Times have changed. Back towards the end of 2013, pundits were predicting that people just weren’t into voice searches. At that time, Apple’s Siri was the queen of virtual assistants – but 85 percent of those who could access Siri said they didn’t.

Amazon introduced Alexa the following year. She was a game-changer. This year, at least half of all online searches will be made through voice search, and nearly a third of all web browsing sessions will be done without a screen. This will be performed by the 3.25 billion voice assistants in use, which Juniper Research predicts will jump to 8 billion over the next three years. It’s an unstoppable transformation in consumer behavior, but how does it impact search engine optimization (SEO)? Here’s what you need to know.

 

Prepare for impact

If you take away just one thing from this article, make it this: voice search will not kill SEO. Voice search will not make SEO less important, but it has drastically changed the way you need to approach making your online presence and content discoverable.

Google and other search engines are continuing to place a growing emphasis on voice search optimization. And it’s not the same as search engine optimization. Your goal for voice search optimization is to help someone complete an action. After all, a third of the searches being done won’t have a screen to display the results. As a result, your content has to be optimized differently.

 

Voice has changed how people search

Maybe it’s just basic human politeness, but we tend to be nice to Alexa, Siri, and the Google voice assistant. We might have typed in a keyword into a search engine window, but we’ll get conversational about it if we ask Alexa. For this reason, you’ll have to look for natural language keywords – which means you are actually going to be using conversational key phrases. And because we ask voice assistants questions, your goal should be question keyword phrases.

If the answer to your keyword phrase question is short and concise, Google may actually offer it up as a featured snippet in its top-ranked spot above all other search results, known as “Position Zero.”

In some respects, Google is changing from a search engine into an answer engine – and this is because of smart speakers and virtual assistants. Featured snippets and Position Zero has contributed to a 37 percent decrease in organic clicks.

  • Findings show that Google prefers to answer voice search queries with 29 words or less. Make this length your target. Include short, concise answers to keyword phrase questions in your content. This doesn’t mean you want to start creating a bunch of blog posts that are just 30 words long, though. Keep in mind that half of those searching for you still want in-depth information that demonstrates you are a subject matter expert.
  • One way to create an army of 29-word snippets that Google can reward to voice searchers is with your FAQ pages.
  • Finally, use natural, conversational language. It’ll sound more appealing to prospects when the Google voice assistant reads your snippet.

Voice technology has increased the value of local searches for consumers. Research shows that they’re three times more likely to search locally with a voice search on a smartphone or other mobile device.

 

You’ll need help to take advantage of voice search

Taking the steps we’ve listed so far will help you move toward keeping up with SEO best practices in the age of voice search – but it won’t help you overcome a key obstacle. Voice search makes prospects even less identifiable than they were before. Here’s an example.

“Find me a plumber nearby who can install my new kitchen sink.”If you’re a plumber, wouldn’t you like to connect with this lead? Of course you would! And it’s possible you might because Siri or Alexa or the Google voice assistant responds with, “I’ve found 10 nearby plumbers that match your request.” And you’re one of those 10 businesses.

You didn’t know about this lead because they didn’t visit your website. Without a visit, you can’t retarget them, either. Here’s someone in your market and ready to make a purchase – but you weren’t even aware of them. You’ll have a 1-in-10 chance of landing that sale. This will happen more frequently as voice search grows.

It’s also why businesses are taking the next step with lead generation and employing Identity Resolution. This action helps you identify a lead before they reach the point of asking Siri or Alexa, or their Google assistant for a list of businesses nearby selling the product or service they want – right now. It’s probably too late for you by that time.

Identity Resolution would have used machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to gather the online behavior indicating this prospect was in the market for a new sink. Identity Resolution would have provided you with this prospect’s name and contact information, and you would have engaged them with information and education – known as lead nurturing– to help them decide to make a purchase from your company.

This is the next step, the evolution of SEO. It moves you much closer to the start of the buyer’s journey. You find out who they are and how to reach them. Best of all, you’re only talking to those who really are ready right now to make a purchase.

Find out how we use Identity Resolution to help you make yourself discoverable to the 3 percent of those in your local market who are looking right now for what you sell