The Changing Voice of Search
The internet is getting awfully chatty lately. Whether you are telling Siri what to do, waking up your phone with an “OK, Google,” or following the almost-but-not-quite-lifelike voice on your GPS app, there’s a lot more talking involved than there used to be.
Using your vocal cords instead of your fingers makes it easier to eat a sandwich, sip a bottle of water, and get your work done all at the same time. When you are late, voice commands let you speed walk down the street and check where you are going without missing a step.
These and a zillion other everyday conveniences have made voice commands, especially on mobile, increasingly popular. A recent survey found that 90 percent of smartphone users talk to their device’s virtual assistant, and 41 percent do so every day. On top of that, more than 20 percent of U.S. households now have an Alexa, Echo, Google Home, or similar voice-activated device.
For small and medium businesses, this shift to voice has an unexpected consequence — you have to rethink the way that customers will find your site via search.
You Have to Spiff Up and Modernize Your Keyword Phrases
Traditionally, when you wanted more people to find your company’s website, you used keyword phrases. The idea was that you anticipated what phrases people would type into search engines when they wanted to find a company like yours — and then included those phrases in your website’s text.
Google would find a match and — voila! — would send these hopefully eager-to-buy customers over to your site.
That still works. Sort of. But the switch to voice, along with Google’s more sophisticated matching algorithms, means that the old keyword phrases don’t work as well as they used to.
We Don’t Talk the Way We Type
When people type a search query, they tend to cut out connecting words. For example, say you were looking for a dry cleaner in Gotham City to get a spot out of your spandex cape. You might type “dry cleaner Gotham City spandex.”
But if you were doing the search with a voice command, you might say, “Where can I find a dry cleaner in Gotham City that can deal with a spot in a spandex cape?” That’s because people tend to talk in complete sentences or at least complete phrases when they are using voice search, just as they would when talking to an actual human. (Remember those? Actual humans?) When typing, though, the impulse is to type as little as possible.
What Does This Mean for Your Online Marketing?
For best results, you can’t just target searchers who type in their queries anymore. You have to take into account the large and growing user base of voice searchers.
So if you’re that dry cleaner who specializes in getting kryptonite stains out of superhero costumes, it’s not enough to target “dry cleaner Gotham City spandex” as your main keyword phrase. You need your keyword phrases to be more like what people are saying, rather than just what they are typing.
Natural Language to the Rescue
The way to make your keyword phrases better match voice searches is to use natural language — that is, language that sounds like the way people talk, rather than the staccato stack of nouns you see more in typed search phrases.
Natural language keyword phrases actually have two benefits. Not only do they match up better to voice queries, but they should also be effective for typed searches even though they won’t be an exact match.
That’s because Google has gotten very smart lately (too smart, some may say, but that’s a story for another day). It’s been a while since Google was restricted to finding only word-for-word matches between queries and sites. Now, the search engine algorithms can interpret queries and search for what they mean, not just what they actually say. In other words, Google can substitute common synonyms and different phrasing for what users actually type into the search bar.
Tips and Tricks
To incorporate voice-search-friendly keyword phrases in your content, try these tips and tricks —
- Instead of thinking, “What would a potential customer type to find a business like mine?” ask yourself, “What would they say when doing a voice search?”
- Write questions and answers using complete sentences.
- Use longer keyword phrases that would sound natural in conversation.
Writers to the Rescue
After you get done cleaning that superhero cape, call in a real superhero who know how to get your content discovered in this ever-changing world. The writers at WriterAccess are ready to fly right over and perform heroic deeds of content marketing. We have thousands of writers and easy ways to find the perfect writer for your needs. Try us out, and see what we can do to attract today’s customers to your site.
Marjorie R has written articles online for more than 15 years and has also written humor for American Greetings and crossword puzzles for the New York Times. She wrote an entertainment blog that was consistently in the top 5 in the Google search results, and at its peak was #1 out of a total of 66,499,997 results. She has a B.A. in Psychology from UC Berkeley, an M.A. in Creative Writing/English from SF State, and a J.D. from UC Hastings.