Date: 8th November 2018
I was delighted to attend the recent Leeds ‘Go Digital – Live!’ event (8th Oct) as a speaker on digital; it was a day full of value with a great line up of sector experts.
My presentation looked at how voice search will impact on business within the next three years.
As a champion and mentor for the Digital Knowledge Exchange Programme, and a tutor on digital courses, I am really interested in helping businesses to grow by embracing technology.
I was keen to explore this topic given that recent reports from ComScore predict that “voice searches will account for 50% of all searches by 2020.” More and more people are gaining access to these devices and realising the speed and convenience that they offer.
The current voice-search picture
According to tech company Alpine.Ai, over one billion voice searches now occur per month. Today, there are said to be over 50 million “voice-first” devices and hundreds of millions of voice-enabled devices globally.
These remarkable statistics are mostly due to the explosion in popularity of smartphones, mobile devices, and smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod over the last few years. In fact, Techcrunch reported that the Echo Dot was the best-selling product on Amazon during the 2017 festive season.
One issue with voice control has historically been about devices understanding accents and jargon, but the sophistication of voice-recognition systems now is improving the user experience.
Last year it was reported that Microsoft’s speech recognition had reached a significant milestone when their voice recognition software attained an error rate of 5.1% (equalling that of its human counterparts).
We, as a society, are learning how to use this new technology. Our language is evolving, from using specific keywords or merely adapting language or sentence syntax.
Usage varies significantly by demographic. For adults, one of the most popular situations for voice search is when driving or doing other activities like cooking; for the youth market, it can be about searching for online media, film, or music, or even researching homework!
All of this is having huge impacts on how industries reach and engage with people online. So how can businesses take advantage of this growing market?
Winning at voice search in business
First and foremost, it’s about reviewing your website’s search engine optimisation (SEO) as search-engine features have changed rapidly in recent years:
Position zero on Google
On Google, this is the featured snippet above the normal 1st place result position. It is this information that is likely to be picked up on a voice search first, so striving for this place is going to become increasingly more competitive.
There are different types of position zero formats, and these include paragraphs of text which make up 63% of featured snippets, but also lists (19%), and tables (16%). These allow the information to be branded, have images, and increase clicks.
Formatting web pages with SEO in mind can change how information is scooped up by Google, and lead to the coveted position zero which in turn becomes the key information lifted by voice search.
Web content and keywords
SEO is still about the basics, so remember to create great content. Useful, conversational words will have the most impact. Ensure your content is accessible to search engines, make your pages unique and relevant to the user, and make the content popular with readers.
Getting the right keywords into web pages is also still necessary for getting picked up in searches. Remember longer-tail keywords too. These are more specific keyword phrases that your audience are likely to use when seeking a particular product or service, and especially used in voice search, i.e. “Top Museums in London.”
Other suggestions include ensuring good reciprocal links to and from your website, giving and getting reviews of your product or business, and even adding an FAQs page. Although it may seem a little “old-school”, creating a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page may also bring with it more traffic to your website. Believe it or not, this can top Google searches!
A new trend in SEO is to utilise schema mark up. In essence, this is code added to your website that helps search engines return the best results, i.e. adding <h2> header code as a way to draw attention to pertinent information in searches. There are lots of different schema types, such as those linked to reviews, organisations, local business, e-commerce, events, recipes, jobs, or even news sites.
Optimise for a local audience
Approximately 22% of all voice search is for local information so remember to capture the “near me” searches by creating Google business pages, using local extensions in AdWords, or even adding local links from your website and try to get some in return. Another simple tip is to remember ‘intent.’ Spend time understanding the user and incorporate that into your content, so think about location, device, browsing history etc.
Now is the perfect time for businesses to think about their online and voice-search strategy, and spend time looking at ways to ready themselves for this search revolution!
To see my full article on ‘How Voice Search Will Impact on Business in the Next 3 Years’ and tips on how to tap into this!