Slowly but surely, voice is becoming the new way to search. Apps like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are no longer a novelty. As voice technology has improved in accuracy and versatility (word error rates are now as low as 8 percent), more people rely on digital personal assistants and the number of audio searches continues to rise. According to Google, 20 percent of all searches now take place via voice, while some estimates show that this number will have grown to 50 percent by 2020.
What does this mean for those of us working to influence search results? SEO and ORM professionals spend a lot of time tailoring client sites so that they appear prominently for common search terms. At ReputationDefender, we employ some of the same techniques to manage a client’s profile so that searches reflect the company or individual’s most positive aspects. The fact that more and more people are now speaking their search query rather than typing it means that SEO and ORM professionals need to adjust their tactics.
Optimising for Voice
When it comes to voice, the future is here. Sites that don’t start to optimise with voice search in mind will quickly see their rankings drop in comparison to competitors. A few key changes can make the difference between falling victim to the new trend and benefiting from it.
- Conversational Speech Patterns – No one speaks the same way they write, and this is especially true with the phrases we use in online searches. When typing into the search bar, you’re likely to put together a number of key words without worrying about order or syntax. For instance, you might type ‘Online Reputation Management' voice search’ to learn how these topics relate to each other, but with a voice app you’re much more likely to speak an entire question, such as ‘How does voice search affect reputation management?’ Voice searches are more conversational and they are often phrased in the form of a question. To rank high for these types of searches, sites need to ensure their content reflects the same conversational style, while providing a clear direct answer to users’ most common questions.
- Long-Tail Keywords – Voice searches include question words like ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘how’ as well as connecting words such as ‘and,’ ‘it,’ ‘to’ etc. This makes long-tail keyword phrases even more important than they already are. Site managers need to focus on user intent and target customers late in the buying process when they already have a clear idea of what they want to buy. This means precise product details, descriptive adjectives and well-structured sentences. Some research suggests that queries beginning with ‘how,’ ‘where,’ and ‘when’ reflect a stronger buying intent versus ‘what’ and ‘who,’ but there haven’t been many serious studies on voice search, so online marketers need to take the time to understand their own client base.
- Multiple Platforms – Google is still king, but increasing reliance on personal assistant apps means site managers will need to think about optimising for other platforms as well. Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft all have digital voice apps that create their own web interface and often use different ranking criteria than Google. Amazon Echo for example relies on location listings on Yelp rather than Google Local. As these types of voice apps become more popular, marketers will need to look at analytics across a variety of different platforms to maximise their sites’ performance.
- Mobile is Crucial – Over 50 percent of searches already take place via mobile and voice is only going to make this number increase. As hands free, speech activated apps become the norm, it’s increasingly easy to search on the go, and it’s much more likely that researchers will use a smartphone to enter their commands rather than a traditional desktop or laptop. Content that doesn’t load well over mobile doesn’t have much chance of ranking. Meanwhile, it’s crucial that mobile pages also be optimised for voice.
Contact ReputationDefender to learn more about how voice search may affect your online reputation and what you can do about it.