SEO 2020: Welcome to the New World of Voice Optimization

SEMrush

Penny Wilson, CMO at Hootsuite talks about brands finding their Marketing ‘Voice’ through Search.

If I need to settle a friendly disagreement with my husband, I quickly turn to the savviest member of my household for help. She’s wicked-smart, has an encyclopedic knowledge of everything, and (usually) proves I’m right. Of course, her name is Alexa. How did we settle arguments without her?

In less than five years, Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Home and others have completely revolutionized the way we navigate the Internet. By the end of 2018, 52 million Google Home devices had been purchased around the world, the vast majority of them in the U.S. Thirty-five percent of American Internet users regularly turn to voice search for help.

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The Voice Revolution Is Here

And if you weren’t yet convinced, ComScore predicts 2020 will represent the tipping point – when 50% of all searches will be done by voice. But this amazing technology isn’t just for settling disagreements with your significant other, it’s for everything. According to Gartner, also by next year, a third of all website sessions – not just search – will be voice-led: texting, email, shopping, you name it. More and more we are browsing the internet without ever touching a screen. So how does all this voice commanding change the game for marketers?

The short answer is significantly. Voice-powered commerce accounted for $1.8 billion in retail revenue in the U.S. alone in 2017. By 2022, that figure is expected to reach $40 billion. And as you might guess, shopping by voice command is having a powerful impact on digital marketing strategies.

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The most profound change I see is a new emphasis on precision. If you’re searching for something the “old-fashioned way” on your computer, you are presented with a list of results. You can then quickly scroll through the list, and pick what’s relevant. With voice search, you don’t get to scroll or pick and choose. Instead, you’re expecting one definitive answer. The search engine needs to be extremely confident it is giving you accurate information, or you will quickly get discouraged.

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Conversational Is Key

I’ve talked about optimizing SEO before, and achieving that within voice search means getting more conversational. Our assistants are pretty smart and have quickly adapted to the way we speak, so it’s essential to incorporate natural language into your strategies. Search engines such as Google are now placing a higher emphasis on voice search optimization, and effective voice search optimization is based on conversational speech. Remember, speaking and typing are two very different ways of searching for information. Google data shows 70% of all searches on the Google Assistant are in natural language, which means longer-tail keywords are becoming even more important – and no jargon or needlessly difficult words and phrases. Understanding this will help you to meet your marketing goals in a world governed by digital assistants.

Location, Location

Voice searching is also hyper-local. I call it the “near me” trend. Because your phone or home assistant device always knows where you are, the fastest-rising search trend is including “near me” in the search. You don’t have to say, “best bagels in Manhattan” anymore, you can just say “best bagels near me.” A recent study revealed that when people use voice search, most often the searches are for businesses in their immediate area. According to Google, over the past two years “near me” mobile searches have seen a 500% increase when combined with “to buy” or “can I buy?” Voice search is also time sensitive. Searching “near me today/tonight” has increased by 900% in the same period.

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Last year, there was an average of one billion voice searches every month in the U.S.

If your online presence is not taking voice search into consideration, your business is falling behind. As home assistants get cheaper, and the range of tasks they can execute continues to expand, it’s expected 55% of Americans will have a smart speaker at home by 2022.

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Voice is here to stay. In fact, by next year it’s predicted the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse! Which might make it harder to win an argument, but a heck of a lot easier to buy something.



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