With virtual assistants becoming increasingly common in the modern household (especially in our smart speakers), in our pockets (on our smartphones) and even on our wrists (built into our smartwatches), a world of information is now not only right at our fingertips, easily fetched via a typed int
ernet search — but it can also be accessed by simply asking a spoken question of our smart assistants.
With this technology in place via digital assistants answering to widely recognized names such as Siri, Alexa, OK Google and Cortana, we can ask questions and give commands such as:
- “Hey Siri: What’s the temperature outside?”
- “Alexa, turn on the living room light.”
- “OK Google, play ‘Come Together’ by The Beatles.”
… and our digital assistants will heed the call. The technology is automating an array of simple tasks and queries for the modern homeowner, and is also enabling a range of advances in smart home technology.
But the smart home isn’t the only arena seeing big changes at the hands of the virtual assistant. While not quite to the level of total game-changer yet, the virtual assistant-supported voice search also promises to bring major changes for online marketers, as it gradually grabs larger and larger shares of the online search market away from traditional, typed search engine queries — and is only expected to grow.
Consider these statistics: According to a 2018 BrightLocal study, 58% of consumers had used voice search in the preceding year to find information on local businesses — and nearly half of voice search users sought out info on local businesses daily via voice search. Further, 27% of consumers visit a local business’s website after performing a voice search. Dining- and food-associated voice searches, including those related to restaurants, grocery stores and food delivery, are the most popular, and common search topics include restaurant reservations, product availability, and pricing information.
How voice search is different
For digital marketers, the biggest impact of voice search relates to the way we phrase our voice searches vs. they way we phrase our typed searches — and the effect these differences can have on our SEO and business-listing efforts. While the average typed search tends to be brief and to the point — and largely powered by keywords — the typical voice-search question, while still containing the keywords, tends to be much longer, more conversational in nature, and generally includes full phrases and complete sentences.
Think of how your usual searches are worded. While a typical example of a typed search for a local restaurant is likely to be short and to the point — perhaps something like:
- Midtown Atlanta Mexican restaurant
… a voice search on the same topic, on the other hand, is likely to be something wordier, such as:
- “Siri, where can I find a good Mexican restaurant in Midtown Atlanta?”
For brands looking to make their websites and businesses as easily found as possible, the wordier voice searches offer both a challenge and an opportunity. The needed adjustments involve new approaches to SEO strategy and business listings, and those who tackle them effectively can put themselves among the top choices that Alexa, Siri and the like include in their voice-search results.
Is your brand ready for voice search? If you’re like most of today’s businesses, probably not. In fact, according to a 2019 analysis of nearly 75,000 businesses by global SaaS provider Uberall, only 4% of small, midmarket and enterprise businesses with a physical office location met the criteria for voice search readiness.
9 tips for capturing voice search leads
Looking to land at the top of the list when consumers ask their digital assistants to point them to a product or service? Consider these nine SEO and business-listing strategies your brand can implement to become more voice search-ready:
- Make your website content simple to scan. When consumers search the internet with their mobile devices, they’re often in a hurry — and they want to find what they’re looking for quickly. Structure your content so that users can find what they’re looking for without having to do a lot of digging. To support this, try to ensure that your online content is easy to read, highly scannable, and free of annoying (and highly user-unfriendly) pop-up ads that could slow visitors’ process of finding the answers they’re seeking. Among the best ways to do this are to use simple language, brief sentences and short paragraphs wherever possible, as well as to break up long blocks of copy with bold section headers that will tip readers off to what’s being covered in each part of the copy.
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Since the bulk of voice searches happen on mobile devices, it’s vital that your site be mobile-friendly. (Of course, with more and more online activity on the whole moving toward mobile devices, this is vital for a number of reasons beyond voice searches, too.) Even better, responsive design ensures that your website displays well when viewed on any time of device. Pro tip: A great tool for testing the mobile-friendliness of your website is Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool. Once you enter your website’s url in the tool, it will analyze your site and let you know whether a mobile visitor can easily view it. If the tool encounters issues with your site, it will also let you know about any areas for improvement and optimization.
