For years, we’ve primarily discussed SEO as it relates to the written word. Most SEO focuses on typed keywords, and every marketer in the world wants to make sure their site is the first one to pop up when a given keyword is entered. But the new face of SEO might showcase something completely different – something that doesn’t involve typing at all.
Recent years have given rise to virtual assistants that reside in our everyday devices. Programs like Siri and Google Now have completely changed the way in which many people seek out information. Instead of going to a search engine and typing in a search query, users can now speak their desires. The numbers show that's exactly what they're doing; more than half of teenagers and adults use voice searching capabilities frequently, and those numbers are sure to grow even more in the future.
Now, phones have had text-to-speech technology for years. But its primitive forms were inconsistent at best, both in the quality of the speech recognition and in the format the technology used. Siri was the first virtual assistant that actually understood that people talked differently than they typed. As a result, iPhone and iPad users could submit their verbal queries in the form of a question, just as they’d do in an actual conversation. Not a company to be outdone, Google unveiled its Google Now virtual assistant shortly after Siri’s emergence.
While users are simply happy to get their information more easily and quickly than ever before, there’s a battle taking place on the other side of the equation. Programs like Siri and Google Now are specifically tailored to respond to verbally entered text, which means there’s potentially a whole new avenue for companies to get noticed. After all, virtual assistants have to get their information from somewhere. Why not figure out a way to game the voice response system?
Understanding Voice Inquiries
One thing to remember about virtual assistants is that they’re not always asked the same types of questions as your typical search engine. People might want to find out about your business, but they’re not looking for a lengthy blog about an industry topic. They just want basic information – business in the local area, their hours, and their contact information. If they want to read something, they’ll search for it on their home computers when they have free time. The virtual assistant landscape, then, is limited to only the most basic of queries.
And even within that domain, there are ways in which you can’t get Siri to point to your site. For example, Siri automatically defaults to Yelp for address information for local businesses. In other words, they’re not crawling the Web to find your location. But having said that, it’s in your interest to make sure your bases are covered around the Web. If your site’s information is not in Yelp, potential customers might just choose a more Siri-friendly option.
Using A Natural Voice
Marketers have been talking about writing for SEO purposes for so long that it seems foreign to deviate from this mindset in any way. However, that’s exactly what the virtual assistant revolution is asking you to do. You might have great writers generating content for your site, but that content won’t rate with Siri and Google Now if it’s not written in a natural, conversational manner.
Although you may be used to writing with SEO in mind, it might not be a bad idea to talk with SEO in mind. Verbally discuss the aims of your content. Identify sentences and phrases that link back to what people might search for, and include those very phrases in your copy. Approaching your content and your website copy in this way can have applications that go beyond assistant-based SEO. You may find that a more conversational tone can go a long way towards presenting a friendly face to new and current customers.
Selecting the Right Keywords
Long-tail keywords can be vitally helpful in terms of being found in local SEO-based instances. For example, “basketball shoes in nyc” is a much more powerful query from someone in your area than a more generic search for “basketball shoes.” When it comes to virtual assistants, the vast majority of marketing-based searches will be centered around location. Including your whereabouts in your SEO keywords is a great idea.
Again, you’ll want to choose keywords that are constructed in the way that they are spoken. In some cases, these will match the way someone would type that keyword into a search bar. Other times, the two will be totally different. Optimizing your keywords for virtual assistants is an ideal time to look into the user intent of the search. Figure out what someone would search for verbally, identify what information they’re looking for, and incorporate those keywords into your website copy.
Future-Proof Your Site
Every marketer has nightmares about the Google algorithm, which is an ever-changing set of rules Google uses to prioritize its search rankings. One little tweak can send an unprepared company’s pages plummeting down the rankings. And although Google hasn’t indicated that voice-unfriendly sites will be penalized in future algorithm updates, one can never rule out the possibility of such a change. Getting in on the ground floor can save you a lot of headaches down the road.
Virtual assistants will never fully replace text-based search engines. However, odds are good that voice-based searching will become even more popular in the years to come. Instead of feeling threatened by this change, it’s wise to see this phenomenon as an opportunity to get your company’s name heard early and often by people who use Siri and Google Now. It’s a great way to refine your search strategy and add a new element to your marketability.
Sudhir is Director, Acquisition Marketing at Movoto.com where he leads a team of traffic acquisition & web analytics experts. He is responsible for generating target audience traffic by leveraging "non paid media" strategies and tactics and by building synergies between SEO, Paid, Social, Content, PR, and user community. Prior to Movoto, Sudhir worked with BrightEdge, Adobe and EfficientFrontier in different roles responsible for lead generation, analytics and positioning the companies in their space. Sudhir is passionate about learning & execution of Customer Acquisition, Growth Hacking, Web Analytics, Conversion Rate Optimization and Lean & Scrappy Marketing. He is a Google Analytics certified professional, and holds a master’s in computer science from California State University, Chico. In his free time, Sudhir skis and likes to play volleyball.