Voice Search Creates An Opportunity For Local Businesses
When Apple first released Siri in 2011, many of us thought “the future” had finally arrived. The idea of having a personal assistant in your pocket was revolutionary. Unfortunately, early experiences left much to be desired. Questions were frequently misunderstood, and the results returned often missed the mark. Over the years, we’ve seen massive improvements in the accuracy of speech recognition and even the human-like quality of AI personalities.
In fact, Google’s voice recognition accuracy rate now exceeds 95% for the English language, which is about 20% higher than in 2013. In addition, according to ComScore, 50% of searches will be performed via voice by 2020, a considerable jump from the 20% we saw in 2016. But what's the big deal about voice search, and how is it different from merely typing into the search bar?
At its core, the value proposition of voice search is that it meets the consumer's need for instant gratification. As humans, we speak faster than we can type, and technology has improved such that AI can return relevant, high-quality results in a fraction of a second.
This accessibility of information is unparalleled as consumers and brands alike are starting to realize the benefits and opportunities it offers. Today, 41% of adults conduct at least one voice search daily. Information is no longer just at our fingertips -- it’s on the tips of our tongues.
While voice isn't likely to surpass traditional search any time soon, it is becoming a significant force when it comes to SEO strategy. It isn't only affecting big business, either. Local companies need to understand the implications of voice search and adjust their marketing strategies accordingly. In fact, mobile voice-related searches are three times more likely to be locally based.
So, let us ask: "Alexa, how do I prepare my local business for voice search?"
Take Ownership Of Your Digital Footprint
Although virtual assistants seem all-knowing, they still source their knowledge from the internet, meaning they’re only as smart as the information they can find.
Actively manage the information on your website and third parties (like Yelp and Foursquare) to ensure it is both current and accurate. Don't hide valuable information your customers might search for such as your address, hours or menu items. If intelligent services can't find your information, then it won't be communicated to potential customers who have already displayed interest.
Also, do your best to surface “rich knowledge” about your business -- that is, information about whether you have free Wi-Fi, accept Apple Pay or even use locally sourced ingredients should be easily discoverable.
Focus On Fewer Keywords
One of the most apparent ways in which voice search differs from the search box is how many results are returned.
Virtual assistants don’t read off a laundry list of matching options whenever they’re asked a question. They only communicate, at most, the first few results as determined by a specialized algorithm. That’s why it’s wise to let go of the unrealistic dream of winning every keyword remotely related to your business.
Instead, focus on a smaller list of keywords that make the most impact. Begin with parts of your site that appear on the first two pages of SERPs and optimize from there. Ideally, you want your content to be featured in the "answer box” for your top keywords, which is most likely to be returned during a voice search.
Use Simpler Language
Part of the appeal of voice search is that users can ask a question in their natural language. This leads them to expect high-quality search results. On the contrary, when searching on a computer, users have to think about what terms to use to get the best results, and they experiment with different short keyword phrases to find what they feel are the best results.
Because of user expectations when using voice queries, SEO strategies must adapt accordingly in favor of long-tail keyword phrases and overall topic targeting. In fact, content written in a more conversational tone is more likely to be favored by voice search algorithms.
Check Your Site Speed And Security
Mobile page load time has become more important than ever. Google announced it would be a factor in search rankings with its highly anticipated Speed Update in July 2018.
Voice search is no different. With such an emphasis on immediacy, web pages that load faster naturally have a higher chance of being picked up. The average voice search results page loads in only 4.6 seconds -- practically twice as fast as traditional web pages. What’s more, site security also offers an optimization advantage with HTTPS-secured websites making up 70.4%of Google Home results.
Localize Your SEO Strategy
If you aren't already taking advantage of local SEO, you want to start soon. The way consumers phrase questions for voice search isn’t only different in tone but also intent.
At least 20% of all voice searches show intent, which makes sense considering 61% of voice searches are conducted while someone is preoccupied with a task such as driving. To address this, use localized keywords in your site content, and make sure your business has a Google My Business page to improve your ranking.
It is also worthwhile to append modifiers (e.g., "best," "top," "leading," etc.) to common keywords about your product or service. For example, if you were a taqueria in the Mission District of San Francisco, instead of stopping at "authentic Mexican food" you would also want to include keywords such as "best tacos in San Francisco" or "top-rated Mission District burritos."
Despite a rocky start, it seems as though asking Google Home to place your favorite pizza order without leaving your couch in the middle of a four-hour Netflix binge has become the new norm.
Any way you look at SEO, voice is the future. Take the time now to learn to optimize your business for voice searches so that you can be the first shop that Google sends that pizza order to.