“OK, Google…”

“Hey, Siri…”


“Hey, Cortana…”

Search engine optimization is changing, and the devices we talk to are a big part of the reason why.

Just when digital marketers thought they had gotten really good at picking the keywords most likely to be plugged into a search engine by consumers, people started asking their smart speakers and phones questions.

A year ago, in January 2018, one billion voice searches were happening every month, on average, according to an article by Gabriel Shaoolian for Forbes. Fifty percent of searches, many of which lead to purchases, now occur on a mobile phone, says Shaoolian.

The “micro moments” we wrote about in a recent post (5 marketing trends that will continue evolving in 2019) illustrate why these numbers are climbing. Customers are increasingly asking for instantaneous, local, direct answers using voice search. Micro moments are those times when we ask for a quick lookup of information, moments that determine where we go to eat, drink, find bargains, or see a show.

Even with these remarkable trends, there’s no need to panic and change up everything about the ways we digitally market. The keyword-based SEO we’re used to is not going away. But it is crucial to add conversational, or long-tail, search terms to an effective SEO strategy to keep up with how customers are behaving.

“Customers are increasingly asking for instantaneous, local, direct answers using voice search. In 2018, one billion voice searches were happening every month on average.

Google and all the rest have adjusted their algorithms to respond to these voice search queries, which affects results even when the searcher isn’t using a voice-optimized device. Since the introduction of digital assistants, it’s more and more common for people to type in a question or full sentence when searching even on a laptop. To stay fluent in SEO, marketers are now adding key questions, as complete sentences, to their content.

What it comes down to is that digital assistants are training people to expect an instant answer, not a results page. “This requires some logic and some understanding from the machines, some contextual understanding,” says marketing and technology specialist Rand Fishkin for Moz, “but it’s not that challenging, and the machines are doing a good job of this.”

Still, Fishkin points out, some questions lend themselves better to instant answers than others do. That’s what businesses (and the marketers they hire) need to keep in mind as they build their SEO strategy. For instance, a question about the price of a product can be instantly answered by voice. A comparison of features and reliability of similar brands of that product is too complex to be answered instantly by your smart speaker. Different SEO strategies are necessary for each type of question.

Sound complicated? It is, but in a way it’s simple, too. How do people talk when they ask a question? Content that’s written the way you talk is always a good idea. Aim for a 9th- grade reading level, tops, in your content. (This post’s reading level is grade 8, by the way.)

4 tips for optimizing your content for voice search

In addition to writing content the way you speak, what are some recommended ways to optimize for conversational search and direct answers to queries? Shaoolian’s Forbes article shares these:

  1. Use voice search yourself if you haven’t already to get a feel for what the experience is like.
  2. Make sure your site loads fast. All those customers using mobile devices are on the go. They aren’t going to hang around and wait. An instant answer isn’t possible if the site is taking its sweet time to open. Talk with your web designer about making your site as fast and responsive as possible.
  3. Work toward earning featured snippets. This is a concise summary block that sits above the fold on your page and is optimized to show up in search results. Keep in mind that featured snippets are earned (you don’t just create one yourself), meaning a search engine has deemed that content as being the best answer to a searcher’s question. Think about answering journalism’s key words: Who, what, where, when, why, and how?
  4. Concentrate on local search. According to Shaoolian, 22 percent of voice searches ask for location-based information. If your business has a physical location that customers can visit, make sure you can be found in local search by creating a Google Business listing. Additionally, consider creating location-specific content on your website that can be served up for voice searches that include frequently used phrases such as “near me.”

Do any of these raise questions in your mind? Except for the first one – you’re on your own there – we can help you understand and implement these recommendations. Reach out and we’ll be happy to explain in more detail.

Make voice search work for your business

Our job at Lumen Marketing and Communication is to dig into these trends, not just to keep up, but to keep ahead of them, so you don’t have to follow all the ins and outs yourself. What question would you like to ask us about your marketing strategy? Let’s talk. Call us at 720-722-2987 or click the blue button below to request a time for conversation.