The use of voice search interfaces, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and OK Google, are increasing in popularity. According to Location World, more than 40% of adults used voice-based search on a daily basis in 2016 and predictions by ComScore estimate that by 2020 more than 50 percent of searches will be voice-based.
So how do small businesses start to prepare and optimise their business for voice search? The key is to ensure you have solid technical and search-optimised foundations in your current web platform, allowing you to build upon them to optimise the growth that voice search will bring. Here are 3 key tips which will be crucial to nailing those all-important foundations.
Ensure your website is focused on the ‘long tail’.
It’s wonderful to deal with keywords that have 5,000 searches a day, but in reality, these popular search terms actually make up less than 30% of the searches performed on the web. The vast majority of searches lie in what’s called the “long tail” of search. The long tail contains hundreds of millions of niche and separate search terms that might be conducted only a few times in any given day, but, when taken together, comprise the majority of the world’s search volume.
Try to focus your website upon long tail keywords. Questions are particularly effective because they tend to convert better as they catch people later in the buying/conversion cycle. For example, someone conducting a voice search for “where can I get an American Hot pizza delivered to me?” practically has their wallet out! People are also more likely to conduct a voice search using a conversational pattern of speech; it’s just a more natural use of our voice to ask a full question, rather than barking out single words.
However, it’s difficult to focus on search terms that are, by their definition, niche and often slightly obscure. Consider investing in expert copywriters who are experienced in writing copy that represents a business, whilst also ensuring that it contains the keywords and questions which potential customers may use when searching for a business. Having this sort of specialist support can pay dividends when it comes to optimising your site for voice search opportunities.
Use Schema.org markup to provide structured data
Structured data, contained within or ‘behind’ the cosmetic look and feel of the website, helps search engines to understand and be confident about the exact nature of the content on your pages. Unlike a textual search, the multiple results of which are presented in a manner that allows further refinement of the results, voice search tends to deliver a single result. Therefore, structured data will help to differentiate your website from others, and improve your voice search results.
Schema.org markup is one such tool designed to help you optimise for voice search. It is widely used, having been developed by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex as a universal vocabulary to help search engines interpret webpages. Implementing structured data often results in increased click-through rates, drives traffic, and brings you competitive advantages as well as helping you get recognised as an authentic site to feed voice results.
Don’t just optimise for Google
Although Google is the most widely used search engine, it’s important to not put all your eggs in one basket and to ensure that your site is optimised for other search engines and voice platforms.
- Set up a Bing ‘places for business’ profile – this is free and easy to do and requires little effort to maintain in addition to your Google MyBusiness profile. This will also give you a presence on Bing Maps, which is the default for local searches carried out through Amazon’s Alexa.
- Optimise your Apple Maps listing – Create a business listing on Apple Maps to ensure that you show up in local searches made through Siri, whose results are drawn from Apple Maps by default.
- Utilise Bings SEO tools – Just as Google has webmaster guidelines and tools, so does Bing. Bing’s webmaster guidelines will help you get to grips on how Bing approaches search, and check for individual points of difference in treating search results.
Start to plan now
The increasing popularity of voice search means that it’s a trend that businesses can ill-afford to ignore. However the technical challenge and extra level of detail required to optimise your website for voice search requires both sound technical foundations and carefully crafted copy. But if you agree that it’s worth paying attention to the opportunities that voice search offers, don’t despair. There are tools such as schema.org that can really help, but you may feel that when it comes to requiring an extra level of support, it’s worth investing in some external help. That way, you ensure that your website is able to enter into a lively conversation with your prospective customers, and not talk quietly to itself in a forgotten corner.
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