This Is the Overlooked Tool Your Business Needs to Reach Your Target Audience

Voice search is growing, and your business can utilize this important functionality to get more customers. Here's how.

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By Jeanna Barrett

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Voice search use is on the rise globally. Back in 2019, there were 2.45 billion voice assistants in the world. This number is expected to reach 8 billion by the end of 2023, which will be roughly equivalent to the global population. This rapid global increase in the number of voice assistants has created a new ecosystem that businesses can leverage to reach and connect with their ideal customers.

And don't forget the alarming number of smartphone users, search engine users and IoT devices — we are already living in the voice search era.

But what does it mean for your business? How can your business leverage voice search for growth?

Related: Why (and How) You Should Optimize Your Website for Voice Search

What is voice search?

Voice search lets users do a search via voice instead of text. Major search engines like Google and Bing allow users to run a search query through a voice command. This feature is available across devices and isn't limited to smartphones.

Search engines use automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology that converts voice signals into text, and then search engines find relevant search results from their databases. The text is then converted into voice, and the most relevant result is transmitted verbally to the user. So essentially, at the backend of every voice search, there is a text-based search query that search engines use to return.

Why people are using it

One study reported that 21% of people use voice search weekly, while other research from SEO Tribunal shows 53% use voice search while driving. This makes it convenience-driven as it is much easier and safer to search via voice while driving.

Voice search is also easier than traditional search, making it ideal for people to use voice search when their hands aren't free. SEO Tribunal's research shows that 61% of people use voice search when their hands or vision is already occupied, 30% use it due to faster results and 24% use it because it is challenging to type on certain devices.

Speaking of faster results, it takes 4.6 seconds for a voice search result page to load compared to the average search result page, which takes 8.8 seconds. It isn't just fast but extremely accurate. The Google voice search accuracy rate for the English language is 95%. This means a user is expected to get accurate search results for a voice search 95 times out of 100 attempts.

Voice search also helps people with disabilities use search without typing or looking at a device. A study shows that people with motor, linguistic, and cognitive impairments can easily and effectively interact with voice assistants leading to improved accessibility. Another study interviewed 16 Amazon Echo users with disabilities and found that people with disabilities can easily interact with voice assistants as well.

The benefits of using voice search outperform text search, and this is a reason why people from all walks of life love using it.

Related: Voice Search Is Exploding and Digital Strategy Will Never Be the Same

Why your business needs to leverage voice search

Voice search optimization connects you with your target audience, makes your website accessible and improves the user experience. With an increase in the number of voice assistants, a rise in the number of smartphone users and a shift from text to voice search, a lot of opportunities await businesses that optimize their websites and content for voice search.

Think of voice search as an additional channel to interact with your target audience. Though search engines like Google and voice assistants use existing content to serve voice queries, businesses that optimize their content for voice will always have a competitive advantage.

Adding schema markup to your content is one of the primary voice search optimization techniques. Websites that use schema markup for voice search are more likely to perform better in voice search. Google, for instance, has a dedicated version of the schema for voice search (known as speakable) that helps Google Assistant understand and convert text to speech.

Surprisingly, 27.4% of all websites don't use any type of structured data. Businesses aren't using regular schema markup, but schema for voice search is a different story. If your competitors aren't doing it, you should do it — now.

The same goes for conversational keywords that play a major role in voice search ranking. Most businesses focus on search intent and are geared towards commercial intent keywords, which are rarely conversational.

For example, "I am looking for a pharmacy that is open 24 hours and delivers to ABC Street" is a conversational search query. On the other hand, businesses usually optimize their content for search queries like "pharmacies near me," "pharmacy in XYZ city," "best online pharmacies," etc.

Gaps like these need to be filled, and businesses that take the leap will definitely have a competitive advantage.

Related: 3 Ways to Get New Customers by Optimizing for Voice Search

Voice search SEO vs. traditional SEO

If you're ready to leverage voice search for your business, you have to optimize your website and content for voice search.

There are a few major differences between SEO for voice search and traditional SEO:

  1. Voice search is focused on conversational long-tail keywords. As mentioned earlier, this is because people speak in their normal tone when they are searching for something via voice. For example, "What is the best route I should take to the nearest coffee shop?" On the other hand, traditional SEO is geared towards general keywords, including short-tail keywords with or without a conversational approach.
  2. Google uses featured snippets as the voice search result and the assistant reads it to the users. This means two things for businesses. First, you need a further reduction in organic click-through rate. Second, you need more focus on schema markup. You need to target featured snippets and you must use relevant schema markup to do so by answering direct and accurate answers for voice search users.
  3. Voice search is more local than traditional search. This is because more than 50% of people use voice search during driving, and they are more likely to search for a store or a restaurant than ways to lose belly fat during driving. This makes voice search SEO different from traditional SEO. With voice SEO, you need to focus on local search queries more than anything else.

Related: Intelligent Search Drives More Customers to Your Business Than Your Website

How to optimize for voice search and add it to your SEO strategy

Optimizing your website for voice search requires much more than keyword research and targeting. It needs to be part of your business's SEO strategy.

Here is how to do it:

1. Update buyer personas

Understanding your target audience and how they use voice search is the first step. For example, millennials are more likely to use voice search than Gen X and baby boomers. Similarly, more than half of all voice searches are for sales and deals.

There is, however, no general rule of thumb. You need to do surveys and interviews to get a step closer to your target audience. Figure out how they use voice search and incorporate the same in buyer personas.

For example, if your target audience includes cab drivers, they are more likely to use voice search as they are mostly on the road. On the other hand, if you own an ecommerce store, a small proportion of your audience might be using voice assistants or even voice search, as online shopping is rarely done via voice search.

You need to understand your target audience and how it uses voice search. Here are a few questions that will give you a nice idea of how to proceed:

  • What percentage of your target audience uses voice search and voice assistants?
  • How often do your potential customers use voice search?
  • What smart devices and voice assistants do they use?
  • When they are more likely and least likely to seek help from voice search?
  • Why do they prefer voice search over text search?

Getting answers to these (and similar questions) from your target audience is the first step towards optimizing your website for voice search.

Related: All About Buyer Personas: What They Are, Why You Need Them and How to Make Them Effective

2. Keyword targeting

Conversational and long-tail keywords are a norm with voice search. If you want to optimize your content for it, start targeting conversational keywords.

You need to find conversational keywords and target them for optimizing content for voice search. One simple way to target conversational keywords is to switch to a conversational writing style. Write content as if you are talking to someone. This might make your content a bit informal, but it works.

For example, use "I" and "me" in your content and add long-tail questions and answers to make it conversational.

You don't necessarily have to change your brand voice and style to do this. You can create a FAQs section where you answer common questions and publish each question and its answer as a single blog post. Do this alongside conventional blogging to avoid deviating too far from your brand voice.

3. Optimize content for voice

Create content that's niche-based and highly targeted. Don't try to target all the buyer personas with a single piece of content. You need to get specific and personalized with content.

Follow these best practices to optimize content for voice search:

  • Distribute your content into different sections. Add a heading to each section and make sure you have two or three sentences per section (that's equivalent to 20-30 seconds of content).
  • Create a short summary of your article with bullet points of short sections. Add voice structured data (speakable) to the summary only. This significantly improves your chances of being picked up for voice search.
  • Optimize your website, blog and content for mobile since voice search is more associated with mobile than desktop.
  • Optimize content for local search queries that target a specific market.
  • Focus on getting the featured snippets, FAQs and rich results, as these are the building blocks of voice search.
  • Make content scannable with headlines, sub-headlines, bullets, short paragraphs and accurate information. Avoid fluff and get to the point right away.

When you are creating amazing content, don't forget backlink acquisition. Backlinks still play their role in the voice search. Research shows that blog posts with 2,500 words are more likely to acquire backlinks naturally and organic shares.

Related: 3 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Position Their Brand to Dominate Voice Search

Final thoughts

The best thing about voice search is that it works like text search. The voice command is converted into text and vice versa. This means you don't have to create a separate SEO strategy for voice and text. A better approach is to integrate voice search into your existing SEO strategy. Voice search optimization should be a part of your SEO strategy and both should be aligned.

Consider voice search as an additional marketing channel that has a lot of potential for businesses.

Jeanna Barrett

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder & Chief Remote Expert

Jeanna Barrett is the founder and chief remote expert for First Page Strategy. In 2016, Jeanna left the U.S. to lay roots and build her business in Belize, and in 2021 First Page was named No. 43 in the fastest-growing private companies of Inc. 5,000 Regionals: California.

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