Siri, Alexa, and Cortana are the new girls on the marketing block and they are here to stay. You may have yet to make their acquaintance but you have surely utilized their technology. Some call them digital assistants and others call them digital spies; but no matter your opinions of voice command technology, if the stats prove true…

in just two years more than half of ALL internet searches will be performed using voice search instead of the traditional way of typing a query into a search bar.

This significant consumer shift will have a tremendous impact on how and even if customers can find you and access your content. The rules are changing and and the time to prepare is now.  

Here are the facts:

  • In the U.S., there are 179 million smartphone users spending an average of 2.6 hours per day on their device.
  • Half of smartphone users engage with voice technology on their device, and many of them use the feature habitually
  • 1 in 2 use voice technology on smartphone
  • 1 in 3 voice technology users use voice technology daily

There are two primary ways people perform voice search: using a smartphone or using an internet enabled “smart speaker” like Amazon Echo (home to Alexa), Apple HomePod (home to Siri), Invoke by Harman Kardon (home to Cortana), or Google Home which is intentionally gender and personality neutral. The popularity of these smart speakers with built in digital assistants is growing faster than maybe anyone expected. And while most voice search still takes place on smartphones rather than smart speakers, the overall smartphone use of smart speaker owners is going down as the technology continues to improve. In fact, this shift is fueling developers, technologists and other experts to further improve upon the tech’s artificial intelligence (AI) through both rules based programming and machine learning strategies.

So while all of this sounds like fascinating research for the latest sci-fi flick, what does voice command technology have to do with marketing? Well, a lot actually, and the impact boils down to this: content and search engine optimization (SEO). Here’s why:

What is Voice Search

The popularity and convenience of smartphones have made this technology practically indispensable for the consumer masses. Just six short years ago, Apple gave birth to Siri putting voice command technology into the hands of iPhone users around the globe. Competitors quickly followed suit and now all smartphones come with voice command technology. And since the average person can type around 40 words per minute but can speak around 150 words per minute, it’s no surprise that this technology is taking off. Where it starts to impact marketing is when consumers use voice command to perform an internet search.

There’s an Algorithm For That

Marketers paying attention to Google algorithm shifts and SEO stats know that there is an art to creating website content that performs well within the algorithms’ secret structures. The thing about voice search is that it’s changing how users — and the algorithms — perform and respond to the queries. For example, when you want to find a local restaurants nearby, and you do this typing into a search bar, you may type “nearby restaurants” and hit enter to see your results. When you press enter, the online magic that happens during that nanosecond returns results determined by Google algorithms. 

Now think of how you may use voice search. Do you pick up your phone, or say “hey Siri” and then blurt out “nearby restaurants!” or do you say “hey Siri, what’s the highest rated restaurant close to me right now?” See the difference? When you use voice search you speak in a conversational tone, like you would with a friend. Most developers have encouraged this by giving their tech a name, a voice and a bit of personality to boot. This is an entirely different approach to search, so you should expect an entirely different approach to SEO.

How Does Google Respond to Voice Search?

One of Google’s largest algorithm updates in recent history is known as Hummingbird. This significant update introduced semantic search into the mix. This tech helps the algorithm anticipate the intent of the query to provide a more helpful result and marketers responded with richer more meaningful content. Then as users continue to perform both voice and text based searches, Google and voice command tech both observe specifics about the user by leveraging a myriad of details to learn more about us. Admittedly a bit creepy, but this is the price we are paying for accuracy, immediacy, and convenience.

What’s A Marketing Manager to Do?

The SEO focus has been on keywords, tags, and links, and that still applies to text searches. When it comes to voice searches the strategy is a bit different. When a user searches the web via voice search, the tone is conversational and the questions are usually local (e.g. “Where is the closest coffee shop?”). These tips will help you showcase your content and make it easy for Siri, Alexa, and Cortana to find your answers:  

  • Make it conversational – Be sure your site has content written in such a way that it answers a question. For example, if the searcher asks, “Hey Siri, who has the best gluten free Pizza in Chicago?” and you run a pizza joint, make sure that your website’s content answers that question. An option might read something like this: “Mom’s Pizza Joint has the tastiest gluten free pizza in Chicago”
  • Make it short – Again it’s important to think of your text as answering a question a customer would ask Siri or Alexa. While descriptive text is essential, avoid being too long or wordy. Make it easy for voice search to find and read back to the searcher.
  • Make it local – Google prioritizes local results. Using our pizza joint example, if Mom’s Pizza Joint is a locally owned restaurant in Lincoln Park, the website should include that content: “Mom’s Pizza Joint in Lincoln Park has the best gluten free pizza.” If you have won a local award you can sweeten the response with this: “Lincoln Park locals say that Mom’s Pizza Joint has the best gluten free Pizza.”
  • Make it Fast – Page speed continues to be a top consideration of Google algorithm responses to queries. A clunky site will be passed by for quicker results. If you aren’t sure of your page speed rank, we can run diagnostics on your site and make sure that it’s running at top speed.

 

 

The stats are clear and the experts agree that voice search will continue to grow and eventually take priority over how we optimize online content. This is not to say that the current SEO best practices for PC and text searches should be abandoned. On the contrary, let’s make sure that your site is fully optimized for both text and voice searches.

Cross and Crown designs beautiful, fast, and responsive websites with rich, dynamic content that is fully optimized for SEO. Check out our SEO field guide to get started, or better yet, let’s work together to unpack the mysteries of SEO and drive more traffic to your website.

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