Let me start with a quick reality check. Voice search is not about to take over the world.
“Wait a minute,” you say. “Half of all searches will be voice-based by 2020! How can you say that?”
People blast out that statistic, which is attributed to Comscore, like it’s the gospel. For the life of me, I can’t find the actual Comscore research that makes such a claim.
But I did find an article that says it was based on a forecast from 2014 by Andrew Ng of Baidu. What he actually said was, “In five years’ time, at least 50 percent of all searches are going to be either through images or speech.”
Not exactly the same thing, huh?
The fact is, we’re not there yet. We’re headed in that direction and will get there at some point. But let’s pump the brakes a bit on optimizing for voice search based on a distorted prediction from five years ago.
Instead, focus on ways you can make your content more voice search-friendly without turning your website upside down.
The beauty of writing website content for voice search is that you’re writing for humans. You’re writing based on how they talk and communicate in real life, not how they type.
Voice Search Sounds Natural. So Should Your Website Content.
Voice search typically involves questions or commands with very conversational language. That means short sentences with small words.
People don’t talk like they type.
For example, someone might type “seafood restaurant Princeton”, but with voice search, they’re more likely to say “find a seafood restaurant near me.”
Someone might type “itemization TCJA”, but with voice search, they’re more likely to say “how does the new tax law affect itemization”.
To make your website content voice search-friendly, write the way people talk, as David Ogilvy once said. Naturally.
Listen to your clients and the terminology they use. They search using the same words they use in everyday conversation, not the jargon you might use in a staff meeting.
Provide simple, clear answers and explanations. Focus not on awkward keywords, but on the information real people are looking for, using longtail keyword phrases and non-technical language the average person can understand.
Anticipate and Answer Common Client Questions
Some questions asked by voice search users are fairly simple and easy to answer.
Where are you located? When are you open? What products do you offer?
Other questions require a bit of an explanation.
How does the new tax law affect itemization? How can I protect my network from ransomware? How do plant-based meat alternatives compare to real red meat?
The first step is to know or be able to anticipate what questions your ideal clients want you to answer. The second step is to answer them.
One way to accomplish this is with a traditional FAQ page. The challenge with this approach is that you might not have the space to answer each question in full, and you could have different questions and answers competing for Google’s attention.
I recommend answering each question individually on its own page. This can be done through a blog, newsletter, video series, or dedicated web pages for specific topics.
This allows you to answer each question and cover each topic in depth. You can incorporate the longtail keywords, subheads, bullet-pointed lists, and other things that Google likes.
More importantly, you can focus on one topic at a time and provide the kind of information that builds trust and positions you as an expert in your field.
Voice Search Is Local Search
According to a 2018 study by BrightLocal, 58 percent of consumers used voice search to find local business information in the previous 12 months. 46 percent of voice search users looked for this information every day.
27 percent visited a local business website after a voice search.
Voice search is more likely to be local than text-based search. Search queries that include “near me” or “nearby” have exploded in the past few years.
For restaurants, retail stores, auto repair shops, plumbers, and other business categories that need to attract people from a relatively small geographic area, voice search could be a major lead generator.
Even if your business or organization isn’t limited geographically, wouldn’t you like to have more clients in your own backyard?
In addition to putting your contact information on every page and displaying it prominently on your Contact page, there are ways to showcase your location.
If your organization has a history in a certain area, tell that story on your About page or in a blog or newsletter article. Talk about your community involvement. Tell the story of why you chose an office, store, or warehouse in a particular town or city.
You won’t offend someone from out of town by highlighting or even showing pride in where you work. And you could very well grow your business when locals find you through voice search.
You’ll Never Go Wrong Writing for Real People
When I started writing radio commercials about 20 years ago, I pleaded with advertisers to let me write scripts that sounded natural and conversational instead of screaming out products and price points.
Years later, when I started writing website content and blog articles, I tried to convince keyword-obsessed business owners and marketing directors to use their content to answer common questions and overcome obstacles to the sale.
In the early days of Google, keywords could get people to your site. But would keyword-stuffed content keep them there, much less convert?
My point here is not to say, “I told you so.”
The real takeaway is that writing in a way that makes sense to real people, and focusing on solving the problems and filling the needs of real people, will always be a winning strategy.
Google has been trying for years to fine tune its algorithms so they align with the needs of real people. The growth and evolution of voice search is the latest example.
This is artificial intelligence (AI) at work. AI becomes smarter as it consumes more data. It learns from trial and error. It becomes faster and more accurate over time.
One can safely assume this will be the case with voice search. As frustrating as it can be to hear “Sorry, I don’t understand” from Google, those responses actually move voice search closer to replicating human intelligence.
“Human” is the key word here. Focus your website content on the human element and you can’t go wrong.