Do you need a voice optimization strategy for your brand? In this article, you’ll learn:

  • The prevalence of voice search queries continues to rise
  • Whether or not enterprise marketers should buy into the hype and develop a voice search strategy
  • Existing local SEO tactics overlap improving voice search optimization
  • Long form custom content is paramount for better voice search visibility

While voice recognition technology has been around for decades, it finally reached mainstream consumers in 2011 when Apple’s Siri became a standard iPhone feature. Today, the install base for Siri devices includes over 500 million users. Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are not far behind, with over 100 million and 400 million users, respectively. Google currently reigns over them all, however, with an install base of over 1 billion. Clearly, voice assistants are here to stay. This increasing user base across platforms has driven many analysts to speculate over the implications of voice searches for all industries.

The more accurate and prevalent these assistants become, the more users will turn to them to find recipes, showtimes, directions and everything else. This means enterprise brands must pay close attention to how voice assistants gather information from online sources and relay answers to their users. After all, you want Alexa, Cortana, Siri and/or Google to prioritize your business above the rest.

So, how can you position your brand in such a way that these voice assistants go to you first? As it turns out, improving your current local SEO strategy plays a major role in optimizing your brand for voice recognition technology. In other words, much of what you are already doing to improve your brand’s online visibility also applies to voice search optimization. This raises some questions, then: is all the hype and speculation surrounding voice search optimization warranted? And does the growing pervasiveness of this technology mean that enterprise brands must incorporate new strategies moving forward?

How People Use Voice Assistants

To begin unpacking these questions, it helps to understand how voice assistants are most commonly used today. Generally speaking, voice queries are informational, not transactional. People mostly use their devices to ask questions, not make direct purchases (there are some exceptions, of course, such as re-ordering previously purchased products using Amazon’s Alexa). Of course, most non-voice searches work the same way. Whether typing or speaking, consumers often begin a search with “where,” “what,” “how to,” “when” or “who.” Voice assistants are also commonly used for local searches as people often want to quickly find products and services close to them (“near me”).

If you manage a multi-location brand, you must focus on boosting your local online presence to compete with smaller, Main Street businesses by employing both local and organic SEO strategies. Typical local SEO best practices that play a role in determining these results include position 0 ranking, maintaining accurate online listings, and providing relevant localized content. These practices should be in concert with organic SEO techniques like increasing page speed and security and increasing backlinks.

Of course, you are probably already doing all of these things. So, what makes optimizing for voice searches different than regular SEO practices?

Developing a Content Strategy for Voice Search Optimization

Customized content, while also crucial for improving standard SEO, might have the strongest influence on determining voice optimization results (read our POV: “7 Types of Content You Need in a Voice Search World”). The main difference between text and voice searches has to do with how we speak. Users tend to talk to their voice assistants much like they would speak to another human being. Likewise, voice assistants are built to respond conversationally. In other words, they will typically prioritize results that can reply in easily readable, conversational sentences. In general, voice search queries are long-tail keywords (phrases that exceed 3 or more words). Knowing this, you should create content that anticipates customer queries and answers them in a concise, conversational manner.  

One recommended way to develop relevant long-form content is to add FAQ pages to your site or including a Q&A schema markup to relevant posts. These question-answer formats do more than just increase social engagement, but also lend themselves well to voice searches since users often ask their assistant specific questions. When writing this content, brands should also focus on long-tail search queries to target more industry-specific searches. Additionally, though still in Beta and only available for news outlets, Google’s Speakable schema aims to identify optimal portions of webpages for audio playback.

Not only should your content be more conversational — it should also be more locally relevant since users are often seeking local brands. Including local terms frequently and organically in your content will help your brand appear more often in voice queries.

Voice Optimization: Is it All Talk?

Considering how ubiquitous and useful voice assistants have become, there is no denying that brands should focus on voice optimization. However, this focus might not be as big of a shift as some early analysts predicted.

As of now, voice search results largely depend upon the same local and organic SEO strategies to boost brand visibility marketers have been refining for years. If you want to better optimize your brand for voice recognition technology, continue to improve your SEO, putting even more effort into creating custom, conversational content. Anticipate industry-related questions and come up with answers that are best suited for voice assistant devices. And, of course, keep all your listings and Google My Business pages up to date so local consumers can easily find your business.

Actionable takeaways:

  1. Add FAQ and Q&A scheme markup to relevant posts.
  2. Focus on long-tail search queries to target more industry-specific searches.
  3. Use conversational and locally relevant language.

Want to learn more about optimizing for voice search?

Download your free whitepaper with actionable takeaways and tips from MindMeld, iProspect and Rio SEO: Local SEO Strategies to Capitalize on Voice Search