By Chris Paradiso
THE HANDS-FREE DIGITAL WORLD
Consumers are adapting to the new environment—are you?
Consumers and prospects are continuing to shift toward a hands-free digital world. Most mobile devices are being released with artificial intelligence (AI) technology that allows us to search with our voices rather than typing.
Voice searches are conducted differently from their text-based counterparts. When making a voice search, instead of using specific keywords we use natural language as we do when speaking to another person. As a result, search engine optimization (SEO) is changing to adapt to voice searches. It’s important to understand how voice searches will affect SEO and change how websites rank in Google search results.
A recent Google survey of over 2,000 people showed that nearly 28% use their voice to search the Internet at least twice a week. Approximately 21.9% use voice search daily, and this percentage is expected to grow as artificial intelligence technology continues to advance.
Voice search is an easier, quicker, and safer way to search while on the go or performing routine tasks.
Why is the use of voice search growing so dramatically? First, voice search is an easier, quicker, and safer way to search while users are on the go or performing routine tasks. Another reason is that all smart devices today can search by voice, including phones, desktop computers, Alexa, and other smart home devices.
Although the use of voice search is growing, that doesn’t mean that text-based commands will just disappear tomorrow. It does mean that digital marketers must adapt to this new trend. SEO as we know it today will change, so let’s explore how it will change.
Query Length. Text-based searches normally are two or three words long, whereas voice-activated commands average seven to eight words. These more natural, conversational searches are referred to as “long-tail” searches on Google and other search engines. With this fact in mind, natural language keywords may be the next big thing to hit the world of SEO.
Question-Based Searches. A voice search command is usually in the form of a question. A typed query would read “Content marketing and SEO” whereas a voice search would say “How will content marketing affect SEO?” This means it’s essential to consider keywords in question form as part of your agency’s content strategy.
Clear Intent. A voice search in the form of a question reveals the user’s level of intent. This generates valuable data for you as a marketer because you can identify these high-value questions and optimize your content accordingly. Using natural language in these circumstances is vital as the more closely your keywords match the consumer’s query, the higher your agency’s website will rank on search engines.
There are some issues or problems you and your agency may encounter as you adapt to the increasing use of voice search.
Because voice search queries are typically in the form of questions, your agency’s content must aim to answer these questions accurately. You must identify the specific and complex insurance questions that require more than a yes or no answer. To build website traffic, you need to give answers to the questions that machines cannot generate.
With Google becoming increasingly intelligent on a daily basis, it’s now capable of interpreting a huge variety of voice searches. Voice search today can take spelling instructions, so you must ensure that every word of your content, especially keywords and branding messages, is spelled correctly.
In addition, voice search now can interpret queries based on context. This means that it’s more important than ever to paint a bigger picture when creating your content. Make sure your agency’s strategy incorporates natural language and question keywords with slightly broader contextual ones that also can rank on search engines.
Finally, location-location-location is at the forefront of voice search SEO. With voice search now able to produce results based on geolocation, your online business listings must be up to date, consistent, and match perfectly. The slightest difference between listings could lower your agency’s search rank.
How to adapt
Voice search is here to stay, and it will continue to grow and improve. Machine learning and artificial intelligence technology are advancing at an exponential rate, and that means we need to optimize our SEO strategies for voice search today—not tomorrow or the next day but today!
The million-dollar question is “How?” If you’ve read my columns or heard me speak, you know that content is king. You may be thinking, “I already create a lot of great content,” but it now needs to be written in a more conversational tone to answer specific questions from consumers and prospects.
It’s important to understand that people who type a query into a search engine and people who issue a voice command are often looking for very different things. With text-based commands or queries, the user likely is willing to conduct further research into the query. With voice searches, the user is looking for an answer quickly. Your agency’s content must appeal to both kinds of searchers.
Here are some tips to help you and your agency adapt:
- Focus on long-tail keywords. When you do your keyword research, you need to focus on short phrases that are in the form of conversational questions, commands, and queries. You must invest time to find out what specific wording your agency’s audience is using to find companies like yours in your area. You also need to focus on queries that solve a specific problem your customers may be facing. You must be able to answer complex questions that a machine cannot.
- Capitalize on schema markup. Now is the time to learn about schema markup because it will help you provide context to your existing content. Schema markup is code that you can place on your website to help search engines return more informative results to their users. Also, schema will help search engines understand what your agency’s website is about, thus improving your SEO and giving your website a higher ranking than other agency sites. Your web developer or website manager can explain how to implement schema markup.
- Make sure published data matches. Directions to your agency, its hours of operation, and every other detail of your business must be up to date and match on every platform you’re listed on. This is the kind of information mobile and voice search users are often looking for, and if it’s wrong, Google could lower your ranking because of the inconsistent data.
- Your agency must be mobile friendly. If your agency website is slow, if it doesn’t load correctly, or if it isn’t optimized for smartphone users, it’s likely that prospects or consumers who land on it will leave right away. You must optimize your online platform for Mac, Windows, and Android, as well as across smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers.
The consumer is quickly adapting to the digital world. Will your agency adapt to meet today’s hands-free demands?
Chris Paradiso is president of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services, headquartered in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. His agency won PIA National’s Excellence in Social Media Award in 2013. He also heads up Paradiso Presents, LLC, which provides social media consulting, seminars and workshops to help agencies thrive in the online marketing world. Contact Chris via email at email@example.com