Voice search is the next big transformation about to hit digital marketing. And, in fact, the phenomenon has already arrived in a big way: 65% of 25-to-49-year-olds “speak” to their devices at least once per day. And it’s expected that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be conducted through voice.
This is going to make a huge impact on a business’s digital marketing because the results of voice searches are even narrower than web searches. Only three results show up for mobile voice searches and just one result for smart speaker voice searches — not exactly great news for most businesses. This means that unless you can adapt your digital marketing efforts for voice search and get ahead of your competition, you’ll risk falling out of voice search results altogether.
We can only expect voice search to grow even more rapidly in the next few years, meaning that businesses of all sizes need to adapt before voice search becomes the norm. The businesses that delay this adaptation or simply don’t do it at all will face the consequences, especially if their competitors change their digital marketing processes first to grab that top smart-speaker-results spot.
To get ahead of your competition and ensure smart devices start recommending your business first, you’ll need to ensure that your website and social media pages all answer the common questions that will be asked by voice search enthusiasts.
Learning How To Optimize For Voice Search Vs. Web Search
You might be asking yourself, “What’s so different about voice searches compared to web searches?” There are actually a few key differences, the most notable being the length of keywords used. Web searches tend to be much shorter and incomplete — “printing services Chicago,” for example. But because humans tend to talk to their smart speakers like they’re talking to a human assistant, voice searches automatically use many more long-tail keywords. These searches often include questions like:
• “Okay Google, where can I find good BBQ near me?”
• “Alexa, what time does the nearest public pool close?”
• “Alexa, where is the closest gas station?”
• “Okay Google, find a cheap printing service near me.”
By steering your SEO strategy toward long-tail keywords and listing out clear answers to these types of questions on your brand’s website and social media pages, you can help give your business a big boost in voice searches. But you’ll need to make sure your business is optimized for voice on every social media platform and search engine. Because voice searches are generally powered by partnerships or platforms connected to their respective smart speakers.
As an example, Amazon’s Alexa has a partnership with Yelp, meaning voice searches on an Alexa device could get more results driven by a business’s Yelp page. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s voice search tool, Cortana, is powered by Microsoft Bing. Google can source answers from Google Maps, and Siri taps into Apple Maps.
Location also becomes a much bigger deal when it comes to voice search. Because so many of these voice search terms tend to include phrases like “near me” or “close by,” smart speakers conduct location-based searches of businesses near the user, rather than repeating their exact search on the web. This means that businesses that want to optimize for local search must claim and use platforms like Google My Business and Yelp, for starters. To optimize their online presence even further, companies can implement LocalBusiness schema markup within their SEO strategy to ensure they’re doing everything they can to keep their business at the top of local search rankings.
One similar facet between web search and voice search is the use of mobile devices to conduct a search. As of the second quarter of 2019, it was found that mobile devices accounted for 59% of organic search engine visits in the United States, according to Statista. It appears that voice searches done on mobile devices might soon catch up: In fact, 20% of mobile queries are already voice searches. This means that businesses need to be optimizing their SEO for both mobile searches and mobile voice searches if they want to rank highly on both fronts.
One simple way to achieve that is by speeding up your website loading time. As of 2018, Google started analyzing page speed as an important factor for mobile search rankings. If it takes your website 10 or 15 seconds to load on a mobile device, you can significantly improve your mobile search rankings by cutting down your site’s loading speed to three seconds.
After you make all of these changes to your website and SEO strategy, it’s vital that you test out the results for yourself. Try out searches related to your business through mobile voice search and on all of the popular smart speakers out there — Alexa, Google Home, Cortana, etc. — to see if your new voice search strategy is paying off. If you notice your competitors are consistently being offered as the main result, or are among the top results in mobile searches, check out their online presence to see what they might be doing differently than you to rank higher. Compare how many results each smart speaker and mobile device offers you. It could be that in narrower search results, you’re being edged out by a competitor.
As every digital marketer knows, search is constantly evolving, and this new era of local and voice-focused search is transforming marketing for businesses once again. For businesses big and small, it’s absolutely crucial to adapt your digital marketing efforts for voice search now rather than later. By making sure each and every one of your pages is adapted and tested for local search, is mobile search-friendly and voice search-friendly, you can ensure you’re doing everything in your power to start ranking higher than your competitors and bring in new customers in this highly competitive era of digital marketing.