Hey Google, WTF is Voice Search?

Voice search has become an integral part of American’s lives since the introduction of the Amazon Echo device in November of 2014. Since then, Google, Apple, and countless other technology companies have delivered their version of a Virtual Assistants (ex: Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google) to simplify user experience and promote their platforms.  

So how can this technology help your business?

SEO has existed since the big tech boom of the 1990’s. It is the single most important aspect of a company’s web presence, and voice search technology is rooted in a SEO foundation. Regardless of which system you prefer, all virtual assistants are “awoken” by a wake word (Alexa, Hey Google, Hey Siri, etc.) and then given a question or a command by a user and are expected to generate quick results. When a prospective customer searches for “good restaurants near me” on their Amazon Echo, for example, the device uses AI to understand the sound of the user’s voice and derive meaning from their words before audibly delivering the results.  

The good news is you don’t have to re-invent the wheel to adopt a voice search strategy. Voice search leverages your existing technical SEO framework to generate results. It also plays into the overall trend of matching user intent while providing the best possible experience, so the tactics you use to optimize for voice search will benefit your digital ecosystem in general. 

How to future proof your voice search strategy  

The best practices for SEO for voice search overlaps with SEO for your website, because both seek to provide the easiest and most streamlined experience for your user. But here are a few extra things you can do to improve your voice search strategy: 

Write like a person & use conversational language.

When creating your website, make sure you’re explaining your product or service in a conversational way. Voice queries are 200x more conversational and 20x longer than regular search according to Google. And when a user talks to their device it’s typically phrased in a question format. Instead of, “Weather 40299” users are asking, “Do I need an umbrella today?” Including FAQs on your website is a great way to optimize your voice search strategy, and you don’t need to modify the SEO markup specifically for Voice Search. When you add schema to help search engines identify FAQs on your site, it also allows virtual assistants to pick up and categorize the information. 

Make sure your information is up to date and labeled properly.

This seems like a no-brainer and goes back to SEO best practices, but it’s vitally important to make sure the information on your site is current and well-labeled to make it easier for search engines to index. Your website should have a contact page and your contact information should be labeled properly on the page (not just on your form) to provide context to the search engine/assistant when a user asks, “What is the phone number for…”. To give the right response, you must have a header or text on the contact page labeled “phone number”, and not something silly like “call us ;)”. This also applies to Google my business listings. Make sure your company pages are claimed and contact information is up to date. 

Make your content brief.

People want answers quickly, so make sure that you get to the point of the question in a matter of seconds. Otherwise, a user is likely to abandon the search or start over, potentially seeking out a competitor. 

Consider building an Alexa Skill or Google Actions.

Virtual assistant users are looking to get things done, which is why voice queries are 40x more likely to be an action compared to standard search. Alexa’s “Skills” and Google’s “Actions” allow you to go beyond regular SEO responses to spur action or generate more dynamic results. For example, using Google Actions, Domino’s customers can use Google Assistant to “talk to” the Domino’s app and place or track an order using their voice. And Expedia’s Alexa Skill uses dynamic content, updated in real-time based on input from the developer, to allow users to check the availability of hotels and flights straight from their Amazon Echo.  

The future of Voice Search 

35% of the U.S. adult population own a smart speaker. From its existing integration with our phones, to its role in making a connected home more accessible to the public, it’s clear that Voice Search is here to stay. Currently, within Google’s integrated suite of technology, a user can search for hair salon near them via voice search, schedule an appointment via Google assistant, and then have it added to their Google calendar– all without having to lift a finger. There may be a time when all technology relies on voice interaction, so the best thing you can do as a company is optimize your voice search SEO so you’re easy to find when users start looking – or better yet, talking.