Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation will remember intrepid Enterprise commander Jean-Luc Picard barking, “Computer! Get me the coordinates of the Klingon Bird of Prey!” or “Computer! Name the chemical compounds in this Romulan ale!”
The good news is that the average consumer doesn’t have to wait until the 24th century to bark orders at inanimate objects to get questions answered and tasks accomplished. Today we have Google Home and Amazon Echo, two examples of personal assistants in the form of a pod no bigger than a bottle of soda (or, in the case of the Echo Dot, a hockey puck).
Since 2016, Amazon sold millions of Echos, a speaker that not only answers questions but sends signals to various devices in your home. It was reportedly Amazon’s best-selling product over the 2016 season, selling nine times more than it did over the same period the year before. Through an extensive list of integrations, Echo can play live streaming music or radio, read audiobooks, order an Uber or Lyft, control smart home appliances (lights, temperature, etc.), order a pizza from Domino’s (yep, there’s an app for that), purchase goods from Amazon and search the web for information.
It’s this last aspect that has marketers and search-engine specialists all a buzz. For years, companies found landing on the first page of the Google search results (SERP) critical to maintaining website traffic and profits. They invested a great deal of effort into finding the short- and long-tail keywords consumers were typing into the search bar.
The enthusiastic adoption of mobile began to change the focus from the typed-in search query. The small keyboard on some mobile phones prompted some consumers to speak their questions into their phones instead, and Google Home and Amazon Echo have further ingrained vocal requests.
Recently, Google CEO Sundar Pichai stated that 20 percent of all Google searches are voice searches. Bing claims that the voice search component makes up 25 percent of all searches on its network.
We all know Google and other search engines don’t create the answers to the questions consumers ask, organizations, bloggers, and brands help with that effort. To supplement their search engine results, many brands have invested in content development, writing unique blog posts to cover specific topics that are likely to be typed into search engines. While that’s still a solid strategy, we all should consider devoting time and resources to writing content that answers questions consumers have spoken into their devices. Given that Amazon sold out of the Echo well before Christmas, we can conclude consumers have embraced the voice-activated personal assistant. It’s likely that these products will start to permeate our workspaces, homes, vehicles, and even holiday destinations in the coming years.
How Voice-Controlled Personal Assistants Impact SEO
Voice searches account for about 20 to 25 percent of all current searches. While that number is growing, text-based search still dominates. Companies that begin to fashion their content to answer spoken queries could get the voice-search traffic before their competitors.
The significant change that voice search brings is to the results page. Asking a smartphone, “find a tire store near me” displays just three listings. A search engine result page on a computer lists at least ten options. For Google Home and Amazon Echo, Google and Alexa respond with just one result. First-page placement was considered a success to many marketers and the companies they worked with, but the limited results offered by voice search represents a significant shift in search engine optimization, at least when pursuing the voice-query objective.
Another significant shift is that Google Home, Amazon Echo, and even Siri deliver answers based on the personal data they collect. This is another move to ensure the answers are relevant and helpful.
Search Engine Strategy for Voice-Search
Companies that depend on search engine optimization for sales must be early adopters to search changes. Those that begin experimenting now have an opportunity to connect with voice-searching customers in need of their products and services.
When considering how to structure keyword and search strategy for voice search, the first thing to keep in mind is that written and oral communication are governed by different parts of the brain. While consumers have shown they’re willing to type “whole house water purifier, pricing, Austin, Texas” into the search bar, they’re far more likely to touch the microphone button on a phone and ask, “Siri, how much is a whole home water purifier in Austin, Texas?” as if in conversation with a neighbor. Search engines and digital assistants encourage this friendly approach by naming their voices, Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon Echo), Cortana (Bing). Search engines want you to feel as though you’re speaking to a helpful, warm human being rather than a cold, impersonal algorithm.
Getting Results from Voice Search
The advent of voice search does not mandate an immediate and comprehensive change in SEO strategy. Instead, marketers and companies can begin making some changes to a portion of the efforts to attract those searching via voice.
Explore your analytics
Your business may already have responded to voice search. The evidence is in your analytics, where you may find complete questions.
For instance, instead of “couples’ therapist, infidelity,” do any of your keyword phrases start with the words who, what, where, when, why or how? You may notice “How many sessions do couples’ therapists recommend?” or “Where is a couples’ therapist near me.” “Near me” and “nearby” are frequently seen in voice searches.
Amend your website with question-and-answer content
Start making a list of these questions and consider adding them to your content, either in a FAQ or question-and-answer format. Keep creating blog posts, as they serve as great content for your social media channels and email newsletters and will also bring in traffic from written and spoken searches.
Another advantage of the q&a style format is that the search engine may decide to put your quick, short answer in a “featured snippet” (aka “answer box”), spotlighting your site and information.
Use conversational language in your site content
Users searching via voice aren’t trying to sound formal, they’re trying to get the answers they need as quickly as possible. If there are slang terms for your products and services, incorporate them into your site.
Search engines and digital-assistant services have been working on semantic search and natural language for years now. Their aim is to derive “intent” from the string of words searchers use so that they can deliver the best answers. The software attempts to determine if the best answer is simple information, directions, a store, pricing, or a number of other responses.
Use Schema and knowledge graph info to please search engines
Today, not only is search voice activated, but it’s getting more and more personal.
Google, Amazon, and Microsoft know two users aren’t likely to agree on “best dog breed in America.” To win their aim of returning the answer each person perceives as correct, these companies gather data on how their service is used. Search engines and digital assistants collect information about our habits, favorites, and more to fine-tune search results.
How Google Home Trained Me to Look Stupid in Social Situations
Website owners can help search engines by using Schema markup language, code that helps search engines deliver the information that matches the intent behind a user’s query as well as the information itself. When someone asks Siri, “Where can I find a socket wrench?” she has to figure out whether you’re asking where socket wrenches are typically found (toolbox, garage) or where you can buy them (Home Depot, Ace Hardware.) Schema helps clarify consumer need. Use it.
Understand your buyer’s journey and the questions that arise at each stage
If the Q&A format and personalization lie at the heart of voice search, it makes sense that teasing out the exact questions your buyers ask at each stage of their journey will please search engines and digital assistants. Get your team together and break down what people ask during each phase in the buyer’s journey.
Consider creating one Q&A for each phase. Consider this example of a hypothetical RV company that does this effectively:
- Need recognition: “Q&A for Families Longing for More Quality Time Together.”
- Information gathering: “Q&A for Families Considering Buying an RV.”
- Evaluation of options: “Q&A for Those Torn Between the Fun of a Class C and the Price of a Trailer.”
- Decision/purchase: “All RV Warranty Questions Answered Here.”
- Post-purchase: “Making RV Service Simple: All your Questions Answered.”
Ready to Take On Voice Search Strategy?
Voice search isn’t as much a divergence or even a shift as it is another way businesses can connect with prospects online. It’s an opportunity!
While consumers are having fun asking “Alexa, do you know Siri?” Echo is training people to purchase goods and services from Amazon. Google Home collects data on your favorite radio stations, products, restaurants, and more, and uses this information to serve ads when you surf the web and even through social media.
Staying abreast of the changes to search, including knowing the players and what they stand to gain, will help your business gain revenue.
Buy an Echo Dot, Alexa or Google Home
Read more about voice assistant trends at TechCo