In this guest post, Jaywing MD, Tom Geekie (pictured below), offers his tips on how brands can get their messages heard in this new age of voice search…
Voice assisted technology is fast-becoming the new way to search, and its gaining popularity amongst users means that brands and businesses need to be adapting and preparing their digital marketing strategies now to ensure they’re reaching all of their potential customers.
Voice search doesn’t change people’s need to search, so the fundamentals of what we need to do to rank remains strong. What does change however, is the need to pay attention to the audience’s requirements, and adapt strategies to account for more than just ‘money keywords’.
The challenge that voice search throws up is the advent of the single default answer. It’s ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ but on a wide, landscape-changing scale.
We know people’s behaviour changes as soon as they expect something to fulfil their needs. Searches including ‘near me’ didn’t grow as much in 2017 as those local searches without this qualifier and, in the United States, searches including zip codes actually declined by 30 per cent.
We expect local to work now, so we’ve stopped qualifying searches. And this is happening to head term searches, too. In 2017, almost 70 per cent of requests to the Google Assistant were expressed in natural language, not using the same keywords people might type in a web search.
But what do brands need to do now in order to remain relevant and visible for customers as the way they search changes?
Keep in Google’s good books
It almost goes without saying, but websites that are speedy and built well for people and crawlers, with content that properly answers users’ needs, backed up by authoritative links and mentions, will always be favoured in search. Voice search doesn’t change this, but it does make it more important than ever, as this is simply the basic requirement to be considered the correct answer.
Understand the audience and what they need
Every website should consider what problem they’re solving for their users, and how they’re solving it. Once you’ve confirmed you are the best choice – and this is an important step – you need to identify how people are finding your brand or business. The highest search volume keywords in your industry are only a starting point.
If you’ve identified the problems that your customers or clients have, you have an excellent springboard for looking at common, natural language queries and creating content to fit those. Use common question keywords and tools like ‘Answer the public’ to research queries, combined with Search Console to see where you might already be ranking and just need to tweak.
Use that knowledge to power voice search
Featured snippets are the best current way to gain success in voice search. Identifying queries that trigger a featured snippet and working to optimise your site for them is a strategy that works well. Search modifiers can be used to change what Google shows to help make sure your snippet is the best option.
The world outside of traditional search
Virtual assistants and their ‘skills’ have the power to change the way we find products that are relevant to us. Skills are very much in their infancy, however; some of the most popular skills include asking Alexa to bark or meow.
While most skills are poorly-rated and not really that well thought through, this represents a first mover advantage, but it’s well worth considering the audience research to find out whether genuine added value can be offered via a skill. Otherwise, there’s more long-term value in simply improving a website to better capture relevant search queries via mobile and voice.
There are opportunities to capitalise on voice search now, particularly through audience research, natural language content, and featured snippet optimisation. Incorporate these requirements with current audience research and keyword plans to create a strategy that works on all platforms.