Is your content ready for
voice search?

The 2018 Black Friday was all about Alexa. Amazon has pushed its voice assistant deeply into our lives, emails, and Facebook Ads, after months of intense marketing campaigns. It’s the sign that we’ve entered into a new era, where internet users want everything fast and personalized.

If you thought voice search belongs to the future, it’s time to look around you and see that the future is today.

Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Google Home have become the new ‘normal.’ And they all operate with voice commands, conditioning people to use voice-based queries. 55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults use voice search more than once a day. Whether they need directions or want to call someone, people rely on their voice assistants to get instant help without screens.

What does that mean for your business and content marketing? Let’s take a closer look!

The voice-search revolution

Voice search makes life more comfortable because it allows internet users to focus on more task at the same time, thanks to the possibility to talk instead of typing. Better than that, voice search speeds up the process of looking for information, as asking Siri or Alexa is faster than typing a query on your smartphone.

In simple words, voice assistants are convenient, flexible, and cool. Among all other advantages, they also generate emotions. It may be just an app, but people bond to their talking devices — 41 percent of users say it feels like talking to a friend or another person. There’s no doubt; voice search is here to stay and thrive, and statistics confirm it.

By 2020, voice search will count for almost 50 percent of all searches. Unless you have a tailored SEO strategy in place, you won’t keep up with your customers or competitors.

How to prepare for Voice Search Optimization

Going from typed-out search to voice will bring in some changes in SEO. However, you shouldn’t panic, as most of the voice search best practices are easy to achieve for a marketer with previous experience in search engine optimization.

Preparing your content for voice search means making adjustments, rather than performing radical changes. After all, SEO for voice search is just SEO. Learn the language your audience speaks. Set those details that make your website conversational and ready to answer quickly specific questions, and your site will keep getting targeted traffic.

Here are some elements to consider when optimizing your content for voice search.

Local content

Every week, 75 percent of smart speaker owners use their devices to look for local businesses online. It’s a huge opportunity for small businesses and brick-and-mortar locations to drive traffic and increase brand awareness.

The “Near me” search phrase has seen a 500 percent growth between 2016 and 2018, according to Google. And voice search is going to make it even more popular in the next years. Geographic SEO can help you to become more visible online for both humans and search engines.

Your digital marketing strategy should include four elements that can help you to improve your local SEO:

  • Registering your local presence with Google Places, Yahoo! Local, and Bing Business Portal. This way, you show voice assistants that you’re the closest provider and increase your chances to become the top option in the search results.
  • Updating local profiles, with accurate information about working hours, address, and phone numbers where people can contact you for more details. Set your Google My Business account and update it regularly, because there’s the first place where people will look for you online.
  • Building a presence on local review sites, which will help you to maintain an excellent reputation among search engines and internet users. Good ratings and reviews can make miracles for SEO.
  • Staying active on social media to keep your brand under the spotlight. When you have a community around your brand, and people talk about you online, you’re more likely to rank high in search results.

Include in your content strategy keywords that are relevant to local searchers: places of interest, landmarks, the name of your neighborhood, or other specific words that locals use to describe the area.

Natural questions

The most significant difference between voice and text search consists of phrasing, tone, and word choice. You type “restaurants in London,” but with voice search, the same query becomes “Where do I eat tonight?”

It’s a small difference for you, but with significant consequences on your website traffic. Google and other search engines promote websites that use a natural tone of voice and write for humans, not for crawlers. The only way to make voice search work in your favor is by listening carefully to what people say and, most important, how they say it.  

Social media and forums are good starting points for getting a first-hand look at what words people use when talking about you or your products online. If you need more details,  you can email your customers questionnaires or simply ask people online what words they use when asking voice assistants for help.

Mainly, you should follow three directions to keep up with the new searching habits and learn your public’s language:

1. Conversational tone

Write your content as if you were talking to a friend or existing customer to engage your readers instead of talking only about your brand. You can make it more personal by using words like ‘you’ and ‘I’ to express concepts, rather than writing in the third person.

