Voice search is quickly maturing into the next big thing in tech. The good news for your team is that it’s not too late to jump on board and optimize your web presence for voice search.

Do you find yourself speaking to your smartphone’s digital assistant a lot more now than you did one or two years ago?

Are you talking more to the built-in AI than you are the actual contacts listed in your phone?

If you answered yes and yes, don’t worry – you are far from alone.

As voice search has matured, it has become an intrinsic part of our lives. It also has given companies looking to maximize their digital marketing one more challenge to overcome: How to optimize their websites for voice search.

If you want your organization to capitalize on the enhanced user experience and greater SEO results that voice provides, there is no better time to optimize than now.

What’s So Special About Voice Search?

Thanks to rapidly advancing speech recognition technologies, voice search is seamlessly integrating into our daily lives.

How seamless?

More than 50 million Americans now own a smart speaker with Amazon Alexa leading the charts.

Add to that the over 90% of US adults age 50 and under that own a smartphone, and voice search is sitting comfortably on a very fertile ground.

Indeed the onslaught of smart device technology and the rate at which it is harnessing voice tech is astounding. However, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

Smartphones and smart speakers and the various digital assistants offered by Amazon (Alexa), Apple (Siri), Google (Assistant), and Microsoft (Cortana), are making the case that voice is more organic to how we think about and act on the need for information.

Consider when you have an inquiry about a local business or are wanting information – whether it be professionally related or something more frivolous.

  • Is it more natural to tap it out on your smartphone’s keyboard?
  • Or is the conversational approach of asking the question aloud, as if speaking to friend or colleague, the more logical extension of our normal tendencies?

Chances are you, like most, opted for the second choice. It is that naturalization of how we obtain information that is really spurring this growth.

Optimizing for the Future

Unlike old-school searches where a few keywords returned pages of results that you then had to filter through, voice search is far more direct.

Longer, more conversational inquiries translate to more straightforward searches and more specific search intent. How then do you get your business set up to take advantage of voice search, especially at the local level where 22% of voice searches happen?

Let’s explore five critical steps you should take to ensure you adequately prepare yourself for the voice search revolution.

1. Mobilize Your Web Presence

We’ll be honest, if your website, online store or any digital content you produce is not yet mobile-friendly, you need to address that immediately.

Why?

Because the consumption of the internet is happening primarily via mobile devices. News, shopping, blog posts – more and more the access point for everything online is from the palms of a whole lot of hands.

Beyond that, voice search is still a predominantly mobile-first endeavour. If you hope to take advantage of its increasing popularity you’ll want to follow this checklist to prep your site:

  • Responsive Design – While Google still only recommends this as a consideration for your website, you should approach responsive design as an absolute.

The necessity is thanks in large part to Google’s mobile-first indexing, where the search giant crawls and indexes the mobile version of a website first, and the desktop variant second.

  • Content – For all parties concerned – your visitors, Google, you and your team – content still reigns supreme. With mobile, the preferred choice of computing, your images, articles, or blog posts need to be easy to access and easy to view.

Keep your pages clean, your text and headings snappy and clear, and your images appropriately formatted.

  • Speed – Remember the days of dial-up? We don’t either, but we understand it was slow – real slow. Today, everyone wants everything immediately. If your mobile pages load like molasses, users won’t stick around to see them finish the process.

Utilize PageSpeed Insights to understand how your site performs and what fixes you need to employ to make it faster. If you want to know the exact speed bumps slowing you down, check out Webpagetest.org.

2. Harness the Power of Google

Your Google My Business listing, to be exact. A whopping 92% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in 2018. Taking into account the prime age groups of 18 to 34 and 35 to 54, the numbers inch up to 97% and 94%, respectively.

Up-to-date information in your Google listing translates into valuable data for consumers seeking out your services. The proves especially true for highly prevalent “near me” voice searches where consumers look for local businesses in their vicinity.

We’re not just talking about the business name, number, and address, though (although those are vitally important). For your listing to prove impactful, you’ll want it hyper-detailed, including items such as:

  • A compelling business description or brand pitch to anyone who accesses the listing.
  • People love specials, so the inclusion of any deals or specials you might run will make them feel as such.
  • Make your listing dynamic with additional details (like parking or special hours) and give your presence pop with plenty of high-quality photos.
  • Don’t forget to push client interaction by requesting reviews and responding to them as necessary. Consumers love an engaged business, and your Google listing lets you do it.
  • Once you claim your business’s listing, don’t let it sit unattended. Keep it current and maintain a close eye on the feedback you’re receiving.

3. Speak as the People Do

Voice search demands you communicate in the words of our time.

When using traditional search methods, you type in some text, often in the form of short-tail keywords that consist of fewer than three words. “Downtown apartments” or “Apartment near downtown,” are two examples.

When utilizing voice search, however, the words we use are more conversational.

More than three words, long-tail keywords are much more specific and targeted to a particular need. “Apartments near the downtown arts district” or “Affordable and highly rated downtown apartments,” are more apt when someone uses voice search.

To take advantage of the verbal method, your keyword strategy should reflect how consumers would converse about the products or services you offer. When targeting these keywords, think about what questions people are asking and the phrasing used in those answers.

The more in-tune you are with the long-tail phrases your current and future clients are using, the greater your success for appearing at the top of the search results.

4. FAQs, Q&As, and Other Interesting Ask-and-Answer Devices

Ever wonder about the prevalence of the FAQ pages that pop up on business websites? More than just a tool meant for the curious visitor hungry for company info, these pages are excellent SEO devices.

With voice search, information-heavy posts like FAQs are chock full of those conversational, long-tail keywords we mentioned above. When developing a straightforward Q&A, pose the question in the first person, as the user would do in voice search.

Don’t just limit yourself to a one-and-done page full of questions and answers. Create content, such as a blog post, around a popular inquiry, incorporating a lot of the keywords a user might use in a voice search along the way.

The dual purpose, of course, is that you enhance your voice search and provide the individual original content they can use – both of which the Google search engine loves.

5. Schema is Another Good Scheme

Okay, maybe that title is a stretch, but employing schema metadata – also called structured data or markup language – fills in the gaps of how a search engine, and more specifically, Google finds your website.

What amounts to additional information tucked neatly into the source code of your website, the data aides Google in better recognizing the content and its context, on your site.

When it comes to voice search, the critical factor is in the details people use to find what they’re looking for – hours of operation, directions, contact info – that return a better search result.

Structured data provides you with a distinct advantage because it contextualizes your site which in turn gives it greater visibility. It’s also an underutilized technique, meaning it can spring you ahead of less enterprising competitors.

Final Thoughts

Although there’s undoubtedly some legwork involved, prepping your company to take advantage of voice is by no means a cumbersome task. The critical factor is time and making sure you implement the steps as soon as possible.

Why the rush?

Voice search has officially arrived, and its influence and use will only expand going forward. The next time someone initiates a voice search with their trusted digital assistant, ensure your organization is at the top of the list.Opinions expressed here are the opinions of the author. Influencive does not endorse or review brands mentioned; does not and can not investigate relationships with brands, products, and people mentioned and is up to the author to disclose. VIP Contributors and Contributors, amongst other accounts and articles, are professional fee-based.

Hafiz Muhammad Ali is a Ph.D. candidate and holds an MSc degree in Digital Marketing Leadership from the University of Aberdeen. He is the Founder & CEO of Omnicore Group which houses a global diversified service, eCommerce, and media companies.

He is a best-selling author of “Digital Passport” which is the first of its kind career book that offers a practical roadmap to a promising career in digital marketing.