When you start a business, or bring an existing one online, you might think about a website. You may think about social media. But you will certainly prioritize indexing your company for search engines. Even if you’re no digital native you know it’s the number one way people find companies. What might not occur to you, however, is to investigate voice search. We think you should.
According to Juniper Research, the number of digital voice assistants – Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and so on – will likely triple by 2023 to eight billion. That’s eight billion avenues for customers to ask out loud for a good plumber in the area or the highest rated Afghan restaurant or an auto repair shop specializing in hybrids. Since 2008, the number of Google Voice searches alone have increased by 35 times.
The trend is as persistent as it is powerful, and ignoring it comes at your own peril. So we wanted to share some guidelines on how to optimize your website for voice search.
This trend comes from several developments. Most digital devices now have some voice function, so it’s not terribly foreign to most people, especially given the “killer app” of asking devices for directions. Additionally, average typing speeds are about 40 words per minute. Average speaking speed is about 150 words per minute. It’s easier to ask than to send your search engine what amounts to a letter. Finally, voice is beginning to be integrated into many different experiences, from ordering products to leaving messages, to talking with customer service.
If you ask the Alexa perched on your sideboard, or the Google Assistant or Siri hiding in your phone, for “shoe repair near me” it will produce similar, probably identical, results to a typed search. And that’s fine if a customer uses identical language. But we don’t usually speak like we type. That’s where you can differentiate your business.
- We have accents and idioms.
- Problem: Speech processing does not always recognize variants in pronunciation, having been developed by people focusing on what they consider proper English.
- Solution: You don’t need to be fancy, but until speech processing is more equitable, make sure Standard English phrasing and vocabulary is also used in the site, so your business can be found.
- When speaking we are used to employing context, gestures, and facial expressions.
- Problem: Digital assistants do not understand any of those things.
- Solution: It’s important to use language in your site that conveys as much as possible with as little uncertainty as possible. In other words, be clear. You don’t have to do without style and personality. Just make sure the clarity is also present. You will also want to include an exhaustive list of keywords. The key to those keywords is simple: What kinds of words would people searching for your company employ?
- Most search engines employ context.
- Problem: When people are thinking of searching on the web they often ask a series of questions. For instance, “What are some cafes near me?” Then, “Which have Wi-Fi?” Then “Which are open now?” Search engines frequently understand that each question in a string are asked within the context of the previous question.
- Solution: When building your site, it is important to answer the questions you think people might be inclined to ask. Think of it as a conversation. If A, then B. If people are looking for your type of business, what are the elements that might lead them to select your business or to select another?
- Top voice search results are fast and simple.
- Problem: Most business owners are enthusiastic about what they do. They want to explain (and sell) to the limit of their ability. And they want their pages to wow potential customers. But according to a study by SEMrush, characteristics of top voice search returns include textual simplicity and quick page load times.
- Solution: Optimizing your site also optimizes your voice search. Also, when listing your site and creating metadata, use simple language and keep in mind the average effective voice query is 40 words and the top responses, according to another study by Backlinko, average only 29 words.
It may seem almost like science fiction that the same type of interface made famous by Star Trek’s starship Enterprise is increasingly becoming a day-to-day method by which we interact with our devices and websites. But that is the state of things. Instead of thinking of it as an obstacle, we hope you think of it as the opportunity it is. Use these tips to maximize your connection to your customers and partners and let us know how it changes your business.
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