Preparing Your Business For The Year of Voice Search

21st March, 2017 - 11 minutes read

Do you remember how, a couple of years ago, you laughed off those offensively large virtual reality headsets? I certainly do.

virtual reality cyclist

They’re still hilariously oversized, but there’s nothing funny about the rapid commercialisation that’s occurred with this technology. It’s estimated that the market for VR will expand from $90 million in 2014 to a whopping $5.2 billion by 2018. That’s an increase of approximately 5777.8% in just 4 years.

And voice activated assistants are set to follow.

A Brief History Of Voice Search

Although we can’t hark voice search as a completely new realisation in technology, we can pin down the extensive leaps and bounds that have been made in the evolution of voice-activated devices.

Apple’s oracular contender, Siri, was born in 2011. 3 years later, and Apple’s biggest rivals, Microsoft and Amazon released their own competitors in technological personification through voice-control, proving once more, that where Apple lead, others follow.

However, Amazon’s encasement of its Alexa voice assistant into a black plastic tube is the first stand-alone version of a device designed solely for voice search.This is indicative of the growing trend for ‘smart’ assistants and the ‘smart home’.

For local business, this is fantastic news – if someone’s looking for a place to eat or drink, Alexa can recommend somewhere based on online reviews. Integration with apps like Just Eat means that a customer can order food using Alexa, then sit and wait for their takeaway to arrive. Of course, this will only work for the most positively reviewed companies in the area. If you’re not in the top 5 on TripAdvisor, you may as well shut your doors now.

Who’s Actually Using Voice Search?

Over the past 18 months, there has been a noticeable increase in weirdos asking themselves questions quite loudly in public. Except, it turns out they aren’t weird at all, they’re just asking their phone where the nearest Live Action Role Play club is.

LARPers & Voice Search

93% of the upstanding members of the LARPing community have used voice search. This statistic is as real as the world depicted in this picture.

An estimated seven out of ten millennials regularly use a personal voice assistant. Three out of ten of the over forty-four club have confessed to using one at least once. However, these statistics are from 2014, the most recent year I could find for this kind of data, so these numbers are likely to be higher now if we go by trends. As of June 2016, 20% of Google searches were voice initiated, with this figure expected to grow to a mind-boggling 50% by 2020.

If these figures are anything to go by, it’s time you started getting ready for voice search. Here’s how.

Making Yourself Obvious

When ‘optimising’ for voice search, the most important thing you can do is make sure your business can be found and contacted. This means having a clear address on your website, registering in local and national directories, on websites like yell.com. Most importantly, you need to make sure your listings on Google My Business and Bing Places For Business A) exist and B) are correct.

Whilst Google dominates online search, Bing powers the voice search for Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft (Bing’s owners). Doing this may also help with your search engine rankings so really, it’s a win-win.

Should You Change Your On-Page Strategy?

In a word, yes. But you needn’t go in for a complete overhaul just yet. Start thinking about how someone might search for your business vocally, and optimise keywords appropriately. How would you ask a friend for a local restaurant recommendation?

Instead of ‘restaurant Birmingham’, you can actually start writing copy for humans again.

‘Do you know where’s best to eat in Birmingham?’. The joys. Our slavery to the algorithmic robots is partially repealed. We just need to break the shackles of nauseating text acronyms (OMG), fight the narcissism of selfies, and nationalise the railways and we’ll all be free again.

The prevalence of voice search has led the lovely people at Search Engine Land to predict that it will soon be incorporated into Google’s Analytics software, which means you’ll be able to find out how a user found your business – basically the query they used to find you. The more you know about how users find your business, the better you can target and optimise these people, ultimately leading to more conversions.

What the FAQ?

When it comes to frequently asked questions, you want to think about the kind of questions your users will be asking. Who, what, where, why, when, and how should they do something. Pose the questions that your customers will be asking their voice assistant, and then answer them on your website in the same way that you would answer someone if they were in your store or office.

With a standard search, the only information you might get in a search is ‘burrito’. Not particularly revealing of what the user is actually looking for. Do they want to know how a burrito is made? Are they looking for a Mexican restaurant? We don’t know. The best thing about who, what, where queries in voice search, is that we can gauge the intent of the user. We know exactly what they want from their search.

Mobile Friendliness

Whilst standalone units might be the current fad for voice search, they’re yet to prove their universal popularity. Mobile phones are currently, and will undoubtedly remain, the main source of voice searches.

This means that above all else, your website has to be mobile optimised. If someone conducts a voice search on their phone, they’ll expect to be able to see the result in a consumable, easy way. If your website is prehistoric and hasn’t been updated for the mobile era, I recommend you look into doing this as soon as possible.

There are reasons above and beyond voice search for updating your site. I covered Google’s prioritisation of mobile in a previous post that can be read here. Essentially, Google is ranking your website based on its ability to adapt to a phone-sized screen.

Your website will eventually be susceptible to digital Darwinism if you’re unwilling to evolve. If you need a hand with your sites mobile responsivity, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Final Thoughts

For industry and businesses, this is an exciting time. We’re incorporating more of our senses into technology, seamlessly integrating with our little handheld chums. As someone who works in the digital sector, this is genuinely fascinating, and potentially revolutionary advancement.

However, we’re always complaining about how shocking the output is on the world wide web – fake news this, clickbait that, the list goes on. When one of the most widely read ‘news’ outlets on the internet creates content titled Listen Up: Everything You Know About Pineapple IS A LIE, yet coverage of the conflict and borderline famine in South Sudan is next to nothing, there is something seriously wrong with the way we receive and digest information online. If, one day, you ask Alexa what the top news story of the day is, don’t be surprised when it tells you what kind of bread you are.

Even with my first world problems, I don’t want my food shop or recommendations told to me by a phallic robot that can’t actually taste anything.

fake news meme

When someone tells me the Michelin Guide is redundant because we have TripAdvisor now.

Why would we let our lives be dictated by the kind of people who spend time writing TripAdvisor reviews? When did we start actually listening to someone else’s opinion without silent mirth?

If you need any help with the technical stuff mentioned above, please get in touch. We can’t tell you which bread you are, but we can tell you how to prepare your website for the year of voice search.