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The Small Business Guide To Voice Optimization

Published: August 17, 2019
Author: Martin William Harvey

Chapter 1: What is Voice Optimization?
Chapter 2: How Voice Has Become Part of Our Daily Lives
Chapter 3: Why Voice is Important for Small Business
Chapter 4: How to Boost Your Websites Voice Optimization
Chapter 5: How to Voice Optimize your Website
Chapter 6: The Future of Voice and How Prepare

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What is Voice Optimization?

Voice Optimization is the strategy and process behind optimizing a website’s content, location, company information and branding to increase the chances of a business appearing in voice-related search results.

In the last decade, Voice has taken the world by storm. It all started with IBM’s Shoebox which became the first digital speech recognition tool and the more recognizable virtual assistant – Siri. Siri was introduced to the Apple operating system in October of 2011 and was followed by Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortona and Amazon’s Alexa.

How Voice Has Become Part of Our Daily Lives

Originally the functionality of Voice was limited. The virtual assistants only understood certain commands and had difficulty adjusting for various accents, but in the last decade Siri, Alexa, Google Now and Cortona have made significant advances.

The average Voice user today uses a virtual assistant to find a local restaurant or a coffee shop. They are also using Voice to purchase new shoes, connect with local gyms and find “how-to” information. In 2011, a Voice user might have asked “What time is it in Italy?”, while today the same Voice user asks, “Find me local Plumbers in the Boise, Idaho area with 24-hour service”.

Voice has become part of our daily lives so much that 65% of 25-49 year old’s speak to their virtual assistants at least once per day while, 61% admitting that they will use Voice more in the future.

We use virtual assistants on our phones, watches, tablets and even in our houses. Many virtual assistants connect right to the lights, making it more convenient for people to use on a daily basis.

Why Voice is Important to Small Business

With the use of Voice growing, the not-so-new platform also gives small businesses an opportunity to reach users on a whole new level. Google plays a large part in how successful a local business is. Google My Business (Google’s Local Search Platform), has given small businesses with limited SEO a chance to be seen on a local level.

But what happens when more people start to use Voice rather than search on the Google search engine? If your target market is 25-49 years old’s, then you may have already seen the effects.

Voice can offer several advantages and disadvantages to small business owners depending on marketing decisions they make. If the business chooses to invest in ensuring that their website is Voice Optimized, then there are opportunities to be gained. If the business chooses to ignore Voice, then the chances of traffic decreasing over the next few years is almost certain.

Let’s quickly discuss how Voice works when a user is looking for a business or service. Once the user asks the question “Find me local Plumbers in the Boise, Idaho area with 24-hour service”. The virtual assistant, let’s use Google Now as an example, runs the search in the Google search engine. Google Now will scan through all Google My Business accounts for “Plumbers” in “Boise, Idaho” and filter out the business that do not have “Open 24 Hours” in their “Operating Hours” section. Those that pass through the filter are revealed to the customer.

Fortunately, for those using Android phones, Google Now almost always uses the Google My Business listings when searching for local businesses. With that being said, it is imperative that small businesses have Google My Business accounts and have them optimized so they appear on Voice results.

But what about those random questions people find themselves asking virtual assistants and how do you benefit from making your website Voice Optimized? Let’s go back to our plumber question. Imagine instead of asking for a plumber immediately the Voice user first asked, “How do I fix a leaking pipe”. In this case a business would not appear in the results, rather the virtual assistant searches the Google search engine to find a blog or video that will answer the users question and most of the time the result given is the Featured Snippet on Google.

The Featured Snippet is the top result on a Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP), they are formatted to provide the user with a clear and concise answer to the question asked. Most of the time, this result has the best and most thought-out answer to the question asked, thus it makes sense that Google would use that result for Voice.

Since the user generally only gets a couple of results when searching through Voice, the competition for the top spots gets even more competitive. With a Voice Optimized website, it makes getting onto these top spots just a little bit easier. Of course, a Voice Optimized website will do nothing if the content is not thorough, thought-out and valuable to the user.

How to Boost Your Website’s Voice Optimization

The value of Voice Optimization depends on several factors. For example, a “how-to” video doesn’t stand a chance getting chosen for Voice searches if it’s not on particular platforms with followers and subscribers to verify its quality. In the same way, a blog won’t get chosen as a Featured Snippet if people do not think it is valuable information.

Below we will discuss 8 strategies you can use to start Voice Optimizing your website. If you have your website designed through White Whale Web Design, our team will talk through this process with you and add these strategies into your website at no extra charge.

Get Listed on Google Business

This is arguably the most important strategy you can do, and we recommend doing it first! If you do not have a Google My Business account and you are a local business, then you can benefit in multiple ways in addition to Voice Optimization.

Google My Business is a critical component to being found on the Google search engine. Essentially, when a user is looking for a product or service on Google, local businesses appear at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), if the user is located in the jurisdiction of the business. This kind of visibility allows users to find local businesses, view operating hours and explore reviews.

Google My Business is an essential part of optimizing your website for Voice Optimization. If your website was developed by White Whale Web Design, we will walk you through setting up Google My Business and even help you optimize it.

Think Mobile First

Thinking mobile first relates to how your website is designed, but also how it was developed. Many would argue there are two fundamental ways to develop a website. The first, is to design the website to be seen on mobile and as the screen gets bigger the design becomes uncompressed into the desktop version. The second, is to design the website to be seen on a desktop and then as the screen gets smaller, it compresses into the mobile version.

It’s important that your developer designs your website as a mobile website and then decompressed it into to desktop because most people who use Voice are using it on their mobile phones. If Google does not deem your website Mobile-Friendly, then you will most likely not get a Featured Snippet or be chosen to appear in the Voice searches.

If your website was designed by White Whale Web Design, then we took care of this for you.

Increase Your Website’s Page Load Speed

Page Load Speed is the time it takes for an individual web page to load. In July 2018, Google introduced Mobile First Indexing. Previously, Google ranked websites based on how fast and how user-friendly the website appeared on desktop, however, as of July 201, Google now ranks websites based on the speed, user-ability and other SEO factors of the mobile version.

What does Page Load Speed mean for