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Hey Alexa, How Do I Optimize for Voice Search?

Part one of this blog series covered How to Get Started with Search Engine Marketing. Part two covered 5 Ways to Improve Your Website Visibility and Paid Search Performance. Now we are going to dig a little deeper into a new avenue of search, Voice Search, and how to optimize your website for it.

Voice is quickly becoming the search method of choice as more and more consumers turn to the conveniences of screenless devices. The growing popularity of digital assistants, smart home speakers, wearables and other connected things signals a shift in consumer behavior and new opportunity for businesses and marketers alike. How can marketers take advantage of this growing trend and ensure a presence across this next generation of voice-powered devices? Voice optimization (VO) will become a critical new tool for marketers as they navigate through unchartered waters.

I had a great discussion recently with Willy DeVolls, Content Strategist and UX Writer at Google, about the future of content development. We discussed the linguistic differences between the spoken and written word. The trends are clear. Search queries are becoming more conversational in nature – query lengths are longer and frequently include a question word. This doesn’t necessarily mean that businesses should take an entirely different approach to content development though.

The search engines have always preferred content that uses natural language, is descriptive and offers high value to the end user, over content written to try to get better rankings in the search engines. In fact, these tenets are more important than ever as digital assistants will only be able to select the most relevant content to share through singular voice responses.

Here are some ways that marketers can begin to prepare their content for the new world of voice search:

Ask Questions

Ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. Filter your content through the lens of a voice searcher and determine which questions your product beckons. What top questions do your current customers ask you? Can you figure out your customer’s intent based on the types of questions they ask?

Start by analyzing your search query report to see if you can find the existing keywords driven from voice search today. They should be easy to spot as they are longer, conversational in nature and often include question words.

In Paid Search, Leverage Match Types

When selecting match types, it helps to think of fishing. You can catch more fish with a net than with a pole. Broad match is your net. Exact match is your pole. It will be harder to capture a longer, conversational keyword with exact match. In order to capture more voice searches, it will be helpful to err on the side of broad and phrase matches. Here are the 3 match types:

  • Exact Match: the most targeted match in which you are specifying the exact words you are expecting consumers to say.
  • Phrase Match: allows you to specify the word order, but will still capture the main phrases.
  • Broad Match: wide net, think of the question related words and how it matches to intent.

Don’t Sell, Solve

What challenges does your product help to solve? For instance, voice searchers that ask, “How do I fix a broken baby exosaucer?” may be the ideal consumer for your new line of sturdy baby exosaucers. In my case a few weeks ago the leg to my baby’s exosaucer broke and I was trying to determine if I could fix it or if I needed to buy a brand new product.

Think of real people with real problems and real questions. Become a trusted source. Many sites that rank high on voice queries are forums and FAQs. Why? Because the content written by the members has a conversational language tone. This doesn’t mean that you should update all of your site content to be a FAQ format. It means that you want to understand your customers issues, their needs and wants, and develop content that helps them resolve their problems.

Obsess Over NAP

NAP (Name, Address, Phone) are essential elements to ensure that digital assistants understand your content and can utter it back to interested searchers. Create business accounts in both Google and Bing and make sure all information is up-to-date and accurate. Use tools, like Moz Local, to check your listings regularly and submit updates if you find old or incorrect information. Finally, think about schema mark-up and page structure so that digital assistants can easily navigate and speak your content.

The voice landscape powered by digital assistants it just beginning to unfold. Read my whitepaper on how businesses that embrace the latest technology and establish their voice content early will win favor with digital assistants. Right now your customers are conducting voice searches on your brand – are you ready to respond?

Christi Olson

Contributed By: Christi Olson

Christi (@ChristiJOlson) is a Search Evangelist at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington. For over a decade Christi has been a student and practitioner of Search Engine Marketing; living and breathing through the evolution of the search updates (both organic and paid) that have kept us on our toes and adjusting our digital strategies.


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