Is your SEO campaign optimized for the voice-first world?

Imagine a search engine that centers on voice instead of text. It’s no longer a vision of the future. It’s real. These days, when people are looking for information online, they simply speak to the search crawler.

…“OK, Google, who is the best dentist in Las Vegas?” or …. “Please suggest an SEO Company in Atlanta

Now imagine you own a website that caters to those in need of a dentist, you’re aware that someone was going to ask that exact question, and you’ve already provided a helpful answer in the form of a blog post, an article, video, whitepaper, or a slide presentation to engage the prospect.

The possibilities of voice search are enormous, especially when you’re concerned about your customers and how best to provide answers to their questions.
It’s a voice-first world with respect to search engine optimization. You have to get ready for it.

According to a 2014 Google survey carried out by Northstar Research, about 55% of teenagers and 41% of adults use voice search more than once per day.

Number of people using google voice search is increasing month over month

More recent studies have also predicted that the use of voice recognition will double in five years time.

Similarly, it will interest you to know that Amazon Echo (the smart speaker with an assistant that can do any task from calling you a cab to setting an alarm) sold 9X a lot of units during the 2016 holiday compared to the previous year.

Another research from Mind Meld indicated that more than 60% of the people using voice search started to do so less than 12 months ago.

Most of people started using google voice search just recently

Voice search is growing at a breath-taking speed for three primary reasons:

  • It’s super fast.
  • The answer is read back.
  • You’re not required to type.

Primary reasons for using voice search

(Source)

No wonder, back in the mid-2000’s when users were first introduced to virtual personal assistants like Siri and Cortana for voice searches, they were cynical.
Not anymore.

A recent study by Stone Temple shows that over 50% users prefer a Voice engine to perform their online search!

A 2016 Internet Trends Report also shows that voice search is dramatically gaining market share:

Voice search market share

Now, such an unprecedented increase can be connected to the invention of smart devices that have profoundly changed how we search, acquire, and process information.

However you view it, it’s evident that the next set of your customers will be asking about your product or services verbally, rather than the usual typing into a search engine.

But this is not only a transformation for search marketers though; it’s also a significant shift for the search engines. While Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are introducing these changes in the market, they are also affecting the way people use their services.

For example, Google has been on the lead of search innovation for many years. This is another logical step in the evolution of Google.

Google is continually adding and tweaking their technology for a better understanding of what we are feeding into their search engine. Now, with voice search, they are like a toddler that has finally grown up and can understand what we say.

With voice search, we are not just entering queries and getting back results — we are actually having a normal conversation with something, which is both cool and horrifying.

However, one question that still demands an answer is: How do we as marketers, plan, act, and provide an excellent report on what users are asking their mobile devices?

From a reporting point of view, Google stated last year that they’d introduce voice search reporting to search console search analytics report, although they didn’t give a timeframe on when that will actually happen.

Google and other entities have already collected all of this data; I think they just haven’t found a way to analyze the queries yet, so it might still take a long runway before this capability comes to fruition.

With those reports, you’ll apparently figure out what users are asking their voice-enabled gadgets, but they’re not yet in existence, so what do we have to do?
A more holistic approach is for every marketer to be more in tune with what his customers want from him and what they’re asking of him.

Customer-first marketing for franchises and other businesses is nothing strange, but with the rapid growth of voice search, anticipating what our users’ want and need will be essential to make sure we are providing answers to their questions above our competitors.

Will This Change Help or Harm Us?

The real question should be: How is this going to affect us all going forward and how will our users interact with us?

According to a recent prediction by Gartner, “30% of internet browsing will be screenless by 2020.” While this is somewhat terrifying, below is a quote by “Microsoft’s Purna Virji” at the Inbounder in May:

Consumers are willing to engage with AI if they forget they are not human

(Source)

To me, the screenshot answers the questions above but mainly relates to organic search and even social. In spite of Gartner’s prediction, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will still have to find content somewhere to coach itself to interact with us more thoughtfully.

Now, let’s look at the various ways you can optimize your SEO campaigns for the voice-first world.

How to Optimize Your SEO Campaigns For Voice Search

While most of the innovation encompassing voice search focuses more on the ability to control devices without using your digits, it’s hardly restricted to these applications alone.

Our Charlotte SEO company equally expects to see a few changes taking place in organic search in the nearest future. The transition towards using voice search to gather results is just the beginning.

Voice search is already transforming how local businesses reach their target audiences. Many are turning to more conversational keywords and novel methods.

According to the 2016 Internet Trends Report, people are using voice search for all sort of searches. With an estimated 22% searching for information on local content. With this report, you’ll agree with of the need for local businesses, and local SEO agencies to start strategizing for local voice search.

