Every few months, it seems like there’s a new challenge for online marketers. Constant changes to Google’s algorithm are enough to keep up with, and voice search could prove to be bigger than any challenge we’ve faced so far.
Traditional search isn’t likely to go away (at least not anytime soon). However, voice search will, at the very least, work in tandem with traditional search.
People Are More Comfortable with AI
The data from last year that showed 58% of consumers found local business information via voice search proves that we need to be prepared.
Talking to a machine used to be a scary concept for consumers, but it has become increasingly popular despite the privacy concerns. In 2019, 22% of Alexa and Google Home owners made an online purchase using their smart speakers, a clear reflection that people are comfortable enough with their devices to even trust them to make purchases (albeit, these purchases are believed to be largely “replenishment” purchases).
You can order a product from your Amazon Alexa via a voice command and have it at your door in as little as a day. That’s the sort of experience consumers are looking for.
Voice Search Is Increasing in Popularity
Local search has been a challenge, even when applied to traditional optimization. It’s difficult for local businesses to beat national competitors when targeting commonly searched terms. Local voice search makes it even more challenging, but potentially more rewarding.
Marketers are already experimenting with local search terms, and consumers are beginning to use voice search more for local questions. People don’t speak the same way they type, so you’ll have to take local colloquialisms into account.
People Search Differently When Using Voice Search vs. When Typing
You’ll have to do research into how your target market speaks instead of how they type. A more traditional way to do this is to have a focus group come in and answer/ask questions (more on that later), but most search optimization services will have access to data and tools that will better help you differentiate between how people search via text vs. voice.
Already, 48% of voice search users are looking for local listings on a daily basis, and 27% of them move on to that local business’s website. And overall voice search use is growing as well. It’s predicted that 50% of all searches will be voice searches in 2020.
Don’t Overlook Voice Search
This isn’t just a trend; it’s the next step in internet search habits. It started off as a gimmick from Apple and Google. Siri and Google voice were fun things to try, but they weren’t very good at getting the results you were looking for.
Amazon and Microsoft jumped on the bandwagon a bit later, once the technology had been improved. Now, the main players are all involved and have made major improvements to the technology, and it’s only a matter of time before something new comes along that improves the entire process for everyone.
By 2020, it’s estimated there will be 20 million more hands-free devices in homes. That will bring the total to 65 million. If you don’t take necessary steps now, your competition will be chosen by voice search algorithms instead of you.
With that in mind, here are some steps you can take to prepare yourself.
Optimize Your Website for Local Voice Search
You should start by making sure that your website is mobile-friendly. If someone does a voice search, ends up on your website, and can’t navigate it properly, then you’ve most likely just lost a customer.
Go to your website on your phone. How does it look? If you’re not happy with it, then a customer definitely won’t be. Consider hiring a professional web designer to optimize your site for mobile devices.
Optimize the Back End
Next, make sure your title tags and meta descriptions are focused on local areas. Consider keywords like “coffee shops in Philadelphia,” “closest urgent care,” and “bed and breakfasts in Cape Cod.” These are all local keywords that someone might actually say.
Every resource on your website should be crawlable so search engines can find them, and the content on your pages should focus on local keywords. A blog is a great way to do this. You can write content about your community that uses very specific, local keywords.
If You Don’t Have Online Reviews, You’re Already Losing Business
If you don’t have any reviews on places like Facebook, Google, and Yelp, get some. Send out emails to past and current clients that ask them to leave you reviews. Include an incentive if you have to.
Google reviews are especially important because most voice searches are looking for local locations. If you don’t have reviews, your Google My Business listing won’t get picked by the algorithm.
Online reviews are a huge part of what voice search algorithms look for when choosing who to present to users. It’s also helpful for traditional search, so you should definitely be collecting reviews.
Answer Frequently Asked Questions
Another easy way to add more local, long-tail keywords to your website is to add an FAQ page. These questions should be ones that your target market actually asks. This is where that focus group comes in.
Ask them directly what sort of questions they have about your business and similar businesses. Their questions about similar businesses will probably give you some great long-tail keywords to use. You can even ask them exactly what sort of questions they would ask Siri or Google Assistant.
Answering these questions also makes you more likely to end up in Google’s Answer Box aka the featured snippet. Getting your content in this box is your best shot to being chosen by voice search algorithms.
Processes, requirements, how-tos, calculations and conversions, health content, and FAQs all have a good chance of making it into a featured snippet. Try to make this kind of content and tie it to your industry.
There’s No Need to Abandon Traditional Methods
Most of the steps you take to optimize for voice will help you out in your traditional optimization as well. So, why not take these steps early?
You’ll be ahead of your competition and ahead of the algorithm. Plus, it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
The consumer is increasingly looking for convenience. Optimizing as much as you can helps to give them the convenience they’re looking for, whether they’re typing or talking.
Writing voice search off as a fad is not smart. All the data we have so far says that this is the future. You can either get on board or be left behind.