you are probably winning in the voice search space as well.
Here’s an example of what that looks like:
One last word of warning: when you are writing content, you aren’t writing for “search engines” or for “assistants.” You are writing for an end user, regardless of how they access this information. This means making sure that your content is always matching user intent to best answer their question and not keyword stuffing to try to game the system.
Remember, you are writing for people not for robots.
A Change in User Intent
Perhaps the most important change from traditional search to voice search is the intent behind that search. SEO’s talk a lot about finding keywords that don’t just drive traffic, but words that marry user intent (why they are searching for something) with business intent (what product, service or content do we possess that helps addresses their question) and the same holds true for voice search.
Structuring your website and your content to answer specific questions rather than general information gathering is a huge difference between voice and traditional search. Because longer tail keywords are used more often in voice search, leveraging these phrases in a way that makes sense will give users the answers they are looking for quickly.
Voice = quick, accurate answers. Traditional search = answers in detail with optimization towards research.
What are People Searching For?
Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Assistant and other digital assistants have undoubtedly changed the search landscape forever. These products are designed to make an owner’s life better by organizing their lives and fact-finding queries.
Some examples of these include:
- Call someone
- Play music
- Ask a factual question
- Check the weather
You are probably looking at these thinking “none of these are relevant or matter to my business, so why should I care?”
Don’t worry, there are plenty of reasons why paying attention to vocal searches are so important to local businesses.
Voice Search: The Future of Local Search
Have you ever visited a city and needed to find the closest convenience store or mall because TSA confiscated your cologne or perfume you forgot was in your carry on?
Chances are, in your dire time of need, you used your phone to find the “nearest X” to your location to figure out where you could buy it. You aren’t alone – lots of people are doing this.
This chart is taken from Google Trends, which helps map out the popularity of certain search terms over time. The exact term in question is searches containing the phrase “near me.” That’s five years of intense accelerated growth.
While Google hasn’t released specific mobile vs desktop statistics, you can safely bet the majority of these kinds of searches are happening on mobile devices. This also means they are more likely to be searched orally rather than through text.
This means voice search is a huge opportunity for local businesses to gain visibility with mobile users.
If you haven’t started to utilize basic search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, now is the time. Here are some basic strategies you can take to improve the chances of appearing in voice search beyond using long tail keywords.
Build FAQ Pages
One way you can start implementing your findings is by building FAQ pages that address the specific questions you are hearing from your customers about a product or service. The goal here is to group similar questions so you can optimize the page for similar SEO keyword phrases.
Your answers should be short and specific so your page can be pulled into rich snippets centered around the question that someone is asking.
Build Pages with Schema Markup
If you aren’t leveraging schema, you are possibly missing out on rich snippets and other enhanced search results that could help your visibility online and in voice search. Schema markup improves the way search engines are able to represent your page online.
Essentially, it helps search understand what your data means rather than just what it says, giving search engines a much clearer picture of what is on the page. Think about it like watching HD TV vs normal definition. The difference couldn’t be more black and white.
For a comprehensive look at schema and why it is so important, check out Schema.org
Alexa Skills: Enhanced Voice Search
If you aren’t familiar with Amazon Alexa Skills, you should get familiar. Skills are essentially apps or plugins for your Echo devices. These add-ons allow Alexa to perform everyday tasks for a user including everything from tuning a guitar to reserving an Uber that gets you to the airport for your flight.
There are tens of thousands of companies that have built Skills thanks to Amazon’s tools.
Before you dismiss this idea, think about it this way: these programs are essentially automating everyday life for people and meeting them where they are at any given moment. Building a skill allows you to reach your customers in their own homes.
If you’re in the consumer space, you should consider leveraging this tool. Organizations that operate in the business to business space probably don’t need to invest a lot of time into skill development (at least for now).
For example, if you are a healthcare provider, you can create a skill to give everyday medical advice to a user with hands-free answers. While you wouldn’t want to diagnose a brain tumor, you could create a skill to help people know how to treat a fever and when to seek professional treatment.
Another example of a useful skill could be applied to the commercial real estate market. Consumers could ask Alexa about local apartment availabilities or multifamily developments with specific amenities, like pools or covered parking.
Alexa Skills is as infinite as your imagination.
Have Correct Information on Listings
This one seems basic, but it’s always surprising how many businesses have incorrect or outdated information online. In order to rank well in local searches, make sure all of these details are correct on your Google My Business listing and other listing services:
- Phone number
- Hours of operation
If you haven’t claimed your Google My Business listing, we recommend starting there! It’s a powerful tool that will help you not only appear in search results but also see what customers are saying about your business in online reviews.
Online reviews are important for not just ranking purposes, but also for attracting new customers.
Reputation Management: The Tool You Need for Local Search
If you’re interested in boosting your organic search traffic, you should look at a scalable reputation management solution for your organization.
Focusing on improving consumer reviews helps you find new customers as well as get real-time feedback from people using your services. This is invaluable when you consider the potential to take actionable insights from what your customers are saying about you. Showing your customers that you care about the consumer experience means you are more likely to retain them long term.
Binary Fountain allows you to better manage your online reputation with scalable technology that puts your online reviews all in one place.
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