Voice search is speech recognition technology that allows users to search by saying terms aloud rather than typing them into a search field. And it’s set to grow massively in the next two years; by the end of 2020 voice search is forecast to account for 35% - 50% of all searches. Yet most franchises have yet to adapt their digital strategies.

Already 1 in 6 Americans own a smart speaker such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Plus every smartphone out there is capable of voice search, either by summoning the ubiquitous Siri, or by uttering “OK Google” in its general direction.

And with every passing day more and more people are making use of this technology they already have access to.

The thing is, franchise marketers are seriously slow off the mark in adapting their paid search and SEO/content strategies.

Voice strategy revolves around intent

Google itself has stated many times that voice search is all about serving customer needs during micro-moments. They translate this as an “I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do or I-want-to-buy moment”. Understanding this intent is key to crafting website content and PPC strategies that are destined to succeed. By meeting this demand, by answering the question better than your competitors, you are setting yourself up for success.

You can see the basics of this with a few searches from people at very different stages of their discovery and purchase journey.

Consider someone looking to lose weight, searching on “Does cycling help with weight loss?” Here are the top results:

weight loss search

See how the top results invariably do a good job of undertanding intend and answering the question directly. Compare this to a search on “Cycling classes package”:

Cycling classes package

Knowing who you are creating content for, and where they are at in their information search and buying decision is critical to succeeding in voice search. All your content should match the intent of the searcher for a great user experience.

Here are some of the ways marketers need to adapt in order to capitalise in this seismic search shift, split between SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) or paid search activity.

Content and SEO basics for voice search

Website load times

You probably didn’t see this one coming, right? But when you think about the average voice search, it usually entails someone wanting something in a hurry. So you can see where we are going.

Make no mistake, the search engines will kill slow websites when it comes to voice searches. People don’t like waiting on desktop searches and they simply won’t stand for it on a voice search. In the age of voice searches, long load times are just bad SEO.

There are plenty of websites out there where you can plug in your website URL and check the site load time like Google’s PageSpeed insights or Hubspot’s website grader.

Website performance

Cater to longtail keywords (a.k.a. longer search phrases)

Due to their nature, voice searches are more likely to be longer and more specific. All things being equal, they’ll be more precise, get less traffic, but be more qualified and have greater intent.

For example the same person in the same situation might do a web search for ‘French restaurants’ but voice search for ‘French restaurant serving cassoulet’.

The reason for the differing behavior is that on a web search this person could then navigate a chosen menu and see for themself, whereas on the voice search they need a precise answer right away.

In order to win in the era of voice searches, any french restaurant featuring terms like ‘cassoulet’ or even ‘serving cassoulet’ in their website content, or on page meta titles and descriptions, is set to do very well.

Claim your Google My Business listing

A huge proportion (30%+) of voice searches are local in nature. And over 80% of all web searches are on Google. So it’s a no brainer then that you are going to want to be in Google’s business directory!

Be sure to enter as much information as you can including address, website and opening hours. And then keep it up to date!

If you haven’t already, claim your free listing here.

Google My Business Rolfe Classic

Mobile responsive website

You should have this already as a vast proportion of typed searches are made on mobile phone today. And voice searches only amplify the need for a good, mobile responsive website. Why? Because the majority of voice searches happen on mobile device.

If you’re unsure how mobile-friendly your site is, Google has this handy test where you can simply enter your domain name to find out.

Capitalise on lead gen with ‘how to’ content

A great proportion of voice searches are made on mobile, in the spur of the moment, on how to do something when faced with an immediate problem.

“Siri, how do I do a deadlift correctly.” “OK Google, how do I change a headlight bulb on a Toyota Camry.” “Siri, how do I get red wine stains out of silk.” You get the idea.

As people become more accustomed to asking their smartphone whenever they get stumped, this type of search query will grow exponentially.

The key to capitalising on this opportunity is to create content that answers the question the best to generate web traffic and new leads. Think through all the common questions people have in your industry, and especially about what problems your product or service solve. Then create super helpful website content or blogs to help people out.

Preparing Google Adwords and other PPC for voice search

Build out your voice search keywords

Voice search terms tend to be longer and more natural language compared to typed search terms. Put simply, the way people ask a query out loud is different to the way they type it into a search engine.

Whereas someone might type “cycle studios Richmond” they might ask “OK Google is there any 24 hour cycle studios nearby?” See how the voice query specifies more information, for example “24 hour cycle studios”, as the user knows they’ll only be given the precise information they ask for.

Web searches tend to be simpler as users can then further explore on the relevant website for the info they’re after.

Already you can see how your keywords will need to be optimised.

Happily, Google Adwords will already give you the voice search terms that generate clicks today which is a big help in getting started. But remember it only shows the traffic your are getting, and not that which you are missing out on from not having voice search optimised keywords and ads.

Optimize your Ad copy

Just as voice queries require a different keyword strategy, they require a different approach to the ad copy. As these answers will be read back to a user, they should use natural language. And the guiding principle for the copy should be “be the best answer out there”.

A big part of this is identifying the intent of each of the common queries and providing the most relevant information possible. And this extends to Adword extensions too!

By providing the most timely, relevant answer, you’ll be sure to drive increased traffic.

Final thought - focus on the opportunity

Whilst the rapid adoption of voice search might be initially overwhelming, it should be embraced as an opportunity.

Most franchises are slow out of the gate making even slight tactical changes to gain an advantage through voice searches, so see it as an opportunity to take web traffic from your competitors.

Using the above tactics will see you positioned perfectly for the next few years as voice search becomes well and truly mainstream.

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