How to Properly Champion the Voice Search Movement

If you work in or around digital marketing, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard this latest buzzword. It, like any growing trend, has detractors. You’ll hear them refer to this as a “nonevent” and even chide other digital marketers who recommend updating your SEO and PPC strategy. When you consider the statistics, you’ll inevitably realize that voice search will have much significance in the years to come — preparation and strategy are a good marketer’s allies.

As technology further inundates our lives, people are more commonly working toward closing those generational disconnects. A clear indication of this effort can be seen in the number of people who use mobile personal assistants on their smartphones:

 

Chart of demographic statistics for using voice search

 

The typical smartphone user will speak naturally to the mobile assistant (Siri / Cortana / Amazon Echo / Alexa) in the form of a question in order to receive a coherent, relevant answer. It is our job, as marketers, to ensure that our company or our client(s) are recognized in the top results. This year, in fact, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that 20% of queries on its mobile app, as well as on Android devices, are actually voice searches.

(Side note: Amazon Alexa already allows users to order pizza from Domino’s or an Uber ride.)

Even more revealing is that Search Engine Land cited a report from MindMeld that found 60% of people surveyed said they only started using virtual assistants and voice search in the past 12 months.

Let’s connect the dots:

  1. A 2016 survey found that nearly two-thirds of people who use voice search and virtual assistants only started doing so in 2015.
  2. In 2015, Google had 20% of its total queries come from voice searches.

As the number of people transition to voice search, and become more comfortable with it, the more voice searches will be conducted — and the greater percentage of queries will come from this form of search.

Distinguishing Hype from Movement

Hype is a precursor to the unveiling of a product or event. It’s when people tout the capabilities or advantages before they are fully realized. It makes people fervent. And it can potentially be disastrous.

A movement is a demonstrable shift in the way people do something or a product works. It doesn’t presume to make this change; instead, the change occurs naturally as a result of myriad other factors.

Voice search is a movement. Few people expected it as a byproduct of what many people refer to as “Mobilegeddon.” It wasn’t something that caused unmitigated avidity for apps and digital marketing services — it just happened. And now we’re beginning to see the results of that movement.

Google’s Working Toward Making a Voice Search Metric

But if you’re still harboring some apprehension or tentative appreciation for voice search, consider this: Google anticipates that voice search will be so significant that Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller stated that the company has been attempting to find ways to show how people are finding pages through voice search via the Google Search Console.

Yes. Google sees the need to distinguish traffic yielded from voice search just as it does for mobile versus desktop.

That begs the question: How has optimizing your website to be a dynamic, mobile-friendly site worked for you?

The answer should be simple: it’s very likely been bloody fantastic — caveat: if you did things the correct way. Google reported in May of 2015 that mobile searches officially outpaced those performed on desktop.

And while Google continues to see traffic increases on mobile and works diligently toward an actual metric for analyzing how much traffic — and the quality of traffic — that comes from this source, it has also refined its voice search capabilities. Google’s speech error rate is down to 8%, which is a significant drop from the 25% error rate people experienced just two years ago.

So, how can you champion voice search without sacrificing your digital marketing content writing formula that’s already working?

The truth is that, if you have a good content formula, you likely incorporate a lot of these strategies already. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll list five ways you can alter your content writing to leverage voice search without making your current formula obsolete — because that isn’t a necessity for success in this case.

In addition to these five tips, you’ll want to consider how competitive the keywords and phrases are. There are multiple ways to do this, even while on the SERPs pages, all with the help of just a simple toolbar plugin.

You’ll also want to consider local search. If you cannot win on a general phrase, you may want to consider adding GEOs or phrasing like “near me” to complete the query. In that way, you might not win the term on a national level, but you’ll dominate it as a local search.

ANSWER THE USER’S QUERY (INTENT)

In the Digital Marketing Calendar, it’s the year of the long-tail. You don’t have to disregard keywords, and you don’t need to focus on single, narrow questions. Your content strategy should be a commingling of these: the fusion of taking a question and adding some short-tail and long-tail phrases to it that give a comprehensive picture of what you’re trying to answer and accomplish.

Use these steps:

  1. What’s the essential question being asked?
  2. Are there additional terms and phrases that can make my answer more robust?
  3. If I were asking this question, does my newly written content give the answer I’d want?

Be succinct and direct. By succinct, I don’t mean as short and shallow as possible. I mean that you should write so that each word has significance. You shouldn’t spend time padding it with fluff.

GUIDE THE USER DOWN THE SALES FUNNEL (CONVERSION)

Not every piece of content you write needs to be an overt sales pitch. You should consider where the consumer is in the buying process with the query he or she is posing. Are you appropriately addressing what this person wants to know while also recognizing opportunities to introduce more unique content of yours that could turn this user into a purchaser and, ideally, a brand loyalist?

A person who queries “What are the most common causes of headaches?” does not want to read a piece of content that talks about a clinic’s strategies to get rid of headaches; however, if you write a valuable piece of content that answers the question, the consumer isn’t going to be averse to a link with the anchor text, “Want to learn more about headache causes and treatments?

SPEAK THE USER’S LANGUAGE (VERNACULAR)

For clients who have only a local or regional presence, leveraging their area’s vernacular should be a strategy that you implement. The language in content should sound natural and familiar to the people reading it.

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, people say “Yinz” to indicate a number of people. Such as, “What are yinz doing tomorrow?”

In North Carolina, people would say something different to accomplish the same end: “What are y’all doing tomorrow?”

Same query — different dialect. While you don’t have to write “y’all” for Google to recognize whether or not your content is relevant to the query, it makes the content more user-friendly. Of course, always consider the client in mind, such as with the next step …

SPEAK TO THE USER, NOT IN GENERALITIES (AUDIENCE)

Joe’s Tots’n’Hogs (not a real business … I think) has a local presence and market in Texas (totally fabricated company). Joe could likely use some liveliness in the language on his website, paid search, and social media; whereas, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce needs a bit more rigidity and formality.

Vernacular should follow the same rule as speaking to the user: consider the audience. Don’t use informal language for a formal client, and vice versa. It’s a causal relationship with the client being the catalyst of the approach.

LEVERAGE THE 5 Ws

This is the most important facet of these tips, which, as you’ve likely realized, are all interconnected. They all work toward making you, or your client, appear as an authority to consumers — the user who’ll conduct the query.

You’ll want to leverage the who, what, where, when, and why.

Your answer, which addresses the intent and guides the user down the sales funnel with language that speaks to them in a way they can understand — while addresses as many of the Ws as possible.

That’s how voice search should influence your content writing strategy.