Between Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant, voice technology is quickly becoming a daily part of the modern landscape. Beyond creating grocery lists or sending texts, voice search is how many people are now discovering and connecting with brands. To remain relevant — and searchable — brands need to begin thinking about how to include voice search into their overall strategy. After all, whether someone is using their thumbs or their voice, don’t you want to be found?
Voice Search Breaks the Rules of SEO
Sometimes, the most advanced technology takes us right back to where we started. When search engines first arrived, we learned to condense our natural, conversational questions into their most basic elements. We didn’t ask Google, “Hey, what’s the weather going to be like next month?” We typed, “weather Oakland October.” As a result, best practices for SEO were built around distilled keywords.
Flash forward to now. The exponential rise of voice search has completely reversed the game. No longer are we adapting our vocabulary to meet the guardrails of technology. Now, we’ve created technology smart enough to meet the demands of our natural language.
So once again, SEO marketers need to flex if they want to distinguish their brand voice in the chorus of online competitors. This year, 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month. That’s a jump of 128.9% over last year. Voice search is a new and vital piece of the overall brand experience. Companies can either choose to optimize this technology now – or ignore it at the peril of both brand relevance and revenue.
Can You Hear Me Now?
If you’re not an active user of voice search, you might be skeptical of its progress. Who among us hasn’t gotten into a pronunciation battle with Siri? Yet the refinement of voice technology over the last few years has been incredible. Most systems now maintain a 95% accuracy rate when it comes to understanding voices in a quiet environment.
This is not a passing trend. This is a tool that’s growing at a breakneck speed. According to Google, more than half of teens and 41% of adults use voice search daily. SearchEngineLand estimates that more half of all queries will be voice search by 2020.
Make Your SEO Sound Human
Voice search follows the rules of natural language: it’s longer, it’s more conversational, and it incorporates more questions. As such, brands will need to focus on long-tail keywords and expand their terms to include alternate phrases.
A benefit of voice search is its strong tie to intent. Based on the kinds of questions people ask, SEO marketers can quickly discern when someone is ready to buy.
For example, a typical customer journey might begin with “what” or “who.” What is a French press? They might follow that up with “how.” How does a French press work? If a customer begins searching with “when” or “where,” it’s safe to assume they are reaching the end of their sale cycle. Where are French presses sold? When are they open?
Voice Search Happens on Mobile
On the design side of things, voice search takes place primarily on mobile. So, when customers land on your website, it better be a responsive site, load quickly, and be easy to read. Have videos on your site? They should be formatted to fit mobile screens. Any pop-ups, drop-downs, or invasive windows are only going to add noise to the UX. While we’re on the topic, voice software can’t “read” images. Make your site easy to read by transcribing anything visual.
If you’re a brick and mortar brand, keep in mind that 22% of voice searches are used to get local information. Structure your important data – business name, address, contact information, hours, and directions – at the top of your mobile page to make things easy for your customer. Rich snippets – the one or two sentences that appear under the main hyperlink in search – are incredibly valuable tools. Don’t waste them.
Don’t Forget About Bing
Bing as a search engine is often relegated to a joke, but pouring all your SEO into Google is a big mistake. Siri uses Bing as her primary search engine. If you don’t submit your sitemap to Bing, you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage.
Even if your brand doesn’t have the funds to invest currently, the SEO best practices around voice search can be a very useful exercise. What’s the one question a customer would have to ask to lead them to your brand? If you can answer that, you’re on the right path.
Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy and design agency.