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Searching the web using voice commands can feel quite unusual. For the best part of 20 years now, people have become used to locating information on the internet using text-based searches in Google.
But technology is slowly influencing how we search and find information on the web, for two key reasons:
- Voice recognition technology and input devices have improved
- Internet access has grown significantly
These two factors combined – technological capability and access to a wide audience – has seen the use of voice search dramatically increase. This has been aided by sales of personal assistants such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home (which enjoyed an increase in sales of 36% in Q1 2018 over the same period the previous year). It’s also important to point out that voice search functionality is now natively installed on most smartphones, with the invention of Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana.
What are the benefits of voice search optimisation?
Before we talk about how to optimise your website for voice search it’s important to outline the benefits and explain why you should be developing a voice search optimisation strategy in 2019.
Voice search is a growing market
The first and most obvious point to make is that the market is growing rapidly. As reported by TechCrunch a year ago, 39 million people in the US own a smart speaker (such as Google Home). These devices are “voice-first”, meaning they are literally designed to be spoken to.
Whilst voice search is indeed a growth area, you may have heard that voice search is predicted to reach 50% by 2020. This is not necessarily true.
Voice search optimisation is shaking up traditional SEO
Prior to voice search optimisation, the way marketers currently do SEO (search engine optimisation — the method by which a website appears high in Google’s search listings) is essentially the same. One of the core methods by which your content appears in front of a searcher is by ensuring the words on your web page relate closely to what the user is searching for.
With voice search, the basic principal remains the same but the execution is slightly different.
Voice searches tend to be longer and more conversational. This means that the traditional SEO methods that often employ the use of unnatural sounding keywords and phrases will diminish.
Voice search increases access for disabled or digitally excluded people
For some people speaking into their device comes more naturally than typing. And for those suffering motor problems, where using a handheld device can be difficult, voice search can be an extremely useful, literally hands-off way to access information. Similarly, people with vision impairment or learning difficulties can benefit from voice search, smart speakers and personal assistants.
Furthermore, affordable mobile devices are common in poorer communities, and voice search is available on these devices. This brings easy access to information to those who may have previously shied away from using the internet at large, or may simply have had only limited access to it.
The crucial point to make here is that voice search helps to break down the barrier between human and machine. The physical and cognitive load required to speak into a device is significantly lower than having to type and locate the information manually via a website or mobile app. Voice search is set to make traditional search feel antiquated.
As a business optimising for voice search you not only make your information more accessible, you open up a potential new market in doing so.
How do I optimise for voice search?
Voice search is more of an evolution than a revolution in how we find information. This means that voice search optimisation should be relatively straightforward for most businesses.
Focus on local search
Google’s ability to find products and services near your physical location is nothing new, but voice search is now leading the way. A recent study showed that 75% of smart speaker owners searched for services for local businesses on a weekly basis (i.e. “where can I get the best cappuccino in Manchester?”).
- Make sure you’re registered in Google My Business
- Ensure your website content is relevant to the user’s search terms (in the example above the user is looking for best coffee in Manchester, so your website needs to reflect this in its messaging)
- Get positive reviews to maintain prominence and back up your claims
Optimise for conversational search
Remember earlier we stated that voice search queries are longer than text queries? Your content needs to reflect this. We currently optimise for search engine queries often by omitting filler words and focusing on the key words, but this is not necessarily the correct approach for voice search optimisation. Voice search queries need to be answered in the way they are asked.
We recently answered the question “how much does a charity CRM cost?“. This headline is optimised for voice search because it is likely that it may be asked in this way. Traditionally we may have chosen to optimise simply for “charity CRM price” or similar, but the addition of “how much does a…” introduces a longer, conversational element to the search. And if you visit that page, you’ll note that the text immediately begins to answer that question.
- Determine the questions asked by your customers
- Put together a FAQ section on your website
- Write questions in a conversational way and answer them immediately
Buy a smart speaker!
If you truly want to learn how to optimise for voice search, you’re going to have to get in on the action. Smart speakers are affordable, with smaller versions now available from the big players. Buy a smart speaker and use it on a daily basis. It may feel a little contrived at first but should become more natural as time passes. You’ll get a feel for how your device responds and gain a deeper understanding – as a user – of how this technology works.