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With increasing numbers of voice-activated products hitting the market, and continuing improvements to the sophistication and flexibility of virtual assistants, voice search has become more of a norm than a novelty. In fact, a prediction from ComScore suggests that by 2020 voice search could account for as much as 50 percent of all search queries.

It's easy to see why. After all, the increasingly mobile consumer naturally leans towards the easiest and most accessible means of consuming content and navigating the internet. Voice search caters to that need perfectly, removing most of the manual input from conducting a search, and relying only on the software’s ability to interpret the speaker’s request.

With the increasing demand for voice-activation, have you made plans for integrating this functionality into your business applications? Whether you want to improve the accessibility of your website, or simply ensure that your brand is easily found by voice search queries, here are a few points to keep in mind as you optimize your business for a voice-activated future.

Easier, faster and more responsive than ever

In the early days of voice search, it could often be challenging to accurately convey your meaning. This meant a successful search could often require several attempts, which ultimately resulted in the process being more cumbersome than simply typing your query.

Naturally, voice search technology has progressed significantly in recent years, and the power of today’s speech recognition and intelligent search functionality has made voice search not only viable but immensely popular.

In addition to the leading ladies of virtual assistance — Cortana, Alexa, and Siri — there are a number of high-powered applications that enable users to conduct searches using natural, conversational language. For example, SoundHound’s Hound app, released in 2016, relies on a back-end ‘speech to meaning’ technology that aims to translate meaning more directly than leaders in the field such as Amazon and Google.

By cutting out a step in the translation process, Hound is able to deliver rapid and accurate responses to surprisingly complex queries. Furthermore, fewer steps mean fewer opportunities for errors to creep into the translation.

Rethink your SEO strategy

Advances in machine learning have enabled voice search to move beyond simple query analysis and database searches, to a level where deeper meaning can be inferred from the user’s question. The advent of Google’s Hummingbird update was a turning point for voice search, opening the door to a multiplicity of NLP technologies.

Yet this was only the beginning, as voice search algorithms are continuously improving, and developing a more comprehensive understanding of complex semantics and contextual relevance. For example, the query “How’s the weather?” implies both “now” and “in my area”. This type of inference has tremendous implications, especially in the realms of ecommerce and online marketing.

This is because voice search works well with long-tail keywords, as these phrases are far more likely to be used in a natural language query. In addition, as voice searches can be integrated with GPS data, users are even more likely to discover your business if it is local to them at the time of their search.

However, as with all aspects of SEO, this won’t simply happen on its own. You will need to optimize your content for voice search, reevaluate your target keywords, and take the time to flesh out your entries in online business directories, such as Yelp. Remember, even the best search engine can only return information that is available for it to find, so the more comprehensive and carefully structured your business details are, the more valuable and useful the results will be to searchers.

Target Google Answer boxes

You may have noticed the box that appears above all other search results, even advertisements when you conduct a Google search. This is an Answer Box and is intended to provide users with an immediate, concise answer to their query.

Naturally, this is an extremely valuable position to occupy, and ranking well enough to occupy the answer box for your chosen keywords can give your business a significant boost in both its visibility and reputation.

To efficiently target these spaces, you will need to answer a question clearly and directly, so Google’s crawlers can not only detect your answer, but also determine it to be the best, and most straightforward response to that particular query.

Keep in mind that this content still needs to be relevant to your site as a whole, and be sure to base your chosen query around the specific niche and associated keywords that you are targeting for your website as a whole.

Enable on-site voice search

Building your content for voice search adds an extra level of accessibility to your website. And as we have already discussed, the more intuitive and streamlined your services are, the more likely it is that you will make a good impression on site visitors, and convince them to engage with your brand.

The same applies to your business applications, as these are typically used on mobile devices where users are even more likely to carry out tasks using voice commands. Furthermore, the ability to browse your content efficiently in this manner means users are more likely to rely on your website or application than that of a competitor without similar functionality.

This comes into its own within an online store, as it enables customers to quickly navigate your website, browse products, and find out key information which may influence their purchase.

There are many factors to consider when optimizing your marketing approach for voice search, and the same solutions simply won’t do for everyone. Nevertheless, the steps above are a great place to start and should put you firmly on the path towards a future-friendly business strategy.

As with any adaptations to your business plan, it is important to highlight the areas that are most relevant to your brand and its ongoing aspirations. Consider the needs of your business and its customers, and focus your efforts on those areas first. This might mean implementing voice search functionality on your website or even developing a voice-enabled business app.

Adapting your website for voice search may be a time-consuming endeavor, but it is certainly worth the investment. Ultimately, this functionality will become an expectation, rather than a perk, and embracing it now will remind your customers that you are up to speed with the latest technology, and keen to use it to improve their experience.