Commentary

Time To Raise Your SEO Voice

“Alexa, tell me a joke.” The growing popularity of voice search is no joke -- as people turn to Personal Assistants for far more than entertainment. Consider recent industry stats:

  • One in five mobile searches on Google is now a voice search
  • Nearly 50% of people use voice search to research products
  • Gartner predicts up to 30% of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020

The bottom line is there’s no bottom line in sight with the voice search boom. So what does it mean for search engine optimization (SEO) in the age of Siri, Cortana and Alexa?

The fundamentals of content, engagement, infrastructure and amplification remain much the same for now. Yet even with the relative newness of voice search, effective optimization techniques are already emerging. Here’s what we’re recommending:

Be Mobile-First

It’s no surprise that 20% of all mobile queries are voice searches. It’s partly convenience (when driving, exercising, cooking, etc.) and also efficiency -- on average, people speak 150 words per minute versus typing just 40.   

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Google long ago recognized the value of mobile and is switching to mobile-first indexing -- prioritizing a website’s mobile experience over desktop to determine rankings. So be sure your website is mobile-friendly -- it’s a must-have for SEO, voice or otherwise.

Lead with Local

Mobile voice searches are three times more likely to be local-based than text searches. So if your business, product or service has a geographic component or audience:

  • Claim and optimize your Google business profiles -- they’re almost always displayed ahead of your website in mobile search results. Link them to your website.
  • Have a dedicated landing page for each location -- whether it’s one or 100. Align this page (not your website home page) with your Google business listing. Be sure to include each location’s local address and phone number.
  • Use Schema Markup to help search engines better understand your content and tag local address information.
  • Work in the phrasing people use to find locations in voice search, such as “near me,” “the nearest,” “in my area” and “close by.”

Speaking of Natural Language…

People don’t use the same words in voice search that they do when typing, so optimizing for voice search means incorporating a more conversational tone into website content. It’s a welcome change from the clunky keyword repetition of SEO days gone by.

Often, voice searches are triggered by longer, more specific questions. So build your content around phrases like “how to,” “who is,” “what does” and “where are” to make it a good match for voice searches.

Optimizing Search with Personal Assistants

The evolution of SEO has spawned a new acronym: PASO (Personal Assistant Search Optimization). Some traditional SEO tactics carry over to optimizing for Siri and Google Assistant, but there are also important distinctions. 

Think FAQs or Glossaries with targeted, concise Q&A snippets. This makes it easier and more efficient for Personal Assistants to find the right response from your website.

Unlike typical search results, each Personal Assistant references a smaller set of sources. Siri cites Yelp and OpenTable for restaurant questions, with StubHub and Eventful as her go-to sites for sports ticket questions. Know where relevant citations are being drawn and make sure your business is there. 

What About Alexa?

Alexa, Amazon’s intelligent voice assistant, opens up another set of optimization challenges, especially if you’re selling products on Amazon. For starters, the Choice program ultimately determines which product recommendations Alexa returns.

Currently you can’t submit a product to Choice, but Amazon provides the requirements for inclusion. For example, your product must be available on Amazon Prime and shipped via “Fulfilled by Amazon.” Product reviews also factor into the mix. 

When it comes to optimization, traditional SEO practices help with visibility and selection. Amazon relies more on descriptive product titles (brand name, model, color and size), high-quality images on product pages (allowing users to zoom) and keyword-rich descriptions. Among other obvious benefits, greater visibility in Amazon search results significantly improves your chance of being selected by the Choice program.

The New SEO Frontier

We’re still in the early days of voice search optimization and most digital marketers are still finding their way. There’s no one sure-fire strategy that works for every business and industry segment, so allow time for testing and adjustments. Just as traditional SEO is miles from the early days of Google, we expect voice search to follow an equally dynamic path.

 

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