Voice query breakdown - observed data

Now, let’s quickly take a closer look at the various elements of voice search that you should consider integrating into your overall SEO strategy for lawyers and other professionals before it’s too late!

1. Optimize for Specific Search Engines

You may be wondering if it’s worth optimizing for other search engines other than Google. [source]

This question makes sense at face value. Besides, Apple’s Siri uses Bing as its primary search engine, so you might be tempted to consider optimizing for Bing instead of Google.

Consider voice search optimization for multiple search engines

(Source)

However, there are lots of problem with this line of thought — the first issue is overall market share — and the second is the current state of SEO.

Smartphone market share in US shows iOS take 31%

Of cause, Apple’s iPhone is extremely popular. Apple is the most popular smartphone manufacturing company in the United States, and in the fourth quarter of 2016, Apple finally surpassed Samsung to become the largest smartphone vendor in the world, as reported by Gartner.

In spite of this, iOS still accounts for just 31.3 percent of smartphone market share in the U.S, according to a recent study from Kantar.

Again, sales of mobile devices fluctuate quite often; this means that optimizing for specific search engines other than Google is possibly a waste of time and efforts.

Coming to the state of SEO, we’re often being told that the quality and relevance of our content is an essential factor we should be optimizing (I refuse to agree to this).

Typically, the nuances of how Google, Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Baidu, or any other search engine function shouldn’t impact how you optimize and structure your website except you have a substantial reason to do so.

2. Optimize For Mobile

You’ve heard it a countless number of times, and you’ll still hear it again: your website needs to be mobile friendly. This is most critical when it comes to voice search. Internet browsing and mobile searching have both become such a core of our moderns’ lives. In fact, the average human will check their mobile phone 110 times per day.

Now, just as how surfing the internet on our mobile phones was once a luxury, the same thing applies to having a mobile-friendly website, either a completely separate site for mobile users or just one that was mobile responsive. No longer.

A recent report presented by Comscore shows that:
“In the fourth quarter of 2014, US mobile queries (tablets and smartphones) were roughly 29% of total search volumes — across the entire industry.”

Multi Platform Web Search Infographics

Recently, Google also announced that they are moving to mobile-first indexing, and for the fact that almost 60 percent of all searches are carried out on a mobile device, one thing has become obvious: after about 20 years of a desktop first world, we have to change our thinking. The world has become mobile first.

But what does the word “indexing” mean, and why should I care if it’s been done first on? To avoid getting too technical, indexing is simply the process of listing web pages to the Google search. It’s just like putting a new book in a library.

In other words, if your page is indexed, you can be found in a Google search. But if it’s no-indexed, then your page can’t be found. Google had one index in the past, based upon a desktop site. But today, when crawling your page, Google will start by looking at your mobile site before placing it within the index. So what does this mean for your website?

It simply means that you should be in a better place if you have a responsive site. However, just ensure that:

  • Every content on your desktop site is accurately represented within the mobile version
  • All crucial assets including images and menus can be seen and easily touched
  • There are no elements on your site that will weaken the user-experience, such as overlapping of texts, requiring zooming of any kind, or any need for horizontal scrolling.

However, you’re not doomed if you don’t have a mobile responsive site. Google’s mobile spider (the robot that scans your website before placing it in the index) doesn’t just read mobile pages, but everything.

But you must have it in mind that they won’t rank as good as if you had a mobile-friendly website, but they are rarely invisible.

It is vital that you send your users to the high-quality mobile site as a majority of voice searches are performed on mobile devices. This is not just critical for voice search, but your overall digital presence. Therefore, get a mobile responsive site right now.

3. Use Schema Metadata

No matter how much content you produce to target voice-driven search queries, helping the search engines to fully understand what you’ve provided them with will help you a lot.

The idea is to provide the search engines a clear data to read. Yes, that means playing with some technical tasks. This lets the search engines to correctly understand concrete information to provide its users with contextually.

Schema is what’s known as a markup language which allows site owners to give the search engines extra information about the information on their website – you can think of it like metadata or even data about data.

Use Schema Markup to give the search engines extra information and achieve better SEO results

In a more comprehensive manner, Schema helps you to describe what the data on your website stands for. This, in turn, makes it easier for Google to understand, which can enhance visibility.

It’s also one of the most potent yet significantly underutilized SEO practices for restaurants and businesses that offer a service. By simply implementing schema markup to your website, you’re already putting yourself far ahead of the curve.

4. Speak The Way your Users Do

People act differently depending on the situation at hand. We can use wildly different keyword phrases in search to find the exact same information depending on your input.

