We take voice search SEO — search engine optimization — for granted today. If you had an iPhone, you have pushed the home button more than once since 2011 asking Siri a question. Android followed soon after with its digital voice assistant. It was not smooth sailing at the beginning where the digital voice assistants often could not understand accents nor simple phrases. It was frustrating for the user.

But digital voice assistant developed. Amazon brought us Echo in 2014 for hands-free user experience to get such information as news, music, and order with Alexa, the digital assistant. Google even has the Google Home. Echo and Home are smart speakers that a wireless speaker combined with a voice command device having a digital voice assistant. It offers interactive actions and handsfree activation with the help of “hot” or “wake” words.

Fast forward to 2018. The shift to mobile continues. Mobile search surpassed desktop search in 2015. According to ComSource, users spend on average 69 percent of their media time on smartphones. The digital voice assistant evolved and expanded to learn and add functionality. In using the cloud, these devices and platforms can respond to your request from telling you what is on your calendar for tomorrow to ordering more cereal from Walmart.

Siri receives over a billion requests daily. Amazon has sold over 21 million Echos in 2017 where there were 5 million Google Home sold during the same period. Clearly, we have embraced digital voice assistants and smart speakers.

Consumers have moved to these technologies and are more dependent on voice search today than ever before. Businesses need to do the same.

Tamara MacDuff, a digital marketing strategist and a speaker on SEO, social media, and content strategy says that people are using voice to search for their favorite stores, restaurants, and things to do.

According to a 2016 study by MindMeld, 61 percent of people use voice-activated searches because they can multi-task and find their answers when their hands or vision occupied.

Why should marketers and businesses care about voice search? Because it’s what customers are doing. MacDuff says that even playing and asking silly questions to their home assistants, like Google Home, Siri or Alexa, is feeding information into the search stream and returned links based on these questions.

When you are developing your SEO program for your business, you need to think about how people speak naturally. Think about how your customers would request services and products. For example, most people will ask, “What’s the weather in Lexington, Kentucky today?” not “Weather in Lexington, Kentucky.”

MacDuff suggests three ways to implement voice search into your content for SEO:

▪  Listen to your prospects. How are they asking you questions about your company, product or service? What are they buying or searching for that complements your products or services? Find out by using the search bars on Amazon, Facebook, Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

▪  Create your ideal client. Who are you trying to reach? How are you solving the problems that keep them up at night? How would you be speaking with that prospect if you were face to face with them? Using video is advantageous since it interpreted as interactive by making the customer feel like you are speaking directly to them and their situation.

▪  Base your content on questions and phrases such as “show me” or “where are” and include those phrases in your product descriptions, meta descriptions or alt tags, titles. Having these questions in your content allows Google to pull your information and possibly even put it in position Zero — or the “PPA Box — People Also Ask.” These are also known as “featured snippets” and what Google produces when given a search query. Research how others in your industry and locale are using them, so you have a chance at being included.

▪  As a bonus, focus your content to be based on your location. Voice search is highly localized as people are searching for things near them.

Voice search for SEO has transformed search and is changing how businesses develop content for their websites and social media channels. SEO is not just for rankings anymore; it is about providing answers to your customers when they need it most.

This column was originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader on February 23, 2018, and nationally distributed to over 300 media outlets through the Tribune Content Agency. 
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