Kyle is your regular 20-something Web Designer who just left the office for his lunch break. He glances at his watch, feeling confident that he has more than enough time to find a good place to eat. Man, he’s really in the mood for some enchiladas today.
Without a second thought, Kyle slips his Android phone out of his jean pocket. He clears his throat as he holds the microphone end a few inches from his mouth. “Okay Google,” his phone screen blinks, signaling that it’s ready to listen. Kyle continues, “Which Mexican restaurant near me has the best chicken enchiladas?”
Almost instantly, a list of results slide into view. He peers through the list, scans the reviews, and finally picks one. He sets the map to his destination and begins to walk. Kyle is now on his way to satisfy his craving for Mexican fare. However, what he doesn’t know is the restaurant he’s headed to is far from being the best at chicken enchiladas. The place he should be going to is a cozy little eatery called Charros. But Charros is a traditional joint that hasn’t optimized its online content for voice searches. So they didn’t appear in response to Kyle’s request. Another lost customer for Charros.
Kyle’s case is in no way unique. As more and more users adopt voice assistants on their phones and in their homes, voice searches will likely become the primary way to find information online. By 2020, there will be 200 billion voice search queries per month, according to Mary Meeker’s Voice Trends Report. Businesses who fail to evolve and adapt to the intricacies of voice searches will miss golden opportunities and eventually fall behind, like Charros did just then.
As usual, Google has come to the rescue. The tech giant’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, recently offered valuable advice for all the brands scrambling to redefine their content strategy. Here’s what Mueller suggested in a Webmaster Central Hangout about optimizing content for voice search.
Write how people speak
It’s no secret that digital assistants have opened the door to more conversational interactions. Instead of saying, “Best shoe store in NY”, we say, “Which shoe store sells the best leather boots in New York?” The queries are now hyper-specific and lean towards natural language, not shortened “Google speak”.
Most SEO gurus say to comb your FAQ and social media channels to anticipate what people are asking and how they’re asking it. This data will help you define those valuable long-tailed keywords that closely match voice search queries.
Mueller gives this general guideline: “Make sure that your content is written in a way that can be read aloud.”
Here’s a tip: Check out Answer The Public. It’s a quirky keyword search tool that shows the questions people search for surrounding a specific topic. All the what, why, how, and where.
Use Structured Data
Structured data, also known as schema markup, is essentially metadata that can give you an edge over your competitors in Google’s search results. It’s specific information about your site that goes into your website content, snippets, and source code. This information helps Google quickly figure out what your pages are about and which type of voice queries match those pages.
For example, if your business offers Web Design services, you’d include markup to let Google know you serve non-profits located in the Washington D.C. area. Remember, be as specific as possible. The people asking certainly will be.
Make the most of “near me” voice searches
Here’s some incentive for businesses: 50% of local mobile searches by a consumer lead to a store visit on the same day. If they’re in the area and they’re asking, then they have the intent to make a purchase. This means businesses need to get their location-related keywords right.
You’ll find yourself snagging a lot more business after incorporating keywords that describe the neighborhood, known landmarks people use as a reference, and including the phrase “Near me” in your meta descriptions, title tags, and internal links.
The key thought to keep in mind is, “How can I make sure Google knows what I offer and where I’m located?”
Mueller certainly gives a good starting point for businesses everywhere, but Google loves to introduce new things every day so it’s important to stay up to date. If you’re a business owner without a plan for adopting voice searches, you may want to listen in on what the experts at the 2018 VOICE Summit have to say about voice technology, content, and marketing. Otherwise you may find yourself asking your phone, “Ok Google. Where did all the good customers go?”