Hey Google: Should Businesses Take Voice Search Serious?
Voice search isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s more prevalent than ever before and that’s not going to change. The latest stats show that by 2020, at least 50% of all searches will be voice searches.
Even more surprising is this nugget of information. Digital transformation leader Gartner anticipates that in the same time frame, 30% of all searches will be screenless, as well. Screenless searches most often involve digital assistants such as Alexa, Cortana, and Siri. Experts anticipate that the voice speaker market will exceed $30 billion by 2024.
Put these facts together and we can draw one, inevitable conclusion:
Companies that fail to optimize for voice search now will lose business to companies that embrace the trend.
So… what do you need to know about voice search right now? How can you optimize your site to ensure that you’re grabbing your share of voice traffic? Here’s what you need to know.
What Are the Differences between Traditional Search and Voice Search?
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that voice search is just traditional search with a new name. It’s not. There are some key differences in the way people seek out information when they’re speaking aloud, and you’ve got to understand them to capitalize on the voice search trend.
Here are the main differences:
- Voice search uses long-tail keywords. If you were looking for a product before voice search, you might simply type what you were looking for into Google and peruse a list of results. With voice search, you’re likely to ask a very specific question about where you can find the product in your area. Short keywords (also known as head keywords) aren’t going to help you in voice search.
- Voice search answers questions. If someone’s looking for the best pizza place in Chicago, they’re not going to say “Minneapolis pizza” to Siri. They’ll likely frame their query as a question: What’s the best pizza place near me? Your content must answer the questions that are most likely to lead people to your business.
- Voice search allows consumers to bypass intermediate steps. Traditional searches offer searchers a list of results which they can then filter. In voice search, the questions themselves act as filters and may allow a user to skip the filtering and jump directly into buying a product.
- Voice search only provides one answer. Traditional search queries return pages of potential websites for you to choose from. By contrast, ask Cortana where to buy your favorite brand of shoes and she’ll give you one answer and one answer only.
- Voice search is intent-focused. That means that people ask Siri or Cortana specific questions that have an intent – whether it’s to go out to eat, buy a product, or find a service.
What you should take from this is that voice search is intensely competitive and highly specific. It’s not enough to throw a few short keywords on a page and call it a day. Voice search optimization must be intentional and thoughtful.
Choosing Voice Search Keywords
Voice search optimization starts with keyword selection. You know you’ve got to focus on long-tail keywords, but which ones?
A good place to start is with Google’s new-ish “People Also Ask” feature. When you Google a keyword associated with your business, you’ll see a box just below the top result or two with a list of similar questions that people ask. You can use those to help you optimize your page.
Another way to choose your voice search questions is to look at the FAQ on your website and on your competitors’ sites. The questions that people access most frequently are likely to be ones that will bring a lot of traffic to your site.
Considering the intent of the questions you choose is essential, as well. Remember, voice searches are always asked with a specific intent. The user wants to find a product or business, or they’re seeking an experience, or they want help with a problem. If you keep their intent in mind, then you’re likely to do a good job attracting voice traffic.
Of course, your questions should still incorporate your local keywords. For example, say you own a pizza restaurant in Minneapolis. Here are some examples of voice queries you could use:
- What’s the best pizza restaurant in Minneapolis?
- What the best Minneapolis pizza place?
- Where can I get vegan pizza in Minneapolis?
You get the idea. You want to incorporate your long-standing keywords into questions and use those as the inspiration for your content.
Tips for Optimizing for Voice Search
You understand why voice search is so important – now it’s time to do something about it. After you’ve chosen some key questions to answer, here’s what to do.
- Build a conversational interface. Your new, voice-optimized content’s got to answer search queries as specifically as possible to bring people as deep into your sales funnel as possible. This process takes time and skill.
- Focus heavily on localization. Most local businesses rely on local customers and they’re likely to incorporate place names into their voice search queries. You should answer their queries as specifically as possible while making sure that your business information is properly indexed. That way, people who need to find you will be able to find you.
- Use Schema markup on your pages. Proper Schema markup will ensure that search engines such as Google will be able to properly index your page and return it as a result for voice searches.
Perhaps the most important reason to start optimizing for voice search now is to stay ahead of Google’s algorithm. If you were one of the companies whose ranking took a hit after Mobilegeddon, you know how devastating it can be to get caught lagging behind a search trend.
It’s only a matter of time before Google adds voice search to its algorithm. You don’t want to be scrambling when that happens – which is why you’ve got to act now.
Voice search is here to stay. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to jump aboard the bandwagon now, while there’s still time. You’ll get a leg up on your laggy competitors – and reap the rewards in the form of a thriving business.
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