Voice search: what you need to know and how to seize the opportunity

There’s a good chance that Christmas brought you or someone you know a Google Home. It was a hot product and the number of Australians with access to a smart speaker is sure to rise with Amazon’s Echo now launched and Apple’s soon to be released HomePod.

As we often do, we look to the United States for an indication of technological trends. In January, Techcrunch reported that one in six Americans now own a smart speaker.

This is how it plays out in my household in the morning:

Me: Hey Google, good morning
Google Home: Good morning, Quentin. The time is 6:42am….

It is a novelty, there’s no doubting that. But it doesn’t take a marketer long for the penny to drop and realise how big of a shift this device will play in the customer journey.

For example:

You: “Hey Google, can you tell me where the closest locksmith is…”
Google Home: “Lock, Smith & Barrel is in West Footscray and is 2kms away”

You then proceed to ask for their phone number.

Apart from thinking it wasn’t that long ago we were flipping through the Yellow Pages, it becomes apparent that you’re often only getting one result. Or, depending on the specific query, Google might give you two to three results.

Making sure you’re in those top selections is going to be crucial.

If you’re still sceptical (and I encourage you to question every developing trend), the voice search trend is not something to ignore. ComScore says that by 2020, “50 per cent of all searches will be voice searches”. Another report by MediaPost says that voice shopping “is already a $2 billion business and projected to grow to $40 billion within four years.”

So what do you need to know and do?

Whether you’re aware of the developments in Google’s SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) or not, there’s little doubt you’ve seen featured snippets.

They’re in the format of a list, an answer to a basic question or a paragraph. Snippets are where Google is pulling a lot of its answers for voice queries.

In fact, Backlinko studied 10,000 voice search results and found that 40.7 per cent of them came from a featured snippet.

But even more importantly, you want to rank highly for your search terms. The same study by Backlinko found that 75 per cent of voice results ranked in Google’s top 3 results.

That being said, you need to target featured snippets.

Other tips to improve your voice search visibility

1. Claim and optimise your Google My Business (GMB) listing
When a user is searching for local business info such as trading hours or a business “near me”, Google will look to its GMB data.

2. Improve your page speed
Google, Alexa and Apple need to ensure that their search experience is seamless. They can’t afford to be waiting on a slow website to feed them info. Google clearly favours faster websites according to Backlinko.

3. Secure your website
Backlinko found that 70.4 per cent of voice results are currently from https.

4. Ensure a great mobile experience
Voice search is not limited to smart speakers. It also includes smartphone voice assistants, so Google, Amazon and Apple will want to send you to a mobile-optimised website.

5. Understand User Intent and Improve Your Web Copy
You should already be doing this anyway, but in the context of voice search, you need to understand what people want to know and concisely provide that information to them. Voice assistants will favour short and concise over verbose. Think about your FAQs.

Quentin Aisbett, Digital Strategist, OnQ Marketing

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