Voice search

Voice search is on the rise. Is your small business ready?

If you give any child, say around the age of 10, a smartphone, their favourite function by far is the voice assistant. They love its ability to interact – to find and play songs, tell jokes, and provide directions.

But with technology moving the way it is, voice enabled technology isn’t child’s play any longer.

At this year’s Google I/O conference, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, unveiled a brand-new voice assistant, Google Duplex, that introduces a new way to carry out “real-world” tasks over the phone, like booking a beauty appointment or making reservations at a restaurant.

Sounds like the stuff of sci-fi films?  Well it’s not. It’s here and now. And this new level of artificial intelligence will soon permeate all of our technology – whether it’s ‘smart home’ devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home, as well as our laptops, desktops and cars.

What’s important to note about this new voice technology is that it’s not only getting better at recognising commands, it is becoming way more user-friendly by focusing on real life demands.

The new generation of voice assistant, Google Duplex, which was unveiled earlier this year, is less focused on simple information gathering, and more focused on actually performing tasks. This means that for local businesses, it is technology that will be exceedingly useful in bringing customers to the door, or the online shopping cart.

As our previous blogs have mentioned, most searches for local businesses are done on a smartphone, and through Google, which dominates the search engine space by far. And, more than 70% of customers who conduct a local search will actually visit a store nearby – within 8 kilometres.

Who is using voice search technology?

With all that in mind, it’s expected that over the coming years, the uptake of voice technology will be swift.

Research already across the board shows that more people are using voice searches. Typically, it’s younger users in the 25-34 age bracket that are most comfortable using voice search – but this doesn’t mean that if it’s not your demographic, you should ignore voice search capability. It will, eventually, permeate to older users, as they become confident using it, and have a good experience – this translates to using it to find exactly what they want, quickly.

The bottom line is, if you’re a local business, voice search is going to be one of the critical ways to bring customers to your business in the coming years.

Is your business prepared?

The rise of use, and the improvements being made to voice technology will mean making changes to your SEO functions – the way that people find you.

At this point, it’s important to keep things simple. It’s also worthwhile trying the technology for yourself so you can better understand the experience.

‘Voice-enabled search’ really does amplify the importance of ‘keywords’ and understanding the kinds of questions and phrases people actually use when they are searching for your product / service.

While it’s not possible to pre-empt exactly what people will ask for (we speak differently from the way we type) many of the basics you have in place as part of your SEO optimisation strategy will remain the same, with some important tweaks.

Here are some key points for getting ‘voice search’ ready that are worth considering:

  1. Keywords remain crucial, especially long tail keywords. By definition, a long tail keyword is a very targeted phrase that contains three or more words and often contains a head term (keyword) that is general with one or two more specific keywords added. When we type, we search using head words, but when we talk to search, we use long tail keywords, and in many cases, ask questions. Knowing this requires us to be thoughtful about our SEO strategies. We should closely examine the way we provide our content. If you want to answer the natural language questions people use to search for something, your content is the first thing that needs to be fixed. You need to ask yourself what questions your content is answering at this moment and find out if that aligns with the questions people ask. Is the answer all-encompassing or is it incomplete, thus not satisfying the needs of the visitor? Take a long hard look at the conversational queries people use to find what they need. Not only look at your data but also check how your competitors are doing and see how they are trying to answer these questions. Use the autocomplete feature in search engines to see which questions often pop up. Put the answers you find in a spot where search engines can easily filter them out. Don’t make it a long winding answer, but get to the point and serve it straight up.
  2. Size matters. Consider that in any voice search, Google answers in an average of 29 words. So, you want to make sure that copy and data on your website is structured in a logical way. Information needs to be short. And. To. The. Point.
  3. Keep language simple. Even if you run a financial business, or a law firm, for example, which are based in industries heavy with jargon, keep your web copy readable. Explain things like you would as if you were talking to a 10-year old.
  4. Strong content. While longer content does tend to rank better, because it can serve the purpose of satisfying subsequent questions by the user, it needs to be appropriate and high quality. Keep searchability top of mind but make copy relevant, informative, easy-to read, broken into segments, and inter-connected to other sources.
  5. Your Google My Business listing is paramount. As voice activated searches take more prominence, so take time to regularly update information, publish regular posts, and encourage customers to leave reviews. Similarly, your social media profile, reviews and content will work in conjunction with your web copy to affect your search engine rankings.

Voice searches are in their infant stages – but the ‘artificial intelligence’ behind it is an area that’s growing exponentially and, as such, voice search will be an important area for any business to keep an eye on.

Research shows that people want to use this technology to book appointments and reservations, to find out whether a product is currently in stock, or to obtain a price on something they are considering purchasing.

And, as the technology improves, Google’s automated assistant may well be the one interacting with your website to book appointments, or making a phone call to your premises on behalf of a user. Therefore, your staff’s ability to understand the growing functionality of this technology and how to interact with it, will also be crucial to making sales.

But for now, businesses should really make sure that their websites are adaptable and successful for voice searching. If you’d like to know more, contact us.

By Bill Vasiliadis having written 63 posts for SEO for Small Business Pty Ltd. Bill Vasiliadis is a Senior Digital Marketing Consultant with over 15 years online experience. He has helped businesses of all sizes increase the return on investment from their online marketing spend.

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