Siri. Google. Now, Alexa and Cortana are all quickly becoming household names. If you’re unsure who these people are, a quick search will tell you that they are not people at all. These virtual assistants, when prompted by voice-search, answer questions, set reminders and perform other tasks through mobile phones and other devices.
These connected devices are becoming increasingly popular, and as more users turn to them to perform online searches, it is key that business websites optimize to answer these naturally spoken search queries. Here are some tips to start optimizing your website for the future of voice search.
Tip #1: Know your search engine
As marketers, we’re hard-wired to think of Google first. It is the most widely used search engine by leaps and bounds, after all. However, with voice search, it is important to remember that Bing has really been set up as the go-to search engine for voice search.
When iOS7 was launched, Siri began all searches with Bing as its primary search engine. If you were an iPad or iPhone user, you would have to ask Siri specific to “Search Google for …” when using voice search. Obviously, as a Window’s voice assistant, Cortana uses Bing by default, and Amazon Alexa is also programmed by default to run search queries on Bing unless set otherwise.
Before we hand the gold medal for voice search prowess over to Bing, we have to remember all Android devices are still powered by Google. The IDC’s latest findings in 2016 were that Android has market share at 84 percent versus 15 percent of iOS market share.
So, when determining which search engine you should optimize for, I suggest turning to Google Analytics or whichever analytics partner you use for website data. In Google Analytics, you can find data about what devices are used to access your website most.
To use Google Analytics to find out what mobile operating systems your visitors use most, select “Mobile > Devices” under the “Audience” menu. Then, change your primary dimension to “Operating System.” Knowing what operating system they use can help deduce which voice search and what search engines that OS prefers.
Tip #2: Practice using voice search
Similar to starting your organic keyword search, when optimizing your website for desktop search, it is important to understand how the user is searching while using voice search. To understand the differences between searches that are entered on a keyboard or touch pad and searches that are spoken aloud, it is key to get some hands-on experience.
You can start by reading manuals or guides on how to use voice search and virtual assistants on a phone. Note the differences and similarities to how they are used and then start practicing. By switching to use voice search to make your typical daily searches, you will start to see patterns in how you search and navigate the voice search functionality, as well as what types of search queries yield the best results.
The guides and command lists are also great bookmarks that you can reference back to when optimizing your site for commonly used questions and phrases. Here is a list to use:
- Siri User Guide
- Google User Guide
- Cortana User Guide
- Siri Commands
- OK, Google Commands
- Cortana Commands
Reviewing these instructional documents will help you understand how users are being taught to interact with voice search on the different platforms. You can also use the voice commands and common questions to optimize your website search and metadata to align with common voice search phrases.
Tip #3: Link organic keywords with natural speech
When you think about it, the way we speak naturally and the way we type or write messages are very different. This is why creating a separate initiative to optimize your website for voice search is so important.
It is likely that users are still looking for the same type of information that they search for organically, but they are definitely using different words and phrases to complete these searches when using voice search. While optimizing your website for voice search, it is important to keep the organic keywords your visitors are already using in mind. The format of a voice search may change, but it is possible the main keyword search themes will carry over.
To start building out a strategy for voice search optimization, I suggest going straight to the source: conversations with your customers and potential customers in your industry. Pay attention to the way that they talk about your products and the industry you serve. What are their questions? And, most importantly, how are they asking those questions? While someone my search “sandwich delivery near me” in Google on a desktop computer, they may voice search for “Where is the nearest sandwich shop that delivers?”
This may be a challenge if your business does not require many voice conversations with your audience. If this is the case, you can try attending industry events and conferences to discuss your business with others and get an idea of how they talk about your industry naturally.
Tip #4: Be the mobile friendliest
This should go without saying, but to rank in voice search results and capitalize on traffic from voice search, your website HAS to be mobile friendly. Google’s algorithm already gives preferential treatment to sites that are mobile friendly.
Mobile phones are the primary devices that people use to perform voice searches, so it is crucial that your site loads quickly and has the necessary usability updates to make it ready to use on a mobile phone. People read content differently on mobile devices, so be sure that your website meets their needs for fast and easy access. Of course, Ervin & Smith has done some thinking on this subject, so here are some helpful tips:
Tip #5: Never forget local searchers
There are a lot of people who will use voice search while driving, walking or moving around a metro area to find local businesses, get directions or find an address or phone number. If your business has a physical location, it is especially important to take advantage of these searches by making sure your website is local-search friendly.
There are some general rules that you can apply to make your site accessible for local search, but you can get started now by adding all of your basic business information to your site in text format instead of an image. That information should include:
- Your business name
- Your physical address
- Your local phone number
- Directions from popular interstates/roadways
You should also set your business up with Google My Business and other social media sites. Doing so will allow voice search to access the location listing with popular map applications such as Google Maps and Apple Maps. After this is done, users who voice search for your business using their phone or smart watch can quickly get step-by-step directions to your door.
Search engine optimization is an ongoing process. But, small updates like optimizing for voice search can build a foundation for a website that serves a variety of searchers across the digital landscape.
It may be too early to start crying “death to the keyboard,” but the number of devices that use voice search will most likely stay on an upward trend. Lucky for us, voice search optimization is intuitive to how we are already optimizing. By getting started with voice search now, you will be ready for organic search success in the future.