Let me explain: Imagine that you want to eat better, but in your typical morning rush, you forgot your oatmeal.

Now, an Egg McMuffin sounds quite awesome, but you’re not sure what impact it will create on your daily calorie goals. So in this case, what Keyword phrase would you use for your search?

If you are on your desktop computer at work, you’ll most likely search for something succinct and quick to save time and minimize typing, such as (egg McMuffin calories). Sure enough, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for.

Web users tend to use different keyphrases when typing then when performing voice search

But when you’re speaking, it’s weird to talk out loud what we would type on a computer keyboard. For example, we wouldn’t say (egg McMuffin calories) to begin a mobile search because it’s not complete. It feels totally wrong.

Therefore, although we are searching for the same exact information as before, we’ll need to speak more naturally and conversationally, mostly in question format. Besides, Google is, at its basic, there to respond to queries. So why don’t you ask it one?

When performing voice search users tend to use broader keyphrases

Apparently, when a user speaks to execute or engage a search, he talks as he would to a friend. So while you may rank for “egg McMuffin calories,” you’re likely not going to rank for the keyword: “how many calories are in an egg McMuffin,” thereby losing out on a close guaranteed win.

When optimizing your website for voice search, you want to be sure to target both more semantic sounding sentences and traditional SEO friendly phrases.

Fortunately, discovering these key terms isn’t entirely difficult. One excellent tool explicitly designed for this very purpose is Answer The Public.

You’ll just enter your keyword and Answer The Public will comb the web, digging up any question-based queries asked using that key term. Interestingly, it presents the information in a useful infographic form, which you can even pretend you created.

Answer the public tool

However, with some little filtering, Google’s own Keyword tool can equally be an excellent way to find questions as well. Enter your service or product as you would normally do for Keyword research. Then within the “Keywords to Include” section, input the usual question starters such as:

  • Where?
  • How?
  • Why?
  • Who?
  • What?

And you’ll be presented with more question-based queries than you can work with.

Google keyword planner tool

Finally, the famous keywordtool.io can also be an excellent tool for this. Once you’ve entered your product or service into the search field, click on “questions” beside the “keyword suggestions” tab for the question-based keywords.

Utilizing keyword tool for better keyphrases suggestion

5. Get Local Friendly

A recent statistics by Search Engine Land shows that “mobile voice searchers are 3X more likely to be looking for local results.

There’s undoubtedly a possibility that these queries will be about an action the searcher can take immediately. These web searchers are looking for“near me” information. It could be in the form of directions, a phone number, or opening hours.

For instance, asking for directions to somewhere is very common, and by adding directions to your store from major roads and popular interstates, you increase the chance of someone discovering your page – and consequently, you – when they’re looking for directions.

Mobile users perform voice search to search for locations and services "near me"

A perfect example of this can be seen in the screenshot below showing some companies that optimized to be found when someone searches for “directions to the nearest gas station.”

SERP showing samples of companies optimizing websites for "near me" search

The bad thing is that no matter how much you optimize your site, the search engines may “most of the times” prefer established networks over independent websites. What this means for you is putting your business on top of high-ranked sites like Yelp, Google Business, and Facebook.

Now, when it comes to local search, you don’t want to miss the forest for the trees. The primary goal of any effective SEO campaign is to bring new customers via the door.
So, how do you implement this?

To make a good list of optimized key phrases you can target, consider the various questions someone in the neighborhood might ask concerning your business. You want to strictly focus on topics that mostly apply to your website.

For example, if you own a hardware store, maybe try:

  • Where can I find wood cut to order?
  • Where can I get cheap nails?
  • What are the most affordable hardware stores in my area?

Brainstorm a massive list, and don’t be scared to think out of the box. You can’t be too thorough.

Once you’ve come up with few relevant phrases, the next thing will be to plot out a landing page or blog posts targeting each of these questions.
Finally, you should also optimize for higher traffic from search queries by listing your business on leading networks such as Yelp, Google Business, and Facebook.

6. Competitors Answering Questions about Your Brand

Answering questions about your competitors is another weird tactics that some people are using to gain more market share in this area.
For example, if you search on Google for “what are StubHub fees,” you will find out that the website “tickpick.com” occupies the top spot and generates an answer box:

Answering questions about your competitors is another tactic some companies use to get more market share

While you won’t blame anyone at “StubHub” for this, it’s a fascinating look into what people are doing these days to beat their competition.

This is terrific for brands because if someone asked their Google Home or Echo device this question, TickPick would definitely be getting credit for it and would also have the chance to redirect that visitor to their service and sell a ticket to them, probably without them ever knowing they were using tickpick.

The point is that most users want information as quickly as possible and rarely care much about where they get the information.

