How to Optimize Small Businesses for Voice Search

Google and ComScore have predicted that by 2020, over half of all internet searches will be voice searches. Additionally, Mary Meeker, the venture capitalist who predicted correctly that 2014 would be the “Year Of Mobile,” also predicts that 2020 will be the “Year of Voice.”

If it wasn’t clear from those predictions, if you’re not already optimizing for voice search, you should probably start soon. Thankfully, if you’re already executing SEO best practices there’s not much more to do. Voice assistants such as the Google Home and Amazon Alexa read and index websites the same way Google result pages are generated. Therefore, if your website already appears on the first page of the search results, you’re in good standing. (If your site doesn’t rank on the first page, call us).

However, in most cases, voice assistants only return one result, so even if you’re on the first page of the search results, what can you do to make sure your website is chosen to answer the voice search query? Here’s a few ways to optimize websites for voice search and win that voice assistant auction.

Optimizing for Voice Search as a Small Business

SEO is difficult enough if you’re managing your own strategy as a small business, but luckily optimizing for voice search doesn’t add much to your to-do list.

Improve Mobile Site Speed

A study by backlinko found that the average voice search result loaded in 4.6 seconds. These voice assistants need to read a ton of webpages to output the best response, and the quicker they’re able to read your webpage the more they like you. Plus, in some cases the voice assistants directs users to read more on their phone, further increasing the desire of a fast webpage. We recommend using Google’s free PageSpeed Insights Tool to test your own website’s page speed. The tool also highlights areas in which you can improve, and estimates how much time the changes will save.

Optimize Google My Business

If you’re a small business, chances are you have a Google My Business page. Most voice searches are seeking business information, so if you haven’t updated your profile in awhile, make sure your business info is 100% accurate. Incorrect hours or a typo in the phone number could lead to many potential customers lost. Also, to ensure you don’t miss out on any relevant voice search queries, fill out every possible setting & field that’s relevant to your business. Pro-Tip: If you’re business has extended hours on special days (e.g. Black Friday), remember to update your Google My Business profile to reflect the rare changes.

Use a Conversational Tone

A good chunk of voice searches are long, question-based queries. That’s because users tend to speak naturally when using voice assistants. An easy way to match content to the conversational tone of the voice queries, is to write FAQ pages from the perspective of the customer. This strategy has been proven to be effective by a study from backlinko. The study shows that voice assistants tend to prefer FAQ pages in comparison to desktop searches.

Here’s an example for how you can rewrite your FAQ page to better match a conversational tone:

Query: “Are McDonald’s restaurants accessible for people with disabilities?”

Original: “How accessible are your restaurants for persons with disabilities?”

Improved: “How accessible are McDonald’s restaurants for persons with disabilities?”

To improve discoverability of your questions, consider adding your business as the subject of each question. After improving the question, the voice assistant will have a better match between the search query and the content of the webpage.

Writing FAQ questions can also perform well in the form of content. Here’s an older but great example of FAQ based content from a UK product review site, Which. One improvement from this example would be to write shorter answers to the questions, so the voice assistant doesn’t have to attempt to paraphrase, and can deliver a better response to the user.

Voice Search Implications for Large Businesses

If you have the time, money, and desire, anything is possible. For brands and businesses who are looking for a competitive edge, voice search is a great platform to invest in.

Investment is made possible through Google and Amazon’s open API for their voice assistants. This allows developers (and businesses) to further extend the possibilities of the voice assistant. Called “Actions” for Google Home, and “Skills” for Amazon Alexa, businesses have the ability to create their own actions/skills, that can be accessed by any voice assistant platform. The possibilities are endless, and when developed, will give you a competitive edge.

Nest is a perfect example of how they integrated voice search into their ecosystem. Using Google’s voice assistant technology, it’s possible to interact with all the integrated Nest products in your home. It supports commands like; “What’s the temperature inside?”, and “Cast my Front Door camera to the Living Room”. With the rise in voice search technology, these commands are accessible everywhere, in the car, on a Google Home device, on the phone, and even on kitchen appliances. This further adds to the scalability of the technology.

While the industry is unsure exactly how voice search will be monetized, it’s a great platform to expand your products and services. For example, purchasing airline tickets can be very confusing online, with many different airlines and hundreds of websites claiming to find you the best price. It can be a confusing process, but a voice assistant could reduce all the clutter & develop a competitive advantage. We’ll use Expedia’s homepage as an example;

This form is perfect for voice assistant technology, because the request can be summarized in one sentence; “Hey Google, ask Expedia to book 1 adult ticket on the cheapest one-way flight from Toronto to Zurich, departing September 26.” The sentence may be long, but if any inputs were missing, the voice assistant could simply ask a follow up question.

With Google reporting over 1 billion voice searches in 1 month (January), voice search is setting the stage for a highly competitive market, and like most changes in the advertising technology landscape, the early adopters will win.