Once the preserve of science fiction, voice-based interaction with computers has exploded in the past couple of years, mainly driven by voice assistants and devices such as Amazon’s Echo/Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Home.
It’s estimated that there are 118m smart speakers in the US alone – and that’s not counting the recent Black Friday sales, which saw all the major players pushing heavily discounted devices.
Add to that the prevalence of digital assistants on virtually every modern smartphone, increasing numbers of laptops and a plethora of consoles, TVs and even fridges, and the size of the network becomes clear.
As well as using these virtual assistants to play music, control Netflix or turn on the lights, people are increasingly turning to them for search.
40% of adults use voice search once per day, and the news from Google is that 20% of searches through the Android Google App are now voice searches. This is not a niche channel anymore.
Of course, depending on your industry, this may not be an issue quite yet. If you’re selling specialized industrial equipment, maybe voice search isn’t a big channel for you. But you might be surprised at how quickly it becomes the norm, even for complex queries.
And in some sectors, voice search is already overtaking text search – particularly ordering consumables, local business searches, and queries around store locations and opening hours.
Optimizing for voice
So how do you ensure that someone who asks Siri “Where can I buy bagels?” is going to hear about your bakery? As with all search engine optimization, there isn’t a single simple answer.
What we do know is that there are a few factors which will have an effect on your visibility (audibility?) in voice search results.
The first is simply your ranking. Voice search generally answers queries using the top three results only, and unsurprisingly, the top result most of the time. But ranking for common voice search queries differs from ranking for text search.
Search queries made via voice are much more likely to use natural language – rather than typing “bagel shop Brooklyn” users will say “bagel shop open near me” or “bagel shop near Franklin avenue” or “best bagels in Bushwick”.
So your keyword research is likely to be different for voice versus text. The use of natural language also introduces another complication, there are many more “long tail” search strings, because of the variation in how people phrase queries.
Voice ready content
Another strategy that isn’t specific to voice search but can give you an advantage is the implementation of structured content on your site. Structured content is basically the application of meta tags to every element of your page content to explain to search engines what it is.
It’s what allows search engines to answer queries like “How tall is the Eiffel Tower” with a simple “324m” rather than an article on the tower itself. The top result, in this case, is an Eiffel tower information page on which the height is not only mentioned in the text but tagged in the code with the description “height”. This lets the search engine know it has the right information.
Structured content is still fairly rare on the web, apart from specialist information sites or Wikipedia, mostly due to the increased workload in implementing it, but it’s something which you should seriously consider with the rise of voice search.
Similarly, adapting your content so that it crops up in Google’s “Featured Snippets” is not a new idea, but it’s one that figures prominently in how voice search selects and returns results. The simplicity and brevity of the information in a snippet is perfectly suited to the voice interface.
Seizing the advantage
Optimizing for voice is a developing science within digital marketing, but as relatively few companies are as yet incorporating it into their marketing strategy, there’s a good deal of opportunity to take the initiative and beat your competitors to the punch.
If you’re interested in hearing more about the work, we’ve done with businesses to get the voice ready, and the results they’ve achieved, you should book an online meeting with one of our advisors or give us a call today.
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