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

How this changes your digital and social media strategies and could lead to a competitive advantage.

learn more about Keith A. Quesenberry

By Keith A. Quesenberry

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Apple's launch of the iPhone 4s in 2011 introduced the world to Siri. Since then we've had Google Voice, Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Echo Alexis, but now voice search is poised for rapid growth with 55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults now using it more than once a day. Businesses can benefit from understanding how this shift will disrupt current search (SEO), content marketing and social media marketing strategies.

What is changing? Keyword searching is decreasing so sites optimized to keywords will see a decrease in traffic and engagement. Voice search sifts human action from typing in key words or phrases to find something to using natural language to ask questions. This goes beyond long tail search strategies where you combine multiple search terms to narrow results on smaller niche audiences where your content is more relevant. People were using longer search phrases looking for more specific products and services. Now they are using their voices to ask questions in full sentences.

Related: Should You Worry About Voice Search?

With the growth of voice search, which uses natural language, there is an increase in questions as part of the search phrasing. In fact, the use of search queries starting with "who," "what," "where" and "how" has increased by 61 percent. Natural language simply means consumers and potential customers are now asking questions of the Internet the way they would a person. This makes sense because they now can use their voice and ask their phones. Siri, Cortana or Alexis can act as your ambassadors if you adjust your strategies accordingly so that your businesses content appears as a good answer.

Think less keyword stuffing and meta tags and more full sentence answers and conversational copy. Respond to more natural language questions with more natural language answers -- the way you would answer someone in person. With the emphasis on quality answers and content you should also think less like a marketer with heavy sales messages and more like a publisher or journalist. Answering the W questions is the basis of writing a good news story and the basis of my Social Media Audit Template.

Related: 6 Social Media Marketing Tactics That Give the Best Bang for Your Buck

Google Voice search has doubled over the last year and will only increase greatly. How can you take advantage of this trend? Follow the four steps below.

  1. Research the most common questions poised by your target audience. Search industry, interest and product forums. Search comments on ratings and industry appropriate review sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor or Amazon. Search questions and answer sites like Quora and your own Q&A page, survey front line employees and sales people about most common questions and analyze your own social media accounts for common questions. If you don't have a Q&A section on your website add one to collect and answer common questions.
  2. Search these common questions using voice search and see how the current answers are written. Use Siri, Google Voice to see what is appearing as the top results. This will help you identify current competition and provide a guideline for how to structure your own answers. Are there answers that are not being answered? Concentrate there first, then work your way to trying to overtake competitor's positions.
  3. Create website and social media content that directly answers those questions in simple clear sentences. Here remember the "who," "what," "where" and "how." Provide clear and direct answers but fill out the information around the direct answers. Once you get the target on your site for the direct answer you can expand the topic. Also don't forget to create content based on variations of the same questions such as, "how do I fix ____?," "how do I stop ___?", or who can fix ____?, "what do I do if ___?" Don't forget all content that can be searched including blogs and press releases.
  4. Consider local voice search. If you are a business with a physical address you should add this element to potential customer questions. Here people may be asking questions based on geo-location such as "where is the nearest BBQ place?," "where can I get an iPhone charger?", Who has the closest free wi-fi?" Make sure your business is listed with physical locations in Google+ Local and other geo-location social media sites like Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook.

What are the benefits adjusting to voice search? For SEO, optimizing your website, blog and press/media pages with new information in the right structure can help get your content noticed over competitors to drive more traffic from highly qualified leads. For social media, voice search optimized content will draw more engagement because you are providing valuable answers addressing your target audience's most common questions.

Related: 6 Tools to Develop an Outstanding Social Media Marketing Strategy

Over time the better you get at answering natural language questions the better your results. Bill Slawski from Go Fish Digital says that sites frequently selected and rank highly can be deemed more authoritative and thus appear in more top results and drive more traffic.

As an added benefit, this focus on discovering and answering your target's questions helps you develop more valuable and relevant social media content. Social media and content marketing strategies depend upon providing frequent, consistent, relevant content to target audiences. Knowing what questions customers are asking is another source of what content to create to drive awareness views and shares.

Adjusting to the shift to natural language and this process helps you think more like a consumer and less like a marketer. This improved understanding of what your customers are currently seeking could also lead to new product and service ideas to improve your business offering.

We are still early in this trend. It is important to start adjusting your strategies now and you could benefit from a competitive advantage over your slower to adapt competitors.

Keith A. Quesenberry

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Associate Professor of Marketing

Keith A. Quesenberry is an associate professor at Messiah University. Author of Social Media Strategy: Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations in the Consumer Revolution and Brandstorytelling: Integrated Marketing Communications For The Digital Media Landscape.

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