Marketers Need to Optimize for Voice Search
LESSONS FROM NON-VOICE SEARCH
Non-voice-based web search provides good lessons for marketers building out for voice search, according to Hall. “You want to build out for brand utterances.”
Cliff Bridges, a faculty member in Walden University’s BS in Communications program, also emphasizes updating company websites so search engines will recognize them as authorities when receiving queries. “It follows the same principles. You need to think of keywords and phrases in all phases of your marketing communications. You need to use the same keywords over and over again in your messaging. Huge global companies invest a lot in name recognition of their products.”
To produce answers that will be picked up by smart speakers, marketers should include content in featured snippets, according to Hall, who says content needs to be in the top 10 of search engine results page (SERP) rankings on Google and Bing to help ensure that the companies are selected as answers by voice assistants.
“Voice search uses the same dataset as a digital query,” agrees Cody Bender, chief product officer at Campaign Monitor.
While consumers universally understand that web search is available for nearly all companies, voice search is still a relatively new technology, Bridges adds.
Therefore, it’s important to inform prospects and customers about the availability of voice search, according to Bridges. “Otherwise, people may not think of it.”
Financial services companies with voice search capabilities have embraced this strategy, typically informing callers they can use voice search—and also use voice biometrics for identity verification—to find account balances, etc.
Then it’s important for companies to build their voice response capabilities with depth as well as breadth, Hall states. Once a consumer receives an answer to a search for engagement rings, he might ask additional follow-up questions, like which ones are conflict-free or which are priced under $10,000. Companies want to be able to respond to as many queries as possible.
Hall recommends that companies actively capture query details, using data to inform their larger voice SEO strategies.
Owens also notes that “five star” and similar rating scales are increasingly important with voice search because consumers will likely only consider the top recommendation rather than going through a full list of options. This differs from visual search, where the search engines typically produce pages and pages of results.
“It’s all about providing simplicity for the customer,” Owens says. “Voice search makes sense for everyday use. Voice technology has grown faster than other technologies. People want to have the opportunity to interact with your company.”
Beyond building out keywords, phrases, and similar details that might be used as part of utterances in voice search, marketers can also simply pay for the best positioning for voice search, Bridges adds.
The voice search technology is especially important for marketers seeking to target younger users because they are more likely to search by voice than by other methods, according to Bender. “Some use it frequently. They like the novelty.”
But that novelty is wearing off as more voice-powered devices enter the home and car and as artificial intelligence technologies like natural language processing and machine learning continue to advance, Bender adds. “Voice search doesn’t raise an eyebrow anymore. Marketers need to turn voice into part of their strategy.”
But the Campaign Monitor research also showed that more than a quarter (27.7 percent) of consumers have never used voice search. So some small businesses, especially those with small digital footprints, likely will benefit little from voice search development efforts.
The companies that will benefit the most understand that they need to cast a wide net to catch all of the ways that people access voice search now and in the future.
Marketers also need to ensure that their voice search responses match up with the speech patterns and variations in tone, pitch, volume, etc., that come into play when people ask questions vocally. Some will speak slowly, others quickly, others with a variety of accents or dialects. When companies can respond to a wider variety of speech patterns accurately without asking for repetition, they are better positioned in the search results as well. Prospects and customers are, naturally, going to be frustrated by voice responses that provide inaccurate information, ask them to repeat something, or fail to understand the query and have to forward the request to a live agent.