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The Rise of the Virtual Assistants
There’s been quite a noise over the last couple of years with regard to the virtual assistants that are slowly but surely taking over. If you’re one of hundreds of millions of iPhone users, you’ll know yours as Siri. If you’re part of the Google crowd, it’s Google Now. Or if you’re one of the comparatively few folks with a Windows Phone, you’ll know her as Cortana. And most recently, Amazon’s Alexa started taking over the scene with specific products like Echo Dot made simply for the purpose of becoming your Virtual Assistant.
The ease of the technology coupled with the time it saves means more people than ever before are swapping the written word for a simple voice command. Instead of going to a search engine and typing in a search query, users can now speak their desires. The numbers show exactly which was technology is swinging, where more than half of teenagers and adults use voice searching capabilities frequently and 55% of teens use voice search more than once a day, and those numbers are sure to grow even more in the future.
While users are simply happy to get their information more easily and quickly than ever before, there’s a battle taking place on the other side of the equation. Programs like Siri and Google Now are specifically tailored to respond to verbally entered text, which means there’s potentially a whole new avenue for companies to get noticed. After all, virtual assistants have to get their information from somewhere, making it essential for digital marketers to consider Voice searches in their 2017 search engine optimisation strategies.
As an online business owner, SEO company or digital marketer, you should be asking yourself a few questions:
- If users no longer need to click on an actual web page to access information, am I likely to see a decrease in organic search traffic?
- How can I deliver the same text-based information from my web pages via voice search?
- Speaking of voice, what is my brand’s tone and how do I convey it in as natural language as possible?
The age of relying on writing for robots and keyword stuffing is over. In its place comes conversational search queries.
Understanding Voice Inquiries
One thing to remember about virtual assistants is that they’re not always asked the same types of questions as your typical search engine. People might want to find out about your business, but they’re not looking for a lengthy blog about an industry topic. They just want basic information — business in the local area, their hours, and their contact information. If they want to read something, they’ll search for it on their home computers when they have free time. The virtual assistant landscape, then, is limited to only the most basic of queries.
Using A Natural Voice
Although you may normally write with SEO in mind, it might not be a bad idea to talk with SEO in mind. Verbally discuss the aims of your content. Identify sentences and phrases that link back to what people might search for, then include them in your copy. Approaching your content and your website copy in this way can have applications that go beyond assistant-based SEO. You may find that a more conversational tone can go a long way towards presenting a friendly face to new and current customers.
Think Location First
If your business has a physical presence, it is even more crucial to optimise your content for voice assistants. Voice searches on smartphones are usually location-dependent, ending with “nearby” or “near me”. They’ll display different results based on the searcher’s proximity to your business. It’s crucial to get your business location into all the major directories (Google, Apple and Bing Maps). Also, make sure that details such as your opening hours and phone number are correct.
Include an FAQ Page On Your Website
People use conversational speech when they use voice search, and they often ask questions with common phrases. These phrases include words like “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, and “how”. For example, rather than searching “Samsung VR”, people are more likely to search “What is Samsung VR?” FAQs like these are the key to increasing your business’ chances of being picked up by a virtual assistant. Use an FAQ page on your website with questions that begin with these common phrases, then include conversational answers. You ultimately want to focus on ranking as highly as possible for questions consumers will ask about your product/service.
While voice assistants present a new challenge to marketers, they are also an additional opportunity to reach a target audience. Voice search will continue to grow, making up an estimated half of all searches by 2020. So make sure that you’re continually thinking about the conversation you want to have with your potential customers. Put yourself in their shoes, and act accordingly. You’ll be glad you did.