By 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice activated. In my previous blog, I talked about why I think it is crucial to jump on board now and make sure your business can provide the right answers to long-form questions. This, of course, is easily said and not so easily done. However, there are ways that you can optimise your online presence to make sure you are providing the best voice-search experience – and getting in early means you can capture the ever growing share of voice searches.
Here are my top-tips for becoming voice-search ready.
Products and places – Don’t leave Google guessing
Google is no longer just a keyword engine, serving up the page that best satisfies a query based on the frequency of word on a webpage. Over the past few years, all search engines have adopted a structured (semantic) vocabulary which uses a new type of HTML code (schema markup) that explicitly tells search engines about various attributes, entities, things, places, people, products, recipes, events and a whole lot more.
As more businesses use these standards, search engines are no longer in doubt regarding what a page is about based purely on keywords. It knows who a person is, where they work, what their business sells, where it’s located, how much their products cost and what reviewers think.
This paints a much more complete and defined picture of a business, and if implemented properly it can help to answer voice search requests about products and places that carry real commercial intent.
For instance, an example voice product search might be ‘where can I buy a women’s size ten running shoe in blue for under eighty pounds?’ With structured markup Google can search its index and look for a nearby business, or online shop that has explicitly marked up its inventory to include product size colour, availability and price. Armed with this information, search engines can fill in the gaps and deliver highly accurate shopping results and even directions to the nearest shop.
So instead of making educated guesses based on a page’s content Google will now prefer to return information about products and local businesses based on the structured information provided by retailers. So if you’re on the high street make sure to claim and fully populate your Google My Business, Bing Maps and Apple Connect profiles.
All businesses, local or not, should ensure that they are using schema markup to leave Google in no doubt about who you are, where you’re at and what you’re selling.
Answers and guides – Give the people what they want
Voice search isn’t just about the last click (or command) but actually influences the entire customer journey. Research from Social Media Today claims almost 50% of people use voice search at some point when researching products, and prior to even that voice search plays an important part in identifying problems and solutions.
I recently asked Google how to bleed a radiator and was read back a very simple step-by-step guide for releasing the air from the system. This incredibly useful voice interaction also informed me that I would need a radiator key to get the job done and it just so happened that the hardware retailer who wrote the guide had a store in my area.
So voice search really does feed off short, sharp answers which can be easily featured as a concise search snippets, ideally giving users enough information that they want to click through to your website to find out more. The types of content businesses might want to create would be:
- FAQs: individual pages which directly answer very specific conversational questions
- How to guides: short, number labelled, step by step instructions to common problems
- Comparisons: listing the pros and cons of one product compared to another, answering which is the best in class
- Glossaries: definitions and explanations of technical jargon or acronyms people might not understand but need to know
So optimising for voice search isn’t vastly different from traditional search, find out what people are searching for and provide them with the most useful content. But instead of trying to find and optimise for the most popular keywords businesses need to uncover not just the long tail questions people are asking but how they are phrasing these very specific questions.
To do this, brands need to listen to their customers and catalogue all the questions people are asking when they call, speak with a customer services rep or a sales assistant. Sourcing these questions directly from your customers in their words will inform your voice search strategy and enable your business to surface for more voice searches and provide real value to potential customers.
Finally, businesses can also use tools like Ubbersuggest or Answer The Public which trawl Google suggestions to find similar searches and questions being asked. Once you have a list of ideas – prioritised by potential commercial benefit – it’s also a good idea to examine each individual question in search and see if there is already an established source, answer or Wikipedia page in order to assess, identify and own the white space.
What are the added benefits?
Creating lots of instructional micro-content won’t just help businesses secure their voice search future but also assist a brand’s ability to be the featured snippet in text search, no matter the device.
80% of success in search is just showing up, so although this strategy of long-tail content creation will attract relatively few searches individually, they all add up to an aggregated pool of interested and informed prospects who are now aware of your brand and products. This exposure should last in perpetuity, making a real difference in the long term.