By Witzel (L.A.) - Peter Milne, Motion Picture Directing; The Facts and Theories of the Newest Art, Falk Publishing Co., New York, 1922, on the Internet Archive, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33029715

February 15, 2018: The “10 blue links paradigm” traditionally used by search engines is being augmented by a new model in which users speak commands, questions, and queries to smart devices that understand their speech and can respond intelligently to their queries. Voice search-capable devices include smart phones equipped with software from Google or Apple, and smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo and Alexa. Currently there are estimated to be at least half a billion devices capable of supporting this new kind of search, and the number is growing rapidly as smart, voice search-capable speakers march into the home.

If your websites are already optimized for Hummingbird, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel for Voice Search.

As a digital marketer you probably are wondering what this evolution means to you, your websites, or your clients’ web sites. So here’s a quick guide to getting ready for voice search:

1. Search for yourself (and your competitors) using a voice search-capable device. You’ve probably done extensive research on how your competitors are ranking for business-driving keywords on desktop SERPs. But how are they ranking on mobile devices using simple conversational queries? Researching their visibility (or lack thereof) for a variety of conversational queries can give you valuable insight into what you must do to rank with your own content.

2. Build on what you have. The advent of voice search doesn’t mean re-building your web properties from scratch. If you’re already adhering to good SEO practices, especially in relation to optimizing your site for Hummingbird, Google’s 2013 algorithm update, and in terms of your site being mobile-friendly, you’ll be in a good position to exploit voice search. Hummingbird, as you’ll recall, represented a major advance for Google in terms of being able to better able to understand the implicit meaning of the kind of short-string queries typically made from mobile devices, including voice queries. So if your properties are already optimized for Hummingbird, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel for Voice Search.

3. Create “conversational content.” Try to put yourself in a voice searcher’s shoes in terms of how he/she might phrase a spoken query for which you hope to be relevant. Create content that’s likely to rank for such specific conversational queries. A site such as answerthepublic.com provides an excellent tool for creating conversational content focusing on the operators Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Use the results to create one or more FAQs about your company and its products. These FAQs can exists as pages on your site, or even blog pages – the important thing is that they’re spiderable. Alternately, pose as a reporter and interview some of the people who make your organization tick. Obviously, your CEO and other C-suite personnel can be sources for these interviews, but don’t stop there. People with deep, granular knowledge of the mechanics of your company’s products, e.g. your CTO, head of operations, Chief Engineer, and other detail-aware people can be great sources for generating data-rich, conversational content.

4. Create local content. “Near me” searches (“pizza near me,” “plumbers near me,” “ad agencies on Long Island” etc.) use geography (of both the user and sites eligible for listing) as a filter and they’re growing more than 100 percent per year. So it’s key that Google have accurate and specific knowledge about where exactly you are. This process begins with making sure that your location(s) is correctly entered and verified via Google My Business, but don’t stop there. Create a body of original content focused on your location: its landmarks, community resources, and history that makes it clear that your local roots are deep.

5. Work on site speed and access. Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm update of 2015 put site proprietors on notice that performance – especially on mobile devices – was a key ranking factor, and that’s doubly true in the era of voice search. Technical optimization is never fun (especially if it means upgrading your ISP, hosting provider, or server hardware), but you can’t afford to have your site suffer from poorly-optimized Javascript, CSS, or caching issues.

Typed queries will be with us for some time ahead. But voice-powered search query volume is growing rapidly. According to Comscore, by 2020, 50 percent of all searches performed will be voice searches. That’s why it’s important for you to take steps – right now – to make sure that your business site has a fair chance achieving visibility (and audibility) in the voice query stream.

Steve Baldwin
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Steve Baldwin

Editor-in-Chief at Didit
Steve Baldwin writes and edits technology content. He lives in Brooklyn and, once a month, conducts free wild parrot safaris there. For more info, see: BrooklynParrots.com.
Steve Baldwin
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