For example, if someone wants to buy a ticket to attend “Billy Joel concert” and asks Google about “StubHub’s” fees before buying, TickPick would showcase lower prices and make the sale, all by using voice commands and a credit card details they have already saved into their device.

In conclusion, never underestimate how shady people can be. This is something you might also consider checking out for your own brand.

7. Leverage Featured Snippet

While this is not a sure-fire method, creating the best conditions for securing a featured snippet is possible. Follow the steps below which were formed from learning found from using the Conductor Searchlight platform:

  1. Find an industry keyword and the result page that your brand would desire to rank for (example, “What is a content map?”)
  2. The keyword should be inserted into a header or tag on the page you want it to show on (title tag, H1, H2.)
  3. Just below the header, there should be a paragraph explaining the keyword. You’ll have to make the paragraph to sound like a logical answer to the question asked. In the above example, you should start with: “A content map is…”
  4. Page authority plays a significant role in acquiring the featured snippet, so having some backlinks pointed to the page will be a big help
  5. Search engine results pages (SERPs) in different countries can have a unique featured snippet (example, www.google.com vs. www.google.co.uk vs. www.google.ca).
  6. If there is an existing featured snippet for the target keyword and the information is misleading or false, use the feedback link provided by Google and give the reasons that information is wrong.

Use Rich Snippets to get your website more visible in google search results

(Source)

As you must have known, voice queries greatly lean towards the question and answer approach, so seizing more of these rich results will position you very well for the first few years of this discipline.

While the scenery will inevitably evolve, these practices should be seen as foundational in nature, and the best way to secure your stand. It’s a strategic solution to an unknown quantity and not one that will push you forward, but instead, one that will keep you afloat.

8. Know the Differences between Google Now, Cornata, and Siri

Cortana and Siri are not search engines in themselves, so they stick to using Bing to generate web-based results. Google Now and Android, however, tie back into Google’s own search engine.

Now, for the fact that both Cortana and Siri are popular native interfaces, is there a possibility that Bing could dominate voice search?
If you examine the data, you can see that it’s certainly not the case. According to IDC, the “Android worldwide market share of 2016″ is 83.7%, with iOS only at 15.3%. That’s a lot of Google search. But that doesn’t mean you should entirely ignore Bing.

Smartphone world market share

However, optimizing for the mass market is a two-part game: you can assume Google to be your target search engine. But when you want to focus on your Cortana and Siri game, switch to Bing-specific tactics.

Here are the two noticeable differences between the two:

  • Keyword Optimization: Google is better at semantic search, while Bing prefers specific keyword
  • Double Meaning Searches: Google will rank the most popular topic first, while Bing prioritizes local results

9. Update your Google My Business Listing

Keep your google my business listing up to date

Get your Google My Business listing updated right now if you haven’t done so.

This is because the more current the information in your Google My Business listing is, the more valuable, useful, and relevant your website will be to prospects, especially those enormously valuable mobile “near me” searchers.

Even some information like whether parking is available can be credible — so ensure that your Google My Business listing is complete and comprehensive.

Google local search

Furthermore, the addition of imagery can also be a potent strategy when improving your Google My Business listing, as these images can be shown as part of Google Maps searches. For example, if you run a service-based business like a restaurant, high-quality photos of your establishment may just entice a hesitant customer to stop by your shop instead of your competitor.

10. Don’t Forget Who Got You Here in The First Place

One of the most common mistakes in organic search that must be avoided is forgetting about the rest of our audience while pursuing the new trend.

If you’ve been in the SEO world for long, you already know that SEOs love shiny things. We often make a beeline towards them like a moth to a flame, and it’s usually very easy to leave our valuable audience behind while doing this.

Therefore, while it’s always good to adapt to changes so you can get new audiences, you still must cater to your existing audience. Don’t just focus only on acquiring new ones.

Conclusion

No matter your existing channel, voice search will ultimately affect you in some way. Change usually brings headwinds for some people and windfalls for others.
Most of the techniques discussed above are real-world strategies that you can start implementing today. You should, therefore, get to work right now so you won’t be left behind.

Either way, voice search is already here — it’s growing — and you should be talking about it.

Alex Membrillo Cardinal CEO

Alex Membrillo

Founder and CEO

Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal, Atlanta SEO digital marketing agency focused on growing multi location companies. His work as CEO of Cardinal has recently earned him the honor of being selected as a member of the 2018 Top 40 Under 40 list by Georgia State University as well as 2015 and 2016 Top 20 Entrepreneur of metro Atlanta by TiE Atlanta, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2016 Small Business Person of the Year,and the Digital Marketer of the Year by Technology Association of Georgia (TAG).