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It’s Time to Get Serious About Optimizing for Voice Search

Leslie Ramey
12 February 2018

You don’t need to ask Alexa, Siri, Cortana, or Google if voice search is going to get big. People are already loving this hands-free way to check the weather, answer questions, and search for local businesses. The fact that VoiceLabs predicts that 24.5 million Americans will order voice-first devices in 2017 (up from just 6.5 million in 2016) is a clear indicator that voice search is only going to grow. As a savvy marketer, it’s time for you to jump on board the voice train with both feet. The companies that optimize for voice search early can build in a big advantage over their competitors and get some major visibility (maybe that should be “audibility?”) with potential customers.

Voice Search Is Here

Voice search isn’t so much a trend as a huge tidal wave that hasn’t even crested yet. According to SearchEngineLand, roughly 50% of search is performed on a non-pc device, while one in five searches on mobile are voice searches. The switch from text to voice is only going to speed up in the future. The company ComScore predicts that 50% of all searches will be made by voice in 2020.

These stats are impressive, but all you have to do is observe what’s already going on around you to know that voice search is going to be big. All across America, people are asking for directions to local businesses while driving home from work. They want to know some good new recipes from Alexa and their Google Home during dinner time. Tweens are telling their smartphones to play the latest boy band song, and even Grandpa has figured out how to use Google Voice to search instead of typing search queries into his desktop.

The world is going over to voice, and in order for you to adapt your search optimization strategies to this reality, you need to understand how voice searches differ from text searches.

Be Natural – Understanding How People Use Voice Search

Optimizing your content for voice search isn’t just about implementing a few simple, mechanical tweaks. It requires you to understand how your customers use voice search.

It turns out that people tend to talk to their devices and virtual assistants… like they were other people. That means using more conversational and casual language

For example, a text search might look like this: Pizza, Tacoma.
Whereas, a voice search could be: “Alexa, where can I get pizza in Tacoma?”

We are getting precariously close to the world of Star Trek where people can speak almost seamlessly with their computers and get fast, accurate, and fully-formed responses back. As a marketer, you can take advantage of voice search capabilities by understand both what users want and how search engines promote content specifically for voice search.

Here’s how to do it:

Get Local

If you have brick and mortar locations, then there is no time to waste in taking advantage of voice search. According to Hound Voice, over 20% of all searches seek local information. If you can position yourself as a top result for relevant voice queries, then your new best friends, Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google could start sending lots of new customers your way.

The first no-brainer step to take, if you haven’t done this already, is to claim your My Google Business Listing. This will let Google know that your business exists and at least give you a chance of coming up. If you already have a My Google Business listing, make sure it is fully optimized. Double check your address and phone number. If you can, encourage your best customers to write glowing reviews. (If only someone somewhere had written and article on how to optimize your My Google Business Listing. Oh wait, we did!)

Another way to use these tools is to see what fans are saying about, well, everything else. Look for trends in other brands and topics your competition’s fans are into. REI customers tend to follow conservation and travel related topics, for example. Get active in those same conversations by responding directly to feeds you discover or linking to them in your own posts.

Have a Conversation

Since voice searchers tend to be more conversational than text searchers, you can increase your chances of being found by creating answers that incorporate more natural language. This means moving away from decades of traditional SEO practices, which tend to focus heavily on keywords, and embracing much more relaxed content that includes long-tail phrases.

Think less about specific keywords and more about the longer phrases that voice searchers might use. Search Engine Land offers a great tip, suggesting that you pay close attention to the questions your customers ask when they call, including the specific words and phrasing they use.

Bonus: Focusing on having a conversation with your users isn’t just a good voice search optimization technique, it’s also a great way to build strong, authentic relationships with your tribe!

Add FAQs

Virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google are desperate to give their users the best answers possible to their queries. Unlike text search, which can pull up websites and videos for users to pursue, virtual assistants need to be able to spout off an answer. Companies that can provide to-the-point answers for common queries are going to get lots of love from virtual assistants.

An excellent way to grab their attention is to write up a strong FAQs page. Remember, try to use the conversational wording that voice searchers would use when asking their question. Write short, punchy answers. If the answer to the question is longer, put the most important points or a summary first.

Bonus: Writing great answers to common questions is also an excellent way to get chosen as a Google snippet, that short answer that Google provides at the very top of its search engine results for certain questions. Grabbing a Google snippet will gain you incredible visibility!

More to Come

Though it may feel like every single person you know has an Amazon Echo or a Google Home sitting on a shelf or counter, voice search is still in its infancy. As it gains more widespread adoption in the coming years, it will continue to change and evolve. That means you will need to change and evolve too. Here at cThru Media, we will continue to keep our fingers on the pulse of the voice search industry and will give you the tips and tricks you need to stay ahead of the voice search curve.

Ready to overhaul your online content and optimize for search? Give us a call today!