Voice search has been a hot topic for a number of years now, and with good reason. Data shows that more searches than ever, around 60% according to Hitwise, are performed on mobile devices. This alone changes the thinking or SEO agencies, but there is more. Voice searches are rising incrementally, and 2018 promises to be an even bigger year than ever in that arena.
Think of it this way: Siri is your best friend on an Apple device; it is now a part of the desktop and laptop operating system as well as iPhones and iPads. Even before this new addition, in June of 2015, Siri was handling more than 1 billion requests per week. By May of 2016, 25% of all searches on the Windows 10 taskbar were voice searches.
Add to that data the fact that in 2015, 1.7 million voice-first devices were shipped to homes. In 2016, that number was 6.5 million, and in 2017 an estimated 24.5 million devices will be shipped. This is before the Apple Home Pod, the foray into the speaker/virtual assistant world sure to be scooped up by the Apple nation faithful ships early next year.
What does this mean for your business? According to Benu Aggarwal, the Founder and President of Milestone Inc., in a presentation at SMX 2017, 82% of mobile users search for a local business. Half of those users visit a store within one day of their search, and 18% of them make a purchase.
As more and more of these searches are performed using Siri, OK Google, Cortana, and Alexa it is more important than ever to rank at the top of these searches, at least the ones that are relevant to your business.
This means that not only should your domain be optimized for the right keywords, but your content needs to be optimized not only for typing search but for conversational voice search. So how do you optimize for search?
Note: In the current scenario where already most of the popular domains are already taken, capturing a brand-optimized domain name is quite tricky though. You have to research a lot more to get a suitable one. GoDaddy is still the preferable platform for registering domains. Along with that, most of the hosting service providers are also support domain name registration. The eCommerce giants like Shopify also providing the same service as well. So, the choice is not limited.
Answer the Right Questions
Here is how voice search breaks down according to an Internet Trends Report: 22% of searchers are looking for local information, 21% for fun and entertainment, 30% are looking for general information, and the remainder are using voice as a personal assistant (Think of the Rock in the recent Apple Siri commercial).
What questions do you answer? If you are a local business, you need to rank at the top of a search for your type of business, and the same with fun and entertainment. It’s almost a sure bet that most of those searches are for either local fun and entertainment or for those same things in a destination the user will be visiting.
If your goal is to get the user to the top of the funnel in your niche by providing information, you must answer general queries in your niche, remembering that the answer to voice search must be concise and to the point, solidifying your expertise in that area.
Keep it Simple
This leads to the next point. If you are going to rank in voice search, you need to optimize for common questions in a simple way. Think of it this way: if a user searches for a simple cooking question like “How long do I boil an egg until it is done?”, the ideal is for the voice answer to be something as simple as “According to allrecipes.com, you should bring eggs to a boil, and then let them stand in hot water for 14-17 minutes.”
Substitute your question and the answer including the name of your website here. This does help with branding, but more on what it actually does for your bottom line and conversions in a moment.
As a local business, you want to be the answer when a user says something like “best burger joint (or sports bar, or whatever you are) in (your location here)”. This means using the right keywords, and keeping your site and your content simple on your homepage.
Do it Better
Why do all recipes come up first in voice search? Because their answer is simpler and better than that provided by their competitor’s site, at least for now. Good Housekeeping or the Incredible Egg may have a better answer tomorrow and outrank them, and they are probably working on doing so.
This is the key to ranking in voice search, and continuing to rank means improving your answers as you go forward.
Go Deep for the Click Thru
Other than branding, how do you get users to then click on the link and visit your site or your business? You need to go deeper, so where the user lands are really important. In the case of the restaurant, you need to have a stellar menu page, hero photos of your burgers, and contact information prominently displayed. This means when the user looks at their phone or other devices, they see and read things that inspire them to visit.
In the case of boiling eggs, you want to include instructions below the simple answer that explain why, exactly, you don’t really “boil” eggs, and the three to eight-minute timer your grandmother gave you won’t produce the best results.
To get actual clicks, you are going to have to go deeper than just the surface answer, and those clicks will lead to conversions if your content is spot on.
Understand the Goal of Voice Search
The goal of voice search is really brand recognition and building expertise. Yes, conversions are a result of those things. However, voice search does not always translate to organic traffic. Once a user has a simple answer, especially to a general question, they may not read any further: they don’t need to.
However, you have given them the information they needed, and the rule of reciprocity means the more often you do so, the more likely the user is to buy from you. The goal is conversions, brand and expertise building, but it may not result in increased organic traffic.
However, the more satisfied users are with your answers to voice search, the happier Google, and other search engines will be with it as well, and the more likely you will be to continue to rank, a win-win for everyone.