When you tell your readers what they get from doing business with you,  use simple words that your target audience understands (and already uses). Moreover, you should adapt your speech to generate dialogue and get engagement by asking questions in your content.

Make the reader feel part of the conversation. Write updates to your existing content based on the feedback you get. Encourage people to express themselves by integrating user-generated content into your strategy. This way, you show your public that you care about what people have to say about your brand and gain trust, besides improving your SEO strategy.

2. Long-tail keywords

As an SEO expert, you’ve had to adapt your content to several changes to keep up with Google’s new algorithms.  It’s been a while now since our favorite search engine looks for intent in queries, rather than following the exact words people type in the search bar.

For voice search, you need to focus more than before on long-tail keywords — phrases and sentences instead of plain terms. A wedding photographer, for example, will get small benefits from targeting “wedding photography.” With passing to voice search, the keywords should focus on describing product features and benefits as detailed as possible, such as “where can I get the best drone photos for my wedding?” or “what’s the best wedding photographer near me?”

Note how filling words, such as ‘the’ or ‘for’ become important, as they make the conversation natural. It’s easier to optimize the text for these long-tail keywords because they follow the way people speak.

3. In-depth answers

When talking to their voice assistants, internet users ask specific questions, such as “Which place in London sells gluten-free pizza?”, “Siri, is it going to rain today?”, or “Google, how do I boil an egg?” The traffic goes to the website that knows how to please search engines and readers at the same time, by aligning their speech with the new trends.

Research showed that people have informational, navigational, or transactional intent when using search engines, with as much as 80 percent of the web queries being informational in nature. For you as a marketer, it means you need to provide your website visitors with informative answers that help them to solve problems.

In the past years, Google has been preparing itself for giving accurate answers and becoming an “answer engine.” What you can do is try to get featured in snippets (or answer boxes), which seem to have the lion’s share of traffic with voice search — Google reads the featured snippets aloud when providing answers.

Recap

Voice search has changed the way internet users ask questions online. To remain relevant, your content should provide accurate, in-depth answers to specific questions, using a natural tone of voice.  

Every time a person searches the web for help, he or she expects content that sticks to the point and gives people actionable advice. In this context, you need to make room for useful dialogue, rather than providing blocks of text.

Excellent content comes when you think less like a marketer and more like your customers. What are their expectations? What apps do they use to make their lifes easier? What information do they need? What would they like to know about a product when making a buying decision?

 

Specific topics

Making your content ready for voice search doesn’t mean rewriting your entire website and business blog to reach more people. Thanks to Google, we know exactly what people want to receive from brands when using their voice-activated speakers:

  • A good deal and information about
    promotions and sales;
  • Information that makes life easier and
    customized tips;
  • Details about specific activities and
    upcoming events;
  • Useful information about local businesses
    (address, hours, contact information);
  • Instant customer service and customer
    support.

Focus on these five main areas, and you’ll win the voice search challenge. For example, you can create FAQ pages, where you give short answers to relevant questions that people might ask Siri or Alexa about your industry. Alternatively, you can build an external knowledge base where people who are interested in your product can get relevant answers about features, prices, and updates in real time.

Make sure these resources are mobile-friendly and easy to access in seconds. Voice search values speed, so you can’t afford to have pages that need more than three seconds to load. With assistants like Google Home and Alexa that give you ONE answer only, there’s no second chance for slow websites.

What’s next?

Voice SEO will bring new conversion possibilities through alternative channels. You could see an increase in offline conversions, as Alexa, Google Home, or Siri finds your address and guides people directly to your store, without even opening your website.

You could create an app to communicate with users. Or use more video than text to promote your business. Who knows? Marketers still struggle to figure it out. The technology generates so much change that it’s hard to predict the next step after voice search optimization.

In 2019, 67 million voice-assisted devices will perform online searches for their owners. It may turn your content strategy upside down, but it sure can generate significant business opportunities for your brand.

It’s going to be a lot of trial and error, as there’s still much room for growth in this field. If you’re a proactive marketer or business owner, willing to adapt and learn, you’re more likely to win over your target audience and beat the competition to the punch.