An Organic Perspective to Voice Search Planning

Why You Need to Prepare For a Voice Search RevolutionThe Voice Playbook: Building a Marketing Plan for the Next Era in Computing, Why Voice Search is Vital to Your SEO Marketing in 2018, etc.– we have all seen the headlines and we don’t need to be convinced that voice search is here to stay.

With voice search popularity soaring, it’s not a question of whether you need to begin incorporating voice strategy into your business, but more a question of the best way in which to incorporate that strategy.

Similar to the introduction of a mobile website and adopting in stride with your consumer, voice search needs to be thought about in the same way. If your target customer has a high adoption rate for voice searches, then a savvier approach to voice might be necessary (creation of apps, partnerships with IAs), but for the most part, reinforcing common SEO best practices like adjustments to your keyword choices, creating robust FAQ content, incorporating structured data and optimizing for page speed and mobile friendliness will be your best bet in tackling the voice arena at this point in time. Search engines are already fighting to take advantage of the voice market, so rest assured if you are optimized for them, they will make sure to find a place for you in the arena.

No one can deny the opportunity that is out there, but depending on your level of investment and stake in the marketplace, determining how to approach voice strategy is a challenging one. By characterizing voice search in three stages, we can begin to see what tactical steps are necessary for success at any maturity level. 

Stage 1: Voice Search Foundation

Being present in voice search means that you need your brand to rank for Featured Snippets and Quick Answers (or of course own a local listing). And similarly to organic rankings, this is an earned position that requires much of the same level of effort. Google reports that 20% of mobile queries are now voice search, so directionally we understand that in order to rank in position zero, your site needs to be technically sound (content indexable/well designed) and mobile friendly. 

It is always very important a mobile site loads quickly which makes page speed an integral part of the mobile first index. Voice search results come from websites that have on average 4.6 seconds loading speed which is 52% faster than the average. Leveraging structured markup will also allow the engines to more accurately interpret your content. At the very least, consider adding question “@type” schema. So, if as an example, a brand wants to participate in voice search, but their page speed rating leaves something to be desired, investment would be much better spend focusing on page speed optimizations first.

Increase Performance in Voice Search

Stage 2: Content Planning

With the natural influx in long tail queries (due to conversational search), when conducting keyword research, regularly consulting tools like Answer the Public will give brands a much better understanding of the types of questions people are asking. But don’t be discouraged by zero search volume terms. At least 15% of searches have never been seen before, particularly when talking about voice commands. I mean, how many times have you asked a question to your digital assistant and they couldn’t return an answer? Probably plenty of times. When thinking about the types of questions to build content around, search volume alone should not determine your willingness to move forward. Carefully consider your audience and how you can provide a unique and highly relevant perspective on the answer. When we think of the possible questions related to our brand, we can then determine the degree of intent – from interest to ready to act. In addition to the “who, what, when, why, where and how” questions, consider content around certain trigger words like “top rated,” “buy,” “compare,” or “near me.” Plain and simple, if you have brick and mortar locations, local landing pages and listing pages are a necessity as we know that there is a high affinity for “find a store” voice commands.

When producing new content, prioritize the answer content at the top of the page. Try to answer the questions clearly and concisely with a couple of sentences. Where possible, include a relevant image and support the answer with long form content aiming for 2,000 words. If you are struggling to write the additional content, check out the “People Also Ask” questions from Google – it will be a strong indicator on your customer’s natural user journey and what they are expecting from the content.

Please keep in mind that creating new content is not always the best solution and if not thoughtfully approached, can cause some internal cannibalization of your existing content. There are always opportunities to reassess your current content and re-optimize with a voice specific framework in mind. 

Stage 3: Automated Action Planning

Today people are largely using voice search to find a location, make a purchase or to research something they want to buy. But interestingly, most apps today are not about direct sales at all, but just getting people to interact with their brand. If you are ready to make the plunge, consider actions that customers could use to accomplish easy tasks. For example, TD Ameritrade has a skill that lets you check “US traded stocks, ETFs, mutual funds and major US indices by  asking “Alexa, ask TD Ameritrade for the price of Google.” Or even more complicated ones—Kayak helps you do research for a future trip by asking questions like “Alexa, ask Kayak where I can go for $600” or “Alexa, ask Kayak to search for flights from Boston to Barcelona.”

Are there quick solutions that your product and service can provide; what do users type in your websites internal search and can that be delivered in an automated fashion? Or get creative. If you’re a women’s clothing brand, can you create a partnership with a styling app to be integrated in their seasonal brand choices and recommendations? And lastly, if you are going to make the investment in creating an automated action, take the time to create a dedicated landing page (or multiple) on your website to walk through the functionality of your application. This is a huge miss that we see time and time again. Your most loyal customers are already on your website, so make sure to close the gap and create a streamlined approach. 

So this all begs the question: which of these stages should your brand embrace?

Deciding how to incorporate voice search into your brand strategy is no easy task. There has been a shift in how marketing teams are being structured and organized around these new technologies. Conversational brand engagement teams, content and owned media strategists and AI developers are now being incorporated into marketing teams. These roles allow us to think more holistically about our digital strategy and fill the traditional void in our content approach. Use this knowledge to your advantage to help you determine the best place to start and the most important stage to focus on when it comes to voice search. Because at the end of the day, getting the right people a seat at the table will make all the difference for your brands success in the race to win voice.