"Alexa, how do I optimize my website for voice search?"
When it comes to SEO, voice assistants are the next major game-changer. The rise of smart speakers, smart phones, and smart home hubs means we need to start getting "smart" with our SEO tactics.
To start, let's take a look at the most popular voice assistant devices. A recent Microsoft survey shows that most respondents are using Siri and Google Assistant, though a few other devices are gaining popularity:
- Apple's Siri (36%)
- Google Assistant (36%)
- Amazon Alexa (25%)
- Microsoft Cortana (19%)
- Other (1%)
What does this rise in voice search tell us? The future of SEO is voice-activated.
As a leading marketing and web design firm, we know exactly what it takes to adjust to the growing voice search trends. We're here to show you how to ensure your business can be heard loud and clear online.
1. Use Q&A Formatting
"What is voice activated SEO, Alexa?"
When you're developing an SEO strategy, you need to understand the user behind the screen—or in this case, on the other end of an Amazon Echo, Google Home, Facebook Portal, iPhone, Android...the list goes on. Our goal is to meet them halfway, anticipating the way their search query is phrased so we can incorporate those specific keywords in our copy.
When people interact with smart speakers or voice assistants, they're not spitting out a series of keywords to pull up right-fit results. Instead, voice queries are typically posed as questions.
The tech industry refers to this as "the open Q&A feature," and 91% of smart speaker owners have tried it—and 1/3 of them use it on a daily basis.
When it comes to finding ways to come up for voice-based queries, your best bet is by developing content that not only questions, but answers relevant queries. Stick to this Q&A format to show up when potential customers need you.
2. Stick to Long-Tail Keywords
If you're a fellow SEO obsessive, then you already know how important long-tail keywords are to any content strategy. Since Google's 2013 Hummingbird update, when we kissed short-tail keywords goodbye, the most successful SEO strategies have centered around long-tail keyword use.
When it comes to voice search, long-tail keywords are more important than ever.
The Hummingbird update marked a major turning point in SEO. Google started considering not only the target keywords, but the intent behind them. It turns out that a little context goes a long way—and as a result, we're far more likely to search for specific, pain point-driven queries than for broad, overarching keywords.
Think about it. If you're craving a specific lunch order, are you more likely to look up "pizzeria" or "pizzeria near me best penne alla vodka" when noon rolls around? Chances are, you're using these specific, long-tail keyword queries.
When it comes to voice search, the concept still stands.
We're witnessing a major shift in the way we think about our devices. We're more likely to humanize technology, assigning a defined (albeit artificial) personality to the voice-assisted technologies we interact with everyday.
If you're asking a coworker (let's call her Alexa to make this comparison abundantly clear) where you can buy a stapler, you're probably not barking "ALEXA! Buy stapler store location near me." Instead, you'll probably treat them like the human they are: "ALEXA! Where can I buy a stapler?"
How's that for the perfect analogy?
Your SEO strategy should focus on responding to a human being. Which leads us into the next important tip:
3. Keep It Conversational
There's no question that the rise in voice-assisted devices is shifting the way we interact with technology. We're far more likely to treat them like humans instead of computers. (Don't cue the apocalyptic soundtrack just yet, though.)
In the age of semantic search, we need to consider exactly how users are presenting their queries.
When you're speaking directly to a device, you're more likely to pose your search as a casual question than a rapid spitfire of keywords.
Think of it this way: Voice-assisted devices are most often used for people to find out quick, top-line information quickly and efficiently. If you're rushing to make your lunch in the morning and you turn to Alexa for the daily forecast, you're far less likely to yell "ALEXA! Forecast Hudson Valley today weather" than you are to ask, "Alexa, what's the weather today?"
When you're optimizing your online content to meet voice searchers where they are, consider their cadence. Studies show that voice queries tend to be longer and more colloquial compared to text queries.
4. Figure Out Your Target User's Intent
Before you can target a specific audience, you need to get to know them.
The best way to get acquainted with right-fit leads is by putting yourself in their shoes. If you're an avid Level Up reader, I'm sure you know all about Buyer Personas by now, but here's a crash course for the rest of you:
Buyer Personas help marketers find out who exactly their ideal customer is, what their needs are, and how they can fulfill them. Part fiction, part reality, Buyer Personas are made-up characters that embody your ideal customers’ motivations, needs, and goals.
When you're developing your Buyer Personas, capture their vernacular. Familiarize yourself with character-specific words, phrases, and questions they're likely to use—and what products or services they're looking for that you can provide.
When you're figuring out user intent for your target buyer, consider not only why they're searching for something, but why they're choosing voice search to do it.
Here's the bottom line: People prefer voice search because it's fast, it's easy, and it's context-driven.
For B2B buyers, this may be more tricky. Typically, a B2B purchase process takes far more research, but there's no reason why you can't anticipate that behavior in your voice search SEO strategy.
Be sure to target every stage of the Buyer's Journey when you're optimizing for voice search. You want to reach not only the bottom-of-funnel leads that are looking for a direct purchase, but also the awareness-stage leads that are hoping to learn more about a certain topic.
Chances are, if there's an SMB owner asking Alexa what content marketing is, they're probably interested in learning more about marketing their business. If you can provide that top-level information from the get-go, you can anticipate what information they'd be interested in next and optimize your content to meet each sequential query.
Now THAT'S strategic lead generation.
5. Test Out Your Tactics
"Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3.....is this thing on?"
When it comes to any form of marketing strategy, never skimp on the testing phase. Find the most effective approach to voice SEO optimization by testing out the queries you're targeting.
Pull out your smartphone and see what the top results are for specific voice search queries you're hoping to rank for. What keywords are they targeting? How long is the content? What form does it take?
While you're at it, keep your target buyer's device in mind.
- If they're searching with Siri, they'll likely receive a kind of mini-SERP on their iPhone with a set of suggested links from Safari.
- If they're using Alexa, they're going to get whatever automated response has been coded in by the Amazon developer.
- If they're using a Google Assistant or the "Google Assistant" skill on Alexa, they're probably going to get a Featured Snippet from the SERP.
The best way to optimize for each of these platforms is through research, insight, and good old fashioned trial and error.
We're keeping a keen eye on the evolving voice SEO landscape—and we're excited to see the impact it will continue to have on the B2B marketing industry.
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