Hey Alexa: How relevant is voice search for B2B marketing?
For years, marketers have been telling each other to prepare for voice search. And it’s true that the sector is growing, with an impressive array of statistics to prove it. But how relevant is voice search to B2B, and what do B2B marketers need to know?
Most commentary on voice search focuses on B2C. Most statistics which illustrate the commercial opportunity – for example, that 58% of consumers use voice search to find a local business online, or that UK and US voice-based shopping is forecast to be worth $40 billion by the end of next year – are B2C related. At present, it’s difficult to pinpoint the commercial impact of voice search on B2B… and that might be because it isn’t having much impact.
B2B user journeys are typically longer (sometimes much longer) than B2C and involve more decision-makers and touchpoints. Within this context, it’s not clear what role voice search currently plays in supporting the average B2B user journey. Right now, voice searches may not be a significant source of traffic to your B2B website. However, even if that is the case, there are two reasons why you should still care:
1) The principles which underpin voice search optimisation also carry significant SEO and UX benefits. So thinking about voice search and how you can cater to it will likely benefit the overall search visibility and usability of your website anyway.
2) B2B decision-makers are getting younger. A study by Global Web Index showed that 74% of millennials are involved in making buying decisions at B2B companies. They are digital natives who grew up online and whose experience of B2C brands like Uber and Airbnb are shaping their expectations. The next generation of B2B superstars are growing up with voice assistants, so they will be increasingly relevant in the future.
How should B2B prepare for voice search?
Ultimately, optimising for voice search is not dramatically different to general SEO and UX best practice. For example:
Address your site speed: Many voice assistants prioritise quick loading websites, so focus on your site speed. This means optimising images, compressing files, and ensuring that the site is fully responsive and response times are reduced.
Optimise for long-tail keywords: Conversational search is nothing new – Google has been encouraging this for years, ever since its Hummingbird update in 2013. But voice searches are especially conversational or colloquial. This means your content should be optimised for long-tail keywords that reflect popular queries used in voice search. Think about the who, what, where, when, why and how questions relevant to your product and ask yourself if your content currently addresses them.
Content optimised for voice search should read naturally and conversationally and target overall topics rather than zeroing in on specific terms. One benefit of this approach is that it will help to humanise your brand – a bonus for B2B brands which can sometimes sound distant and corporate.
Target featured snippets: A featured snippet is a piece of information read aloud, along with the source, when someone uses a voice search. To optimise content for this, include identifiable extracts to be featured and make content easier for search engines to read by using H-tags and bullet points. Prospects will recognise your brand as an expert when the search engine reads aloud your company name and featured snippet.
Focus on mobile. The vast majority of voice searches are carried out on mobile devices. In any case, Google has been mobile-first for a while now, and in many categories the majority of overall website traffic comes from mobile. Mobile optimisation goes beyond mobile responsiveness, and includes elements like removing intrusive interstitials, eliminating drop-down menus for navigation, and formatting videos to play full screen when flipped horizontally. If you haven’t done so lately, it’s worth working with an agency or your internal SEO and analytics teams to conduct a mobile audit of your website and other key digital assets.
Don’t overlook local. A significant proportion of voice searches have an element of location-based intent – that is, people searching for things “near me”. People are 3x more likely to search locally when searching by voice than typing. Admittedly, this is often more relevant to B2C, rather than B2B brands who are less reliant on attracting customers in physical locations. But if you want to appear in voice search results, it’s worth considering ways you can invest in local content.
This includes ensuring your Google My Business assets are optimised for local searches, and that all your brand’s outreach methods – website, content marketing, advertising, and so on – are optimised for your location.
It’s about providing best answer content
Ultimately, the solution lies in best answer content. That means understanding how your audience searches for your product and making sure you provide the best possible answers to their search queries. Remember, for B2B, people often start searching for how to solve their broader business problem rather than your specific product solution – so taking the time to understand audience intent throughout the path to purchase pays dividends.
For international marketers, it’s essential to remember that audience intent varies by market. That is, how your audience understands and searches for your product category will vary by country and language. That’s why localised keyword research is so important – simply taking your English keyword research and translating it could mean missing big opportunities in your target markets. A Local In-Market Expert will help you understand how local audiences search for your product and will also provide insights into the voice search landscape in your target markets.
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Oban can help you find your voice
Currently, it’s hard to pinpoint voice search as a significant traffic driver – much less lead generator – for B2B. But as speaking into smart devices become more prevalent and as B2B decision-makers get younger, voice search isn’t going away – so it’s worth taking seriously.
Optimising your B2B content strategy for voice search doesn’t need to be a separate and standalone activity. Most of the practices which help voice search optimisation will pay SEO and UX dividends, and – as they involve deepening your audience understanding – are absolutely worth doing. To find out how Oban can help you find your voice across markets, please get in touch.
Suzie Oakford | Commercial Director
Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.