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How to future proof your SEO strategy in a voice search world

By 2020, 50% of all searches will be done via a virtual assistant or voice search device. In 2015, the year of Comcast’s survey, this prediction seemed almost far-fetched. Not so today.

Mobile and voice search are currently the top two SEO search terms [Buzzsumo]. Voice search in particular has improved with its accuracy word error rate increasing from 8.5% to 4.9% [Stanford University] in less than two years. This is driven by the rise of smart speaker assistants for the home such as Google Home and Echo. In just a year, US Amazon Alexa users grew from 0.8 million users to 2.6 million and there was a 350% rise in the use of Microsoft Cortana [Vero Analytics].

The majority of voice searching is on smartphones, with data showing that 20% of all mobile searches are voice [Google] and most are proximity-based, usually with a level of immediacy i.e. “Where is the nearest Italian restaurant?” But this is just the start. As voice search continues to influence consumer spending habits, it’s crucial for businesses to get it right.

Here are four tips below to kick-start your SEO strategy evolution.

Don’t rely solely on traditional SEO keyword optimisation methods

Focusing on keyword optimisation will no longer suffice. Website owners and brands will need to build their website offering around matching customer demand.

Whilst voice search will still be influenced by core SEO enhancement meta data such as: page titles, descriptions, image optimisation, category content built at a topic level, customer UX, dwell time and bounce rate, voice search is query-based. Remember, it’s about answering a user’s question instead of finding results based on certain words.

Localisation within ecommerce is key for nationwide visibility

As a proximity-based search assistant, voice search has been most prevalent on smartphones. So if someone searches for “where can I buy football boots?”, Google will show sports retailers around the user’s vicinity. Location-based SEO optimisation will be key in a post-desktop search world for both consumer and business.

If a brand is targeting users in and around London but is based in Bristol, historically it would rank well in the engines and get visibility in the London area because of keyword optimisation. But, with voice search, they wouldn’t be shown as they have no location relevance. Multi-distribution models may therefore need to be explored.

Build sites and content that match searcher intent

Unlike the keyword game, content creation and multi-funnel content is paramount to ensure your ecommerce site does not become devalued.

One of the primary focuses of SEO, which continues to be crucial with the introduction of voice search, is the optimisation of a business website around searcher intent and task completion. However, this is regularly done wrong or even missed out completely. If your page doesn’t answer the searcher’s query, the UX is poor and you won’t rank. Businesses should always show that they understand their target market, want to satisfy their needs and solve any problems or concerns.

On desktop “white Nike football boots” might suffice, in voice search, the term could be; “what are the best football boots that Nike sells that are priced around £50 that I can purchase near me today, oh and they have to be white?” Different in length, tone, pitch and targeted nature.

Creating category content based on every voice search query would be impossible, instead creating blog content that matches the term in the best possible way would be a more efficient solution. As with content marketing, pick topics that you know your target market are searching for and build pages that cover as many terms as possible.

Keep an eye on visual search

Since 2013, Google has invested in developing its image based search engine, working in conjunction with brands. At the moment, this is mainly done on smartphones with companies like Samsung creating Bixby, an image-based search app integrated with Pinterest, Amazon and eBay. Take a picture of an item with your smartphone camera and similar items appear. Since 2014, multiple brands have invested in this app technology and in 2017 Aliexpress, Wayfair, Bing, eBay and ASOS also entered the space.

There may well come a time when people only use their camera as a way to search for products and services. For example, you see a billboard poster of McDonalds, take a photo and you are provided with the nearest one to you; no voice, no text, just camera.

Remember, voice search is all about task completion; what is the true nature of the task that my target market are looking for information on and how can I help them? Or can I sell them something to match their need? This is very important and is a common stumbling block for ecommerce sites. Once you’ve addressed this question, your brand is fully ready for the search revolution.


James Foote, SEO strategy director at Infinity Nation

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