- Claim your Google ‘My Business’ listing — right now. We all know that Google is an all-things-internet powerhouse. And claiming your Google My Business listing is among the best ways to let the search engine giant know all the common details consumers might ask about your business, including your industry, contact info, location, business hours, web address and more. It’s vital that you keep your business information up to date with Google, as this increases your chances of landing at the top of the list when a pertinent voice search is carried out.
- Put a focus on long-tail keywords. As mentioned above, voice searches tend to be longer and wordier, and to capture them, SEO efforts must take this “more natural way of speaking” into consideration. Think about the ways in which consumers might ask questions related to your business, products or services, along with what kinds of queries might lead people to your offerings. Once you’ve come up with your list, target as many of the variations as possible. Pro tip: A couple great online tools for implementing this tip are answerthepublic.com, which offers a range of query variations on the keywords you enter, and the Google Search Console, which can give you insight on the actual search queries that are leading visitors to your website.
- Build a Frequently Asked Questions page. This is a great way to get many of the questions consumers might ask about your business and offerings onto a single page of your website. It’s also a great place to incorporate a long list of the long-tail keywords you’ve generated using the strategy discussed above. Try to include all the common questions you can think of, then answer each of them in a natural and conversational voice —the way most voice-search users are likely to ask them. This will give search engines the strongest chance of pulling pertinent answers and information from your website.
- Create blog posts that answer frequently asked questions. In addition to creating the FAQs page mentioned above, website owners can further improve their standing in voice-search results — and boost consumers’ understanding of their products and/or services as well as, potentially, their profits — by separately answering common consumer questions in dedicated blog posts. This offers the brand chance to ask the same questions in a slightly different way (as variations in consumers’ voice searches are sure to do) while incorporating more natural, conversational language in their answers — all of which should help build stronger voice-search SEO results.
- Gear up for local queries. According to a 2016 KPCB Internet Trends report, users are seeking local information in 22% of voice searches — which makes sense considering that people often use voice searches on their smartphones when they’re on the go. Further, according to past Google reports, a whopping 50% of local searches on mobile phones lead to store visits within a day of the search. To capitalize on these trends, be sure to: – include phrases or nicknames that people commonly use to describe your location or neighborhood as keywords in your SEO strategy – incorporate keywords that describe or name landmarks in the vicinity of your business – use “near me” info in your meta descriptions, title tags, internal links and anchor text.
- Cultivate positive ratings and reviews. When consumers perform local searches on their smartphones, one of the business details included with the phone number, location, business hours, etc. is often the resulting businesses’ user ratings. Of course, in addition to landing high on the list of voice-search results, having a strong user rating can help your business land more calls, visits and purchases from voice-search users.
- Optimize for Featured Snippets. Often shown at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) — and especially common when a question-based search is performed — the Featured Snippet gets prominent placement and displays content from one of the top results pages that directly answers the question posed. This allows the user to find the answer they’re seeking quickly, without having to actually visit the featured webpage. And because the Featured Snippet is presented after question-based searches, it commonly appears after voice searches, which are regularly query-based. While Google doesn’t offer official guidance on scoring Featured Snippet placement, a number of popular, research-based tactics have found wide success. Among the ways to optimize your content for Featured Snippets placement:
– Employ strong SEO tactics to earn a page 1 SERP ranking. Most Featured Snippets are pulled from the first page of search results, so getting your site there is the first step to landing Featured Snippet status.
– Include query-like search terms in the headers on your web pages.
– Targeting long-tail keywords in your SEO efforts.
– Take keyword clues from Google’s “People Also Search For” box that appears below the top results on a SERP, as the questions that appear here can offer helpful clues on the search terms that can lead to snippets.
Could your brand use some expert help in capturing more traffic from voice searches? At The Brandon Agency, our fully integrated marketing firm boasts a team of seasoned specialists who can cover these marketing efforts and many more — including web design, brand strategy, creative, interactive, social media, analytics, conversion rate optimization and SEO — all in one place. To get started with help ranging from a simple website analysis to a comprehensive strategy tailored to boost the performance of all of your marketing campaigns, contact us today.