Take steps toward a voice search strategy

“It’ll never catch on.” —Kodak, 1990, film photo giant.

“Shit.” —Kodak, 2012, bankrupt.

A $19 billion company caught a glimpse of digital photography over the horizon. But rather than take it in stride, they dragged their feet in admitting change was coming, tripped over their lack of innovation, and crashed. Hard.

Voice search now is in the same state as digital cameras were 20 years ago. Straight out of a sci-fi plot, ready to shake up traditional use, it’s ushering in a new era and industry. If 2008 was its introduction, then in 2017 it is hitting puberty: growth spurts have put voice commands in the homes and hands of more than 30 million people, with one in every five mobile searches conducted via voice.

Is it daunting? A bit. Is it worth testing? You betcha.

This is yo mama’s technology. Before brushing voice search off as a Millennial fad, consider: up to 40% of those aged 44+ use voice commands daily. And while younger crowds lean toward voice search as a means of accessing entertainment—opening apps, launching music, asking dirty questions to see how tech responds—older generations use it for practical help. Far easier to speak to a teensy screen than hunt-and-peck on it.

Try This: Demographic Targeting. Google recently enabled paid search ads to target audiences by gender and age. Craft text ads targeting these older generations, enable audience targeting, and lift queries from the search results report to bolster future ads and web content.

Expand Your Horizonsand Phrases. With traditional type search, we tend to phrase our queries like a caveman fat-thumbing a keyboard (“cook chicken how long”). They’re short, they’re keyword heavy, they get the job done. Boom. However, people treat voice search less like an algorithm to hack and more like a personal assistant. And how do you speak to an assistant (besides nicely, I hope)? With full-length sentences.

Try This: Longer-Tail Keywords. Your SEO & SEM strategy already includes a mix of one-term short-tail keywords and two- or even three-term long-tail keywords. Test the success of longer-tail key phrases, lifting portions of full sentences and not just their meaty keywords.

Question (Almost) Everything. Maybe it’s because we doubt it’ll pull through. Maybe we dig manners. In any case, voice search queries are often phrased as questions rather than orders. Think “movies at Riverview Theater” vs. “What movies are playing at the Riverview Theater?”

Try This: Question Queries: Bid on phrases in your paid search strategy beginning with “who,” “what,” “when,” and “how” to nab interested users, and drive them to an FAQ page offering a precise answer. Queries beginning with “where” typically grab users further in their purchase process, so pay close mind to direct them to a page designed to convert.

Think Local. Whether prepping to head out or actually on-the-go, people use voice search to find local options. In 2015, Google searches for “near me” doubled in a year, with similar search themes increasing 34 times since 2011.

Try This: Geo-Focusing: Make sure your shop is listed with Google My Business so SERPs can easily provide your address, phone number, and customer reviews when asked. Incorporate area companies, landmarks, and colloquialisms into your bids and web copy to hook true locals, and geo-target your ads so out-of-towners can reach you as they pass through.

You don’t need to overhaul your SEM & SEO strategy and bend it around a voice search core…yet. Small, steady steps are all it takes to keep your business marching toward the future of search and away from another Kodak moment.

For more information on developing voice-activated search strategy for your brand, please contact Laura Wiering at laura.wiering@martinwilliams.com.

Rhydian Talbot

Analytics Strategist

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