Optimizing For Voice Search (And Your SEO Budget)

Judging by the buzz on my Twitter, Facebook and Google+ networks, Siri is kind of a big deal. The digital personal assistant acquired by Apple and integrated into the new iPhone 4S has inspired blogs, commentary on NPR and all manner of water cooler chat.

If it’s a huge hit with users, it’s because it is very nearly flawless (at least by current standards).  While Google’s Android operating system also offers voice command, it isn’t as robust -- or fun -- as Siri yet.  You can expect Google to improve over time, which only means voice commands will only become more ubiquitous

It’s clear one of the key uses of Siri will be for search.  When thinking about all the ways you optimize for search, voice should be yet another thing to consider.

First and foremost, keywords are still king where Siri is concerned. In the NPR example above, Siri is asked to find high-end hotels in San Francisco that have a fitness center and pool. She returns 16 choices ranked by user reviews.



Looking at that verbal query, you can instantly see the important keywords.  It is also important to make sure you’re well-optimized for categories. For instance, many searchers will instruct Siri to find the best Italian restaurants nearest them, which means Siri will start with the categories “restaurant” and “Italian.”

A next important consideration is the impact of social graphs on Siri’s results. In the hotel example, Siri returns results ranked by user reviews.  Siri is able to do her job by navigating a number of APIs, including Google Search, Google Places and Yelp.  She not only uses the information you put into your Places and Yelp pages, she uses the reviews and ratings that users provide. So every business must have a well -optimized website and a fully fleshed-out, constantly tended-to presence on Places and Yelp.

Though Siri automatically returns results based on a user’s current location, it’s important that you do everything you can to help her understand where your bricks-and-mortar locations are, so pay attention to that stuff, too.

As Apple expands the number of APIs Siri uses, you’ll need to make sure that you’re optimized for whatever the next API source may be, if possible.

Siri uses Google by default, though users can select Bing or Yahoo.  The truth is, very, very few people will change the default, so you can count on the vast majority of voice searches (on both Siri and Android) to be conducted via Google.

One more quick note on SEO in general: Webmarketing123 released internal research results showing SEO as the top source of leads for both B2B and B2C organizations.  However, their research also shows that marketers will increase their spend not on SEO, but on paid search and social media marketing in 2012.

Great traffic and business leads come from organic search results, and voice search will only accelerate this reality. Everyone likes to think of SEO as the “free” or “low-cost” marketing tactic, but the truth is it requires investment.  Great SEO relies on constantly updated, meaty and relevant content. It also relies on well-tended off-site assets like Google Places, Yelp, LinkedIn Groups and Facebook Pages. These things don’t happen on their own.

Take a moment to rethink your SEO strategies, and make voice search optimization and budget allocations key considerations in your thinking.

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