By Ida Vallo Morris
Social Media & Content Manger
A few weeks ago, I asked Alexa for the time. “It’s 6:27am,” she dutifully replied. I tweeted that I thought it was funny that she included the A.M., in case I really had NO IDEA what time it was.
This silly interaction got me thinking about the Alexa device sitting in my kitchen—and the Google microphone on my smartphone and Siri on the iPad—and how my interactions with voice search have evolved over the time that we’ve had it.
The Versatility of Voice Search
55% of households are expected to own smart speaker devices by 2022. That’s a 42% jump from today’s household ownership numbers.
When we first hooked up our Alexa, we started with the usual, “Alexa, tell me a joke.1” We quickly moved on from novelty to more sophisticated requests, like, “Alexa, how tall is Adam Driver?2” and “Alexa, how far is it from NY to Key West?3” There was nothing she didn’t know.
But now, as voice search becomes a major digital trend, I find myself relying on it more and more. I still ask for the weather and to play my favorite songs and how many movies Rachel Weisz has been in4, but I also use it for much more helpful and practical things that make my life easier. “Alexa, set a timer for 25 minutes,” and “Hey Google, how many cups is 349ml?” (We cook a lot.)
My kids ask Siri for answers to math problems and history dates to help with their homework, and I find myself asking for more and more information: “Hey Google, what day of the week is July 4th?”, “Alexa, when is the Democratic Primary in New Hampshire?”, and “Hey Google, what restaurants are close to me?”
Specifically, the difference between a traditional online search and a voice search is that an online search returns many results to your typed question. Voice search winnows all the possible answers down and gives you the best one. A voice search delivers the most relevant answer to your question, and companies like Google, Alexa, Siri, and Cortana are constantly fine-tuning their voice-generated answers and actions. So, what does that mean for business?
How Voice Search Will Affect Your Business
According to Forbes, 30% of all website sessions will be conducted without a screen by 2020. The number is expected to increase dramatically as virtual assistant technology evolves.
Because the results of voice search are often different than they would be for a typed search, brands’ SEO strategy needs to keep up. You’ll also need content that’s conversational and to-the-point, boosting traffic by optimizing your site.
Voice Search and Local Businesses
Smart marketers are optimizing for search now, getting in on the ground floor of this fast-growing technology to stay ahead of the competition. Voice search is sure to impact businesses of all sizes, especially location-specific searches.
53% of people in the U.S. who own smart speakers are searching for local businesses every day. So, when someone asks, “Siri, is there a plumber near me?” or “Hey Google, when does the hardware store open?” or “Alexa, is there a pizza place that delivers?” there are things you should be doing to make sure your business is on the tip of Alexa’s virtual tongue.
5 Key Tips On How To Optimize For Voice Search
Websites that Work
Just like traditional online searches, websites that load first, win. Your site should be responsive and mobile optimized, including images. Basically, if there’s anything you could be doing to speed up your website you should do it.
And make sure the content on your website is easy for those Google bots to crawl, using structured data and metadata that tells Google what the page is about but doesn’t impact how your content appears to users. Consider submitting a sitemap to Google Search Console.
Use Conversational Tone, in both content and SEO
Know the difference between typed and voice search language. When users search online for information, they typically use short, keyword phrases, like, “Chinese restaurant near me”. When they speak their request into voice search, however, they ask in a more natural tone, “Siri, what’s the closest Chinese restaurant?” Make sure your content includes long-tail keywords. And keep it simple. Voice search results are usually delivered at a 9th -grade reading level, so even if your information is complicated, make sure it’s presented in a way that’s easy to understand.
Include Featured Blocks of Content
The average voice search result is less than 30 words long, and we know that shorter answers perform better. A great solution to guarantee the content Google will pinpoint is to create a featured snippet/answer box.
Featured snippets are expanded content and details that help users quickly get information about the keyword they searched. Featured snippets pull from a web page’s content, summarizing a quick answer for the user.
22% of voice searchers are looking for location-based content, so make sure you’re investing in local content. And use phrases like, “near me”—Google said that ‘near me’ searches are up 130% YoY, which makes sense considering it’s a mobile-driven question and people are using voice on their smartphones.
With 50% of local mobile searches leading to a store visit within 24 hours, it’s clear that these consumers have local intent—and purchase intent—when they perform their voice searches.
Create Google Actions or Alexa Skills
This software basically expands the functionality of voice assistants to interact with third parties. Actions on Google enables users to have a back-and-forth conversation with businesses, via their app or content, making it more valuable to voice users.
Similar to Google Actions, Alexa Skills—of which there are over 100,000—are free, third-party apps that take voice search to the next level.