Voice search: Six ways to ensure your customers are finding you

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Voice search can be a much faster and more convenient way for customers to search the web. And now that voice search is becoming increasingly common, it is important to adapt your businesses marketing strategy.

Your customers are looking for you online; but more and more they are moving away from typing in their searches – and instead they are speaking them.

Google recently announced that 20% of searches on its mobile app and Android services are now carried out by voice, and this number is only likely to increase in the coming years.

Clearly, if you choose to ignore this development, you do so at your peril! Conversely, if you take an active interest in making it work for your business then you can reap the rewards.

Voice search is not a new idea. In the 1979 film Alien there was a computer called Mother which you could talk to. We have certainly been interested in the ability to use voice to search for a number of years, but it is not until recently that the artificial intelligence (AI) technology has developed enough to allow it to be a reliable form of searching for information.

Microsoft Cortana has over 133 million active users, over 40 million people use Siri on their Apple devices every month and Amazon has already sold over 20 million Echo devices. These figures are not only staggering, but also prove the growing consumer desire for voice search technology.

The reason for this growth has a lot to do with increased voice search accuracy. Early users of voice search will appreciate how you did not always get what you asked for. Trying to ask your device to ‘Call x’ would often lead to it starting a call with someone completely different and then ignoring your requests to cancel.

Luckily things have moved on. In 2013 the word accuracy rate of voice search devices was just 76%. By the end of 2017 this had risen to an accuracy rate of 95%, which is incredible when you consider the difference in accents and word pronunciation. Further improvements will be made this year. The fact that when you use voice search now you generally receive relevant information demonstrates that more and more people are using voice search, as this has enabled the devices to learn search intent and provide accurate results.

Voice search can be a much faster and more convenient way of searching the web. It’s much easier to speak than to type, demonstrated by the fact that on average we can type 40 words a minute, but can speak 150 words in the same amount of time. And now that the technology is in place to support searches made by voice it is important to adapt your businesses marketing strategy.

Here are the six steps you need to take to ensure customers using voice search will find you:

  1. What questions are your audience asking? Search queries from voice are often longer and it is therefore a good idea to start optimising for longer search queries rather than purely keywords. Start to pay attention to what questions your customers are asking your business and then create a page on your website that answers that question. If you want to find out what questions consumers are asking around the subject of the product or service you provide, then a good website to use is AnswerThePublic, which generates title ideas around the theme you input.
     
  2. Disintermediation. The main reason voice search is growing is the convenience factor. People want results and they want them fast. This is where voice search is efficient as you only receive one result, however this also eliminates choice. For example, if you use Amazon Echo to order a pizza then it will order it from Domino’s because the pizza company has a deal with Amazon.
     
  3. Schema.org is vital. For a search engine to understand what your website page is showing it must be able to understand the page data. This data is delivered in a large part by structured data and this is defined by the schema.org standard. This is the system used to mark-up content on a web page, which then enables search engines to understand the text in the code. By implementing schema.org you will help AI to identify information on your website pages, increasing your chances of ranking for voice search results.
     
  4. Local search and mobile. Voice search is becoming increasingly used in local searches, such as queries like ‘coffee shop near me’ or ‘where can I buy a newspaper?’ If your business relies on local customers, then it is important to be found when people are asking for the product or service you sell. Localised search results come from Google My Business and Bing Places for Business, so make sure your business has these listings set up, otherwise you could be missing out on local search traffic and customers.
     
  5. Misspelling and mispronunciation. This is a challenge for AI. The word accuracy rate is now at 95%, but it is still not 100% and this means there is still a margin for error. There are certain brands that are almost impossible to find via voice search. Just try asking for Yves Saint Laurent handbags. If your brand name is difficult to say then changing it just to work better for voice search probably isn’t an option, but it is worth bearing in mind when you develop new products. Is the new product easy to pronounce? If it is then it will be easier to be found via voice search.
     
  6. First result in search engines is now even more important. Voice search will have an impact on search engine optimisation. One of the main changes voice search introduces is the fact that only the first result is read out. Suddenly optimising pages to be on the first page of Google is not good enough. Even being second on Google results is not much good. This means it is even more important to be the first result.

It’s more important than ever to ensure that voice search is part of your digital marketing strategy. Invest some time and money in optimising your business’ website for voice search as its growth shows no signs of slowing down. By 2020, it is estimated that 50% of searches will be voice searches. If your business is not prepared for the shift in the way people search online, then you could miss out on search traffic and ultimately lose sales to competitors who have optimised their sites effectively.  

Tim Butler is founder of Innovation Visual, a digital marketing consultancy specialising in digital effectiveness.

 

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