Imagine a dark castle, windows blackened, battlements abandoned, rising up above a perilous forest. Now imagine the queen of such a castle, beautiful and terrible, vain and tyrannical, sweeping down the haunted corridors in her black finery while her innocent step-daughter languishes in the dungeon below. Every night, just as the bells chime midnight, the evil queen ascends a well-worn spiral stair, to a high, forbidden chamber — her most prized sanctum — where in lies her most sacred treasure, her dearest companion, her greatest magical instrument. She strides into the room, closes the door, shuts the curtains, lights her black-flame candles, and asks aloud the same questions she asks of it every night.
Alexa, who currently holds the top spot for hottest woman in power this year?
Immediately, a disembodied voice answers the queen.
The Evil Queen is the hottest woman in power for 2017.
That probably didn’t go quite the way you thought it would, now did it? We now live in an age where we can command technology with the very sound of our voice — and have a pleasant voice answer us — whether it’s conducting Google searches, ordering books from Amazon, making phone calls or playing our best self-empowerment playlist.
Without a doubt, voice search “personal assistants” such as Siri on the iPhone, Alexa on the Amazon Echo, Cortana on Windows 10 or Ok Google on the Google Home have altered the way we interact with technology and businesses. And it’s definitely affecting the way customers search. Here are some voice search stats to show how quickly voice search is growing:
- 60% of people using voice search started in the last year (MindMeld).
- An estimated 325.8 million people used voice control in the past month (Global Web Index) and “1 in 5 online adults have used voice search on their mobile in the last month” (Global Web Index)
- In 2017 alone, 25 million voice search devices will be shipped — increasing the number of devices in circulation to 33 million (VoiceLabs). An estimated 21.4 million smart speakers will be in the US by 2020 (Activate).
- 28% of people think voice search is a more accurate way of searching (WO Strategies)
- By 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches (ComScore)
(For more stats, check out this great article from Branded3)
So what does this mean for your business? If you’re like a lot of businesses, you just got the knack of search optimizing your site for online searches the old fashioned way (or you may still be trying to learn it). Now here’s something else to manage. But don’t worry, optimizing for voice search is not so different from optimizing for keyboard searches, but it does add more importance to some of the tactics SEO experts have been touting for a while now.
Here is what your business needs to remember when optimizing for voice search:
Less Technical, More Conversational
The way people search with their voices is different from how they search with their keyboards. First of all, we speak about 150 words per minute as opposed to typing 40 words per minute (WO Strategies) — so we cram more words into searching via voice than via keyboard. So the search terms we’re targeting are not only more long-tail keywords, they’re also more conversational search terms.
Think about the way you interact with Siri versus how you make a search on Google. If you’re looking for a way to fix a leaky pipe, you’re going to ask Siri “How do I fix a leaky pipe?” But if you’re searching on your computer, you might type in “easy leaky pipe fixes.” This trend requires using more conversational terms in your content — using terms and phrases you’re more likely to use with a fellow human being when asking a question.
Read The Manuals
This may seem unproductive and rather silly. Voice search is pretty straightforward, right? You talk to your machine and it answers back. However, by reading the manuals, you can generate ideas for how to word your search phrases and improve your lists. The manuals show users how to interact best with their devices and how to phrase their queries for the best results. This not only improves your search phrase lists, but also improves how you write your content.
Here are the links for each user manual so you don’t have to go hunting. And check out more great ideas for conversational SEO writing with Search Engine Journal.
Own Your Location
The term “near me” is really gaining momentum in the search world. In fact, the use of “near me” searches has doubled in the past year (The Next Web). While with keyboard-searches, you’re more likely to type in “restaurants in Little Rock, Arkansas,” with voices searches you’re more likely to ask, “what restaurants are near me?” We’ve become accustomed to our devices tracking our locations and providing us with the necessary information on our immediate vicinities.
So what does this mean for business? Well, this means that in conjunction with optimizing your site for location-specific search terms,you also need to make sure your other location-targeted tactics are top-notch. This includes managing and updating your reviews, your Google business page and tagging your photos, as well as using Schema to boost non-branded keywords. These are not new tactics, but they are increasing in importance to make sure your site continues to climb to the top of search rankings.
Mobile Is Even More Important Now
If voice search is becoming more popular, and may one day overtake keyboard searches, then the imperative for your site to be mobile friendly is more important than ever. Voice searches are often conducted with smart phones, which will pull up the list of search results. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, it won’t rank highly. And even if they do somehow find your site, if they can’t interact with it well on mobile, then they’re more likely to exit—fast.
Here are a few quick ways to make sure your site is mobile-friendly. You can use this handy mobile-friendly test tool to find how mobile friendly it is. You also need to make sure your site doesn’t run on Flash since it’s not compatible with most smartphones and compress your site’s images to optimize your load time.
Don’t Forget About Featured Snippets
But what is a featured snippet? A featured snippet is the “position zero” of a search results page, or rather, the new top spot. When you make a search query, the first item you see is a direct answer to that query — showing up before the search result links — but they do include a link back to the answer’s source page. Here’s an example:
You can see how Google provides a direct answer — no clicking through to another page — but if I need more information, I’m likely to click on through to the source page. Now, why is featured snippet so important? Because when you ask your device a question, this is the answer it’s going to read aloud or show on your mobile screen. If this is used as a verbal reply, the other search results will not be given a list of choices. That is why achieving the top spot on related search results is so important.
Not all search results show a featured snippet, but 30% of 1.4 million Google queries tested do show them (Stone Temple Consulting) — so make sure you continue to focus on gaining that top spot. To gain that featured snippet placement, continue focusing on the recommendations made above and running a strong SEO program.
If you need help configuring or running a strong SEO program for your business, contact our Senior Digital Strategist Ashley Steele at firstname.lastname@example.org or 501-975-4694 to see how we can optimize your site for success.