“OK, Google, what restaurants are near me?” Does your weekend ever start like this? If you have an Android phone it might. Whether you ask Siri, Alexa, or Cortana, voice search and the IOT are revolutionizing paid media buying.

The Spoken Word

Over half of all internet searches are done on a smartphone or other mobile device. Whether it’s due to the tiny screens or our on-the-go lifestyles more and more people are discovering the ease of using their voice to search.

Were you talking to me? Nope, you were asking your phone a question. That’s right, every smartphone owner now has their very own digital assistant. Go ahead play your favorite track, turn down the thermostat, order a pizza, add an item to your calendar, check the weather, and do it all through your voice.

And those digital assistants are becoming quite the conversationalists. Ask them to tell you a joke, sing you a song, or help you help your kid with their math homework and you’ll see what they can do.

This change in the way people search means that SEO professionals need a similar change in thinking about content and SEO. There are already over 8 million voice-first devices in the marketplace just from the last 2 years. And in 2017 alone 24.5 million voice-first devices will be shipped. The SEO game is changing. The question is, are you ready to play?

The Voice Search Game

For more than 20 years, since the mid-1990s, search engines have worked pretty much the same way. The user types in keyword phrases to find the information that he or she is looking for. Simple and straightforward. Voice search is less simple and more complex.

We use voice search in conversational tones. We ask our digital assistants questions rather than tell them keywords. When I want to go out to a restaurant for dinner on a Friday night I’m probably asking, “where is an Italian restaurant near me?” rather than stringing together keywords that include my location. That means my phone not only needs to anticipate where I am, near my home or traveling, but it also has to parse out my longer search phrase.

Voice search is all about giving the searcher the best experience. The whole reason we talk to our phones in the first place is because it’s easier than typing. Be ready with clear answers for searchers. If a voice searcher asks about a particular Italian restaurant they don’t want to be given a list of restaurant links. They want those links to include addresses, distance from them, and other details that will help with their decision making.

What Was I Looking For

Almost a quarter of all voice searches are related to local content, from local events to local businesses and local weather. That restaurant that you want to go to on the weekend, it’s probably best if that restaurant is local to you or you might be drooling over the wrong menu item.

This type of local searching almost never takes a user to the business’ official website. The user looking for that Italian restaurant will probably instead visit a third-party website like Yelp to read reviews before deciding what’s for dinner. While voice searchers increase, it will become more important than ever to monitor those 3rd-party websites and stay ahead of any negative reviews. And, please make sure that the hours on those websites are accurate. You’d hate for that hungry customer to show up after the chairs are up on the tables.

Talk Like Me

SEO professionals need to create a keyword strategy that mimics the way real people talk and ask questions verbally. Take note of what questions your business is asked over the phone and implement those in your keyword strategy. Having your customer service representatives take notes on the exact words customers use when they call will help. Check industry-related forums and social media for questions that customers are asking. Encourage questions on your own website with a Q&A form to capture the way customers are asking questions. Armed with that information create content that answers those questions. A great way to do that is by incorporating it on your FAQ page, or creating a FAQ page.

Virtual assistants are doing the heavy lifting scouring your website looking for answers to questions so make it easier on them by grouping common questions on the same page. The ideal FAQ page will include those conversational style questions followed by answers that are going to promote your business. You’ll also want to think about more specific inquires. Rather than saying the keywords “best tropical vacation” a searcher is more likely to ask, “Siri, where is the best family friendly beach summer vacation?”

Voice searching is far from perfect and sometimes requires repeating. But it’s rapid growth is proof that people prefer to ask questions rather than type them. So, suit up and make sure your business is ready to play.

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