Apple's launch of the iPhone 4s in 2011 introduced the world to Siri. Since then we've had Google Voice, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Echo Alexis, but now voice and conversational search is poised for rapid growth.
In a research report conducted in 2014, Google found that 55% of teens and 41% of adults in the US are now using voice search more than once per day.
Businesses can benefit from understanding how this shift will disrupt current search (SEO), content marketing and social media marketing strategies.
Keyword searching is decreasing so sites optimized for keywords will see a decrease in traffic and engagement
Voice search shifts behavior from typing in keywords or phrases to finding something by asking questions. This goes beyond long-tail search strategies where marketers have combined multiple search terms to narrow results on smaller niche audiences. Long-tail was developed in response to people using longer search phrases looking for more specific products and services. In voice search people use their voices to ask questions in full sentences.
Consumers are now asking questions of the Internet the way they would a person
With the growth of voice search, which uses natural language, there's an increase in questions as part of the search phrasing. In fact, Search Engine Watch reports the use of search queries starting with "who," "what," "where" and "how" has increased by 61% year over year. This makes sense because many people are now using their voice and asking their phones.
Marketers must adjust so their content appears as a good answer
How? Think less about keyword stuffing and meta tags and more about full sentences and conversational copy. Respond to more natural language questions with similar natural language answers - the way you would answer in person. Voice search results emphasize quality so you should think less like a marketer with heavy sales messages and more like a publisher or journalist - answering the "W" questions is the basis of writing a good news story.
How can you take advantage of this trend?
- Research the most common questions asked by your target audience. Search industry, interest and product forums. Search comments on ratings and industry appropriate review sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor or even Amazon. Search questions and answer sites like Quora and your own Q&A page. Survey front line employees and sales people about most common questions and analyze your own social media accounts for common questions. If you don't have a Q&A section on your website consider adding one.
- Search these common questions using voice search and see how the current answers are written. Use Siri, Google Voice, Cortana, Alexis to see what is currently appearing as the top results. This will help you identify current competition and provide a guideline for how to structure your own answers. Are there answers that are not being given? Concentrate there first, then work your way to trying to overtake competitor's positions.
- Create website and social media content that directly answers those questions in simple clear sentences. Here remember the "who," "what," "where" and "how." Provide clear and direct answers but fill out the information around the direct answers. Once you get the consumer on your site for the direct answer you can expand the topic. Also don't forget to create content based on variations of the same questions such as how to fix, "how do I fix ____?," "how do I stop ___?", or who can fix ____?, "what do I do if ___?" Don't forget all content that can be searched including blogs and press releases.
- Consider local voice search. If you're a business with a physical address you should consider a new element to potential customer questions. Here people may be asking questions based on geo-location such as "where is the nearest BBQ place?," "where can I get an iPhone charger?", Who has the closest free wi-fi?" Make sure your business is listed with physical locations in Google+ Local and other geo-location social media sites like Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook.
Voice search for product research is increasing
Nearly 50% of people are now using voice search when researching products. If marketers want their products to be found they should start to consider new strategies that emphasize natural language over keywords.
Digital and content marketing benefits to voice search optimization
Optimizing your website, blog and press/media pages with new information in the right structure can help get your content noticed over competitors to drive more traffic from highly qualified leads.
Social media marketing benefits to voice search optimization
Voice search optimized content will draw more engagement because you'll be providing answers addressing your target audience's most common questions. A focus on discovering and answering your target's questions leads to more valuable and relevant social content that will drive awareness views and shares.
Business benefits to voice search optimization
Adjusting to natural language search helps you think more like a consumer and less like a marketer. This improved understanding of what your customers are currently seeking can lead to new product and service ideas to improve your business offering.
Over time the better you get at answering natural language questions the better your results. Bill Slawski from Go Fish Digital says that sites frequently selected and ranked highly can be deemed more authoritative and thus appear in more top results and drive more traffic.
We are still early in this trend. If you start adjusting strategies now you could benefit from a competitive advantage over your slower competitors.
Have you considered how conversational search mght change your digital strategies?
This post originally appeared on Keith Quesenberry's blog