Should you be exploring a voice search strategy?
- Posted on January 28, 2019
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
This article was originally written by Avanade alum Shayna Burns.
You may have heard comScore’s prediction that voice search will make up 50% of searches by 2020s. We’ve quoted it; the brands we work with have, too.
But voice search is relatively new. We’re still learning how it works and how to optimise content to appeal to search algorithms. We recognise voice search might not yet be right for every brand.
In this article, we explore the trends and provide steps for how you can uncover whether you have an opportunity to develop a voice search strategy.
Wait. Does anyone really use voice search?
The data says yes - and it’s not only millenials who are embracing it.
An eMarketer study from April 2017 estimated the number of Americans with voice-enabled digital assistants has been increasing every year from 2016 - not only Millennials, but Gen X and Baby Boomers, too. (As expected, Millenials are contributing to the greatest annual growth.)
And a Think With Google study from 2017 suggests these users are also ready to hear from brands: owners of voice-activated speakers not only expect content from brands, they want it. This includes information about deals, personalised tips, info on upcoming events, business info, and access to customer service assistance.
Behind the scenes, Google is preparing to launch a type of structured data called Speakable that makes it easier for marketers and search engines to align on what web page content is best used for voice search. (At the time of this article, Speakable was in Beta and available only for U.S. users with Google Home devices set to English.)
Voice search is on the rise, but is it right for your business?
The first step is to understand what questions your customers are asking - and in what volumes.
Below is an approach for using data to uncover common customer questions. For this exercise, we suggest briefing a UX researcher, SEO strategist and/or data analyst.
How to uncover topics and questions your customers are likely to use in voice search
1. Conduct qualitative interviews with internal stakeholders.
Interview staff who have day-to-day exposure to customers (customer service reps, social media managers, live chat assistants) to uncover the questions they’re asked most. Use leading questions, like:
- “What questions do you hear from customers again and again?”
- “What are the most common challenges you hear?”
- “What topics do you continually get asked about?”
2. Mine keyword research.
Use your preferred keyword research tool to identify popular search queries around your industry, products and services. Look for long-tail, question-based keywords.
In addition, try AnswerThePublic.com, which mines auto-suggest data from Google and Bing around the most-searched questions on a given topic. Here’s an example of the common questions people ask around the Australian “anteater”, the echidna:
3. Review search queries driving visits to your site.
Tap into your Google Search Console account (if you don’t have one, set one up - they’re free!) and analytics tools to review what keywords are currently driving impressions and traffic to your website. Again, look for question-based terms.
4. Uncover the content people are looking for on your website.
Look for trends in page visits and engagement around particular topics. Spot recurring internal site searches. Utilise click & eye tracking heatmaps to find sections of a page that attract readers. Review live chat data.
Once you’ve tapped these qualitative and quantitative sources, the next step is to analyse your data to identify voice search opportunities.
How to analyse your findings and identify voice search opportunities
1. Look for commonalities and popular topics.
What questions and topics are popular within a given source, and which recur across multiple sources?
2. Divide popular questions and topics between “generic” and “personal”.
- Questions that can be adequately answered with a generic response make great voice search fodder for public-facing websites
- Questions that require a personalised, one-to-one (succinct) response could be answered through a voice-enabled app
3. Check the competition.
Search your common questions in Google. Do any other websites rank in the coveted “position zero” with a featured snippet? Does your website have stronger trust and authority signals and a likelihood of out-ranking them?
Lean on the volume of customer questions identified in step #2 above and your competition to dictate whether a voice search strategy makes sense for your business.
Implementing a voice search strategy requires writing content using natural language and structuring it to appeal to Search algorithms. It may require an SEO strategist, copywriter and/or developer, depending on your approach. Brief all three to be sure.