Around half a century after the first digital speech recognition tool and 20 years after the first search engine, the two technologies were combined to create ‘Voice Search’. In 2011, the big tech companies started to introduce the first popular tools. Google rolled out ‘Search by Voice’ to Google.com, and Apple added Siri to the iPhone (after purchasing the app for $200 million).
Due to the iPhone’s popularity and users’ willingness to interact with a phone by talking into it, Siri became the first mainstream, ‘intelligent’, natural language voice search assistant.
Since then, voice search has grown massively and created a new billion-dollar industry in voice assistants. According to comScore, 40% of adults now use voice search once per day, and by 2020, over half of all searches will be voice searches.
As you can see from these statistics alone, now is the time to start to optimise your online marketing for voice search. Below we describe six ways for you to get started, especially if you are targeting multiple international markets.
The most apparent difference between text search and voice search is in the anatomy of the search terms. While someone looking for a hairdresser in New York might type “hairdresser New York” into their web browser, when searching by voice they are more likely to use questions and full phrases (e.g. “Where’s the best women’s hairdresser in New York?”, or, “Find men’s hairdressers near me”). These long-tail keywords are much more conversational in style and tone. To do well in voice search results, you need to write content in natural language.
Natural language becomes even more important when thinking about creating content in multiple languages for different markets. Using a language translation engine won’t create a natural speaking style in the translated language and often leads to unusual word pairings.
Using a non-local translator might also fail to create the smooth, flowing language that typifies native speech. A Spanish translator in Argentina may write a translated passage that sounds natural in Buenos Aires, but odd in Santiago, Chile. A native French speaker who has spent 40 years living in the US may translate English differently to someone still living in Marseille.
The best way to ensure that your writing sounds like natural language is to use someone living in your market who is consistently exposed to the audience you are targeting. Build their phrases and questions into your writing and create content that directly addresses frequently used long-tail keywords.
Part of creating content for voice search is common sense. Search engines can’t read image only infographics. Therefore they won’t help voice search. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t create infographics, but you should create other content that a search engine can crawl.
In voice, search terms are more likely to be questions. So up-to-date FAQ content should do well.
Long-form articles also do well because they tend to provide plenty of context, enabling search engines to figure out if the content will be valuable to the user based on their search intent. If these articles also answer commonly asked questions, then you’re on to a winning formula.
The mobile nature of voice search means that you should set up local business pages for each location. Doing so will enable the search engines to provide your information as an option if someone asks for a product or service ‘near me’. ‘Near me’ is a high growth search term in every relevant market. Also, ensure you set up your Google My Business listings correctly.
Structured data or schema helps search engines to know what your content is by adding elements to the website’s code.
Useful schema will tell a search engine if it’s looking at an article, local business address, e-commerce product or review. Adding it can help you appear in Google Knowledge Graphs or answer boxes, putting you at the top of the search page, even if your page is generally in a lower position.
It’s best practice to include schema in your code anyway, so getting it in place now will help with your organic visibility as well as voice search in the future. By creating engaging content based on local in-market keyword research, and adding schema to your code, you can boost your profile within your target markets.
Most importantly, ensure that your content is answering the questions that people are asking!
Voice search and mobile go hand in hand. Smartphones were the devices that enabled voice search to take-off and while home-based voice assistants are increasing in popularity, mobile penetration is already at 66% of the world population. Mobile is already the most significant driver of traffic across the web and voice search is often mobile based. Therefore, the results must work well on mobile devices.
In the near future, the speed of your website will influence how visible it is on mobile devices, as Google announced in January. Optimising for mobile is optimising for voice search.
Voice search delivers fewer results. No-one has the patience to listen to pages of results read out by the voice assistant, so all the focus will be on being the most relevant result selected by the search engine. Remember, in voice search, second place will be first loser.
Big tech’s race for dominance in providing Voice Search platforms is well underway, and just behind is the battle for creating content for these platforms. Now is the time to enter the competition and ensure you’re not at the back of the pack when voice search leaves traditional search in the dust.