Local SEO In the Age of Voice Search
Do you own a device such as Amazon Echo or use Google Home? If you’re not familiar with these devices, have you tried using Cortana on your desktop? If you have used any of these devices, you know how helpful these “search assistants” can be. In fact, once you get used to using a search assistant, it can seem clunky or troublesome to go back to typing something into your mobile device!
But just how accurate are voice search results? How many search assistants are there, and is one better than the others? How many people use search devices, and how can you make sure you’re drawing them to your website? In this article, we’ll talk briefly about the different types of devices and how you can use the power of voice search to get more traffic for your business.
Types of Search Assistants
Amazon Echo—also known as “Alexa”—is arguably the most popular search assistant on the market today. Alexa is not only an automated search engine, however: it works as a weather reporter, radio station, first aid teacher, kitchen assistant, and even a translator and travel assistant. There are so many uses for Alexa that it seems almost impossible to uncover its full potential. In fact, Alexa is so popular that it represents 75% of the market for search assistant devices.
So if Alexa is so popular, is there even any competition? Well, yes. Google Home comes in second, representing 24% of the market as of 2017—the HomePod was just released, and we do not have reliable statistics for the popularity of this device yet.
Cortana and Siri are also popular contenders, but they are generally used on the go, not as much at home now that the devices are available. This isn’t to say that they are not important for voice search, however. Local SEO will rely heavily on these types of search assistants because when someone searches from mobile, they generally want immediate information on some kind of service located nearby. These assistants come with newer smartphones.
Accuracy of voice search
Just fifteen years ago, word error rates with voice recognition technology were between 20-30%. It was frustrating to use, and although the promise of its utility was there, our patience was not. No one wants to repeat themselves over and over to a person, let alone a piece of technology. So, we waited. We forgot about it in the rise of smartphones.
But come 2014, voice recognition technology started to come packaged with smartphones. People got acquainted with Siri, then Cortana. Once the promise of convenient, reliable voice recognition technology was fulfilled, external devices came on the market so that we could have this all at home.
Voice recognition software now has about 6-8% error rate, meaning it is on par with a human translator’s. A good chunk of errors are not even related to pronunciation—rather, they are related to background noise.
How popular is voice search?
40% of adults use voice search at least once per day.
Cortana now has 133 million monthly users.
Mobile-related voice searches are three times more likely to be local SEO queries than are text search queries.
Even as of 2016, “personal assistants” is the top marketing search. So this is nothing new. In fact, all of these statistics point to voice search growing in popularity.
The Language of Voice Search
So, now that you know a bit about the popularity, accuracy, and availability of search assistants, let’s talk a bit about how you can use them to bring more traffic to your site.
We’ve written a lot about SEO—search engine optimization—and how content is a huge component of getting search engines to rank your site. But there is one vital factor to consider when optimizing for voice:
We do not speak the same way we write. In other words, the way we use search assistants is vastly different from the queries people use when typing on their desktop or their mobile devices.
So, when optimizing for voice search, consider the following things:
Voice queries tend to be much longer than text queries
Voice queries are not “fragments” of sentences; semantically, they tend to be full sentences. For example, would you type “local restaurants near me” or “Where are the best local restaurants near me?” these are two different types of queries. We won’t go into the grammar specifics—this isn’t English class—but even if you’re not up-to-date on your language arts, you can see the difference. When interacting with voice, we talk to the assistant like we would a person, not a machine.
With this under consideration, let’s also remember that we often (not always) use search assistants to answer specific questions. Therefore, “question” words such as “when” “who” “why” “how” and “where” tend to be used more frequently. Sometimes, we give the search assistant a command, such as “play rock music” or “tell me the weather report.” But these commands tend not to be associated with search, so remember the “question words” when optimizing your content.
Before You Write… Considerations to Take with Voice Search
Now that you have an understanding of how voice search differs from text search, let’s consider some factors that contribute to your site’s search engine rankings.
Like all SEO, your code needs to be solid and your page needs to load quickly. You need to be optimized for mobile devices—this is non-negotiable in 2018. If your site is slow, clunky, or doesn’t display properly on mobile phones or tablets, you need to get that fixed before you even begin to undertake the content optimization aspect of SEO.
Generally speaking, people do not want to read through mountains of complex text. They want to find your website to answer a specific question. If they have to look too hard for the answer, guess what? They are going to leave and find a competitor’s site instead. This means that you must be using content that directly answers questions or solves any issues that your visitors are having. You need to use language that is clear to understand so that people can skim and comprehend your information—think of it like you’re writing directions for a friend who isn’t familiar with something. You keep the information short, to the point, and easy to understand.
Finally, use SEO best practices such as encouraging reviews, responding to reviews, optimizing your site through Google My Business and all other online directories, and updating social media frequently.
How to Write for Voice Search
Okay, now that we have all of that out of the way… how do you write for voice search?
Writing for voice search is different in that you’ll need to optimize for specific questions. No one is going to turn to their search assistant and say something like, “Painters near me.” No, they’re going to ask something like, “Alexa, who is the best-rated painter near me?” And therein lies the key to your content optimization: who and best-rated painter. These are queries to include in your content. The easiest way is to create content that answers FAQs so that you can include these queries naturally. For example, you might write a snippet such as “Why You Should Choose Bob’s Painting for Your Next Project.” In this snippet, you can write to the customer by saying things such as:
How much does Bob’s Painting Charge?
Who is the best-rated painter in Whoville?
How long does it take to paint a room?
And so on. You can see that these are specific questions that include keywords as well as locations and the “question” trigger words we discussed above. These are the best types of phrases to include in your content to get the attention of search engines; however, the key to getting the search engines to rank your content is by giving clear, concise, and accurate answers. Of course, as an expert in your field, you should have no trouble with that!
This is Way Too Complicated. HELP. ME.