Maybe our fingers are getting tired or maybe we have become increasingly impatient, whatever is behind it, voice search is a trend that we can’t ignore.
65% of smartphone owners now use voice assistants, up from 30% in 2013
KPCB Internet Trends Report 2016
By 2020, 50% of search will come from voice
The likes of Siri, Cortana, Google Now and the rise of wearable technology are changing the way we search online and as a business owner if you want people to find you through your website (I’m guessing that’s pretty much most businesses) it means making sure your website is voice search friendly.
How do I make my website ready for voice search?
If you already approach website optimisation in a natural way i.e. think like your customers and write for them, not the search engines, then tweaking it for voice search may not be as onerous as you think.
Ultimately voice search is all about natural language and conversational queries and we need to reflect that in our website content. But if you haven’t moved on yet from keyword stuffing and needless content then this might be the impetus you need to give you website a shake-up.
Either way, here’s a simple guide to getting your website ready for voice search.
Rethink your keywords
When we type (text searches) we tend to use around 1-3 words. When we talk (speech searches) we use a longer string of words (Source Microsoft internal data April 2015).
So move away from unique and precise keywords for each page and start thinking about questions, phrases, similar words, and more niche searches. For example a text search might be “accountant hampshire” whilst a voice search might be “I need someone to help me with my tax return nearby” (Note there’s no local element in the voice search but more of that later).
People using voice search are more likely to want answers quickly and to be ready to act on them. In terms of the buying process that means rather than being at the research stage they are more likely to be looking to buy now. So they don’t want to be served up with a page telling them why your business is wonderful and what your mission statement is, they want to know you have a 24 hour call out service and here’s the number so they can call you now. Make sure you optimise the individual product / service / contact us pages so they get directed to the right page, not just the home page.
Knowing that people are using voice search when they are out and about means we need to think about their actions and the use of them in their search.
For example someone might just type “I’m hungry” and expect to be shown a list of local restaurants.
As for general shoppers, according to Hitwise, 90% of retail shoppers use smartphones in stores, whilst 77% of searches mentioning “coupon” are initiated on a smartphone or tablet. Source: Marketing Land
That means thinking about the goods and services you offer and all the ways people might search for them when they are out, not just in the comfort of their home.
See my previous article on keyword research if you need some more help with this.
When people are using voice search, they are more likely to be searching for in-destination, local activities and transportation options.
Location search on mobile is growing more than 50% faster than mobile search as a whole. Local search gets powerful results. 76% of “nearby” mobile searches result in a business visit whilst 28% of “nearby” mobile searches result in a purchase. (Source Yext)
When we are using a mobile device we are already familiar with that fact our location determines what results are shown so we tend to use the term “nearby” or don’t even use a place reference, rather than state the actual geographic location, even more so when we use voice search. But that doesn’t stop Google looking for your locally based business.
So need to ensure you localise your keywords. Where you can, state the area(s) you serve. Have it on your footer, contact page, different service pages. Think about landmarks and places people might visit or refer to near you eg Cheap hotel near Brighton Centre, luxury hotels by the Royal Pavilion, Best hotel close to Brighton Pier.
Make sure all your NAP (name, address and phone number) are clear and consistent on your site and elsewhere online. See my article on local business for more tips.
Visual works best for many people so think about what images might get thrown up in the search results on a mobile. Tag your images according to how people might voice search for your products. e.g. I want a red waterproof cycling jacket in size 12.
Creating for mobile
And is goes without saying, voice queries are mostly made on mobile devices which means your website needs to be mobile friendly to even get on the radar. If you’re not mobile friendly, do this first before you even worry about the keywords or the rest.
The bigger picture
People want to be understood the first time and solve the answers to their problems quickly and easily. The growth of voice search is pushing us more and more to think and act in the same way as our customers and deliver websites that understand the bigger picture and help the searcher do exactly what they need to do at that point in time. In the words of Sundar Pichai CEO Google,