“Siri – find a GE Authorized appliance repair person in Santa Monica or West Los Angeles, that works on Saturday and has four or five-star rating on Yelp, Houzz or Angie’s List… and tell me where the nearest In and Out Burger is to my current location.”
For people over 40, voice search is new and exciting, however for Gracie K, Age 8, voice search is the search she knows and likes the best.
The child of tech savvy parents in the San Francisco Bay Area, Gracie is surrounded by voice activated search. Her dad’s car is equipped with voice command GPS. Alexa (Amazon Echo) and Apple TV oversee the family room entertainment and lighting control. Their Comcast cable remote has voice control, and as Apple users there is always an IPhone, Mini, or Apple Watch within ear shot.
ComScore estimates that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches. With more people worldwide adopting voice search every day, it’s just a matter of time before it impacts your business. As this trend accelerates, this is a good time to prepare your business.
The following are five things companies can do to develop relevancy in voice search.
1. Match Search Intent
More than ever before, web pages need to answer the intent behind a search query. Searches are becoming increasingly conversational, and they are often complete questions that seek out a specific answer. These include searches like “what are the movie times for Fast and Furious 7?” or “what time does Domino’s Pizza on 41st Avenue close?” Voice search has accelerated this trend.
In 2013 Google released Hummingbird, an algorithm update focused on improving the search engine’s ability to understand natural language. With improved natural language processing ability, Google places more faith in its ability to understand content on a web page as well as the meaning behind conversational search queries. Google is now better at understanding the nuances of a search query and serving up content that best answers that search.
To optimize for search intent, businesses should audit their website content page by page and ask “what is the reason a person would land on this page, and are we clearly addressing their need?” By providing thorough, accessible content, the consumer and the search bot get exactly what they came for.
2. Maximize Local Search
Users take advantage of voice search when they’re busy and on the go. As a result, a lot of their search queries express local intent, and they might even include the phrase “near me.” This includes search queries like “find a sporting goods store near me” or “give me directions to the nearest Starbucks on the way home.” These searches place importance on location. Search engines and personal assistant software are becoming better at satisfying these requests, but only if businesses supply them with the right data.
It’s critical that you properly markup your microdata for your business name, address, phone number, contact information and directions on your website in a format that the search engine or personal assistant apps can understand. It’s also important to maintain a complete listing on Google My Business and other local directories such as Yelp. These business listings should include all available data including store hours, high-quality photos, service or product information, and ratings or reviews. These factors all help search engines understand the value of your business for local searchers.
3. Optimize for More than Google
If you ask the iPhone application Siri to find you a restaurant nearby, it will return a list from Yelp. This is one example of how voice search extends outside of Google, and as a business you may need to be optimizing your listings in places other than just Google.
For example, Amazon optimization is becoming increasingly important as Echo becomes a go-to device for ordering products with voice search. You may need to examine how users are finding your products and services with voice search, and it might be time to position your offerings on different platforms.
4. Mobile Optimization
The majority of voice searches are coming from mobile devices. Mobile optimization as it pertains to voice search means taking every opportunity to make a website easy to access, use and understand.
Mobile optimized content should be structured so users can quickly find the information they need. Headings, bullets, charts, images and graphics help users scan content and understand the hierarchy of information at a single glance. Technically speaking, the site must load quickly and the code base must provide access to all important information.
5. Take Advantage of Q&A Style Content
As more and more search queries come from voice search, the amount of questions searched through Google will continue to rise. Simple Q&A style content is well equipped for meeting user intent for queries like this.
Quora, a website based on user submitted questions and answers, is one prominent example of this. Quora has seen tremendous SEO results largely as a bi-product of their Q&A format. Most pages on Quora are geared for long-tail keywords, and the responses are often high quality and well written. These factors play a big role bringing Quora to the top of search results time and time again. Consider what Q&A style content might be relevant to your business, as it could become an important factor in satisfying many voice search queries going forward.
Why Gracie Matters…
Gracie represents a generation of consumers who will be entering society comfortable using voice commands for every day search. For Gracie, voice search will probably remain an important part of her life in education, recreation and in her career.
It is likely that by the time that Gracie graduates college and has her first American Express card that voice search will remain an important part of her life. It will act as her personal assistant at her job, order weekly groceries while she’s stuck in traffic, or help her research important consumer choices like which hotel is best suited for her upcoming family trip to Disney World.