Guest blog by Social School contributor CJ Tuff.
Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Google Home. These virtual assistants are more prevalent than ever, and are pushing change to search engine optimization. Currently in the USA about 50 million people have access to a “smart speakers” in their home, with this number only expected to grow. In Canada, smart speakers have been a recent emergence, with Google introducing their “Home” speaker in June 2017, and Amazon releasing their “Echo” speaker in November 20171. In this short time period, over 8% of Canadians 18 and older have access to a smart speaker. To put that into comparison, it took over three years for the US market to reach that same figure, which speaks to how commonplace and accessible these smart speakers are becoming.
With this rapid expansion and the commonplace usage of cell phones to access search engines, using voice search in place of traditional text search is becoming more and more commonplace. comScore estimates that by 2020, 50% of all searches conducted through Google will be done through voice search2. With this massive growth potential and shift in search habits, it’s important for marketers to keep up to date, and ahead, of the voice search trend.
If you took the Social School SEO Class, you know all of the different factors that Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engine takes into account when displaying results for users. There are a multitude of factors to take into account when looking at the search result pages, including keyword optimization, page load speed, mobile friendly sites, and quality page links.
With voice search however, there are some major differences with how results are acquired, and one of these main differences comes from the delivery of the search. Using voice speech often results in a longer, more specific search that is more conversational in nature. People speak differently than they type, and this can make a world of difference when looking to optimize for voice search.
A traditional text search through Google for a restaurant in town might look something like:
“calgary coffee shop”
A voice search using a Siri might sound more like:
“What is the best coffee shop in Calgary?”
“Where is the nearest coffee shop to me?”
Because of the fundamental difference in structure between text and voice search, the top ranking results that are shown can drastically vary between a text search and a voice search. Long-tail keywords are longer keyword phrases that can really narrow down and deliver more specific results for search queries. Because it’s easier to make a longer search query when you are speaking versus typing, voice searches are pulling from these long-tailed keywords, and can deliver accurate and specific results for users. It’s a good idea to research relevant long tail keywords and integrate them into your content if you want to compete in the voice search results.
Another important distinction to make between voice and text search is the intent behind the search. According to Google, voice searches are 30 times more likely to be “action” searches. Meaning that people are using voice search have the intent to visit a store, make a purchase, or generally be an “actionable” consumer. This offers marketers a fantastic opportunity to reach consumers at the perfect time to influence their purchasing decision.
So what do we do with this?
Ranking high on voice search results can be extremely valuable for small, local businesses, as well as larger, international brands. People are using voice search for a variety of reasons, and ranking high on voice search results can be a difference maker for businesses.
- Set up an FAQ page.
A way to get the informal and casual keywords onto your website that voice search would pull from, is to set up a FAQ section on your website with common questions and answers from your customers. You’ll want your language to be as close as possible to what users are searching, and the easiest way to do that is to step into your customer’s shoes and write down exactly how you would verbalize a question.It’s important not to forget that people talk differently than how they write, and you’ll want your content on your website to reflect that. Try to use “how, what, and best” in your questions and answers, as those are some of the most common components of voice searches. If you think about how a normal voice search is conducted, it is a conversational question, followed up with a short, informational answer. This is exactly what a properly done FAQ section would look like, and having this on your website will lead to answers coming directly from your developed content.
- Use Bing. Seriously.
One of the biggest players in the smart speaker market is Amazon, with Amazon Echo acting as their flagship smart speaker. In the US, the Amazon Echo holds a majority share of the market, with over 72% of U.S. smart speaker owners owning an Echo and only 18.4% with a Google Home speaker. Interestingly, this number is almost completely inverted in the Canadian market, with 63% of Canadian smart speaker owners having a Google Home device, and 30% with an Amazon product1. However, as mentioned before, the Canadian smart speaker market is incredibly new, and Amazon has been making some incredibly rapid inroads into the market with no signs of slowing down their aggressive expansion push.One of the main reasons why it is important to know about the rise of Amazon speakers is the fact that the search engine they use is Bing. Yes, Bing. This often forgotten search engine is what all Amazon speakers use to conduct searches, and it can be a valuable tool to optimize your voice search results.Luckily for us, Bing is much more open about how they rank factors for search optimization compared to Google, and if your site is already properly optimized, it won’t take much for you to be the same for Bing. There are a couple of differences between how Google and Bing rank websites, and Bing Webmaster is a fantastic resource to dig deep into your website and make sure you are operating at the highest level possible for Bing, and Amazon speakers, to find you.
- Get your business information out there.
According to Google, more than 50% of all searches are made from mobile devices, and 30% are looking for local results. Most local searches are geared around the 5 W’s; Who, What, When, Why, and Where. Think of the questions you ask when you are looking for local businesses.“Where is the nearest grocery store to me?”
“When does the mall close?”
“What is the closest auto repair shop?”With the real time access that Google and Apple has to most consumers locations, the results for these questions can be catered and incredibly relevant for users. These searches are all looking locally, and one of the other main ways that voice search pulls information for results is through business listing information. Google MyBusiness is the main resource for this, but don’t forget about Apples Maps Connect, and Bing Places for Business. These are free to sign up, and having your business name, address, phone number, and accurate hours of operation are invaluable to ranking high for voice search.
- Don’t forget everything else!
To rank high on voice searches, you want to make sure that you are ranking high on text searches as well. If you are familiar with the Search Engine Optimization course, you know that optimizing your website for search engine results can take into account a whole host of factors. Depending on the search engine, these ranking factors can be valued differently, but for all intents and purposes these are some of the most important factors to take into account for search engine optimization:
- Mobile Friendly – Make sure your site is mobile friendly! Google has an online test to make sure that you are optimized properly on mobile devices.
- Loading Speed – Having a fast loading site is not only essential to retain customer attention, but also for search engine rankings. Page loading speed is dependent on number of reasons, but one of the quickest ways to optimize speed is to make sure your images are properly sized and optimized. Google PageSpeed Insights can give you a list of ways to make sure your load speed is up to par.
- URL Security (HTTPS) – Having the proper security certificates can be a deal-breaker for search engines when choosing to list results. HTTPS is a secure version of the traditional HTTP protocol that data is sent between a browser and a website, and having this security properly built into your site is the standard for modern web sites.
- Keyword Content – As we talked about with voice search, search engine algorithms rely on keyword usage. For voice search this is more related to long-tail keywords, but you want to be sure to have words and phrases on your website that are part of the most common searches for ordinary text searches as well. There are countless resources available for keyword research, including SEMrush and Moz Keyword Explorer. Use these resources to find out the most common keywords for your business and industry, and make sure to include that content on your site!