Have you started preparing for a future dominated by voice search? The allure of voice search is undeniable – it’s fast, smart, hands-free and it also lets you multitask. Forbes stated that 2017 will be the year of voice search but why does this matter to your business?

According to Hitwise (a leading marketing company providing data on visitor trends and search behaviour), nearly 60% of searches are now performed on a mobile device. You can use your voice to do things like search, get directions and create reminders. With more and more people searching for content using their mobiles it’s no wonder that people have found it easier to use their voice to search. This trend is only going to increase as search engines, apps and developers respond. Voice is the next frontier, so understanding how to optimise voice search within your customer experience and SEO strategies are essential to your business.

The rise of voice search

Voice search is a speech recognition technology that allows users to tell the device what to search for. Smartphones, laptops and special devices feature this digital assistant that inputs the search query on request rather than users having to type it in themselves.

All major technology providers are investing in development and improvement of these intelligent digital assistants. Google has Google Assistant, Apple has Siri, Amazon has Alexa and Microsoft has Cortana. These voice-enabled virtual assistants are shaping an increasingly large part of consumers’ everyday lives. According to Google, around 20% of search queries on mobile devices are voice searches. With numbers projected to increase rapidly as virtual assistant technology continues to develop and be perfected, this trend has revolutionised the way people search for content.

The rising use of voice search is getting to a point where businesses need to start taking voice seriously and begin to consider where it might fit into their customer experience and SEO strategies.

Why voice search matters to your business

Mobile voice search is three times more likely to be used for local-based queries than text searches. So why do you need to stay ahead of the competition? For local businesses, three main factors play into how successful their digital presence may be in the voice search future: location, engagement and quality. Firstly, the physical proximity of the searcher to your business. The level of engagement with your customers and ranking of your website. And lastly how well your business services the needs of the searcher. Search Engine Land points out that voice search engines will be able to narrow results by the operating hours, expertise and customer service ratings of each business. This means the rise of voice search brings a new challenge for local businesses to compete on yet another platform. It has great potential to affect how local businesses are found. With Comscore (an expert marketing analytics company) estimating by 2020 that 50% of all searches will be by voice, businesses need to understand strategies for being found by voice search engines.

The key differences in search queries now are how they are becoming more conversational. Voice search is different from keywords in a search box. Due to the way individuals interact through voice search, the queries tend to be longer and more detailed in language. For example, when you type a query into a search engine you might run a search like ‘London hotel deals’. However, when you speak you’re more likely to ask a complete question, ‘Show me the best hotel deals in London for under £200’. You can tell by this search query exactly what the user is looking for, down to the budget and intent to buy. The digital assistant responds to natural phrases by interpreting the meaning and also the context behind the words used, so it is no longer matching the keywords in a query. The search engines are looking to understand the meaning and intent behind a query so it can deliver the best results. Therefore businesses need to adopt new strategies to optimise the way their business is found by voice search in order to stay ahead of the competition.

Tips to optimise for voice search

It’s clear that context and conversational search will become more important as voice search continues to evolve. So how does that change your SEO strategy? Here are are some effective ways to optimise your site for voice search.

1) Mobile friendly site – This is an absolute must as the majority of voice searches start on a mobile device. Designing your website to be mobile friendly will also ensure that your pages perform well on all devices.

2) Keep all your resources crawlable - Make sure your mobile site doesn’t block CSS, JavaScript, images, videos, etc.

3) Avoid flash - Flash isn’t supported by most mobile browsers. To make sure mobile visitors can access all content on your site, it’s best to avoid the use of Flash on your mobile pages.

4) Optimise load time – 40% of shoppers will only wait for three seconds before abandoning a site. Ensure you provide a quick mobile user experience.

5) Local intent - Voice search is becoming a fundamental aspect of local search. The very nature of local search is its local intent i.e. ‘restaurants near me’. You must rank high enough in local search to be selected by the digital assistant.

6) Call tracking – Consumers still regard the telephone as the quickest response method. For example, if a user has used voice search to find local restaurants, they’re going to find it much quicker and easier to call the restaurant from the results listed to book. For this reason, call tracking software will be crucial as it helps the business to identify which channels, campaigns or ads are generating phone call conversions. By integrating call tracking from suppliers, your business can also discover which landing pages aggregated in the search engine results are generating high volumes of phone calls, making it possible to monitor the date and time of a call and create detailed reports on the return on investment (ROI) for your individual marketing channels.

7) Add FAQs - Voice search users are normally looking for quick answers. The content of the FAQs is crucial in helping the search engines identify quick answers to common questions. With voice searches many queries begin with Who, What, Where, Why and How. Make sure you use the adverbs when creating questions for your FAQs page.


By Natalia Selby, marketing coordinator at Mediahawk

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