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Bringing voice search into your marketing strategy

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The concept of search engine optimization of web pages has been around for almost as long as the World Wide Web. SEO strategies and tactics have shifted and changed over the years, as search engines themselves have changed algorithms and rebalanced how different factors of web content are weighted in the final rankings. But one new factor is coming into play which may see many brands having to rethink their marketing strategy with regards to SEO: voice search.

Thanks to the advent of “smart speakers” such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, and the accompanying rise in the use of virtual assistants – including Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana – voice search is being used more and more by everyday users. According to Google’s estimates, voice search is expected to make up half of all online searches by the year 2020.

It’s clear that a shift toward voice search will mean changes in marketing strategy for brands that want to perform well in search rankings, particularly in cases where a virtual assistant will read out a single, definitive answer to a query, rather than the user seeing a page of ranked results. The single answer given by the virtual assistant is usually the same as the featured “snippet” that appears in a box at the top of the first search engine results page. So what can your brand do to improve its chances of being featured as a snippet?

The growth in voice search means that your marketing strategy should place an emphasis on long-tail keywords and focus on content that is conversational and natural in tone, like spoken language. The key here is that in voice search, most queries are phrased in the form of a question – your aim should be to understand the kind of questions your customers are likely to ask and provide natural, conversational answers to those questions.

The good news is that no one should know more than you about the specific questions people tend to ask about your brand, products, services or industry. In fact, listening to your customers – whether that’s direct queries, emails, contact form entries via your website, website keyword analytics, or social media mentions – should already be a core element of your marketing strategy. By taking those questions – and especially very specific questions which you can tie into relevant long-tail SEO keywords – and answering them on your website, whether on an FAQ page, or in articles or blogs, you can improve your chances of performing well in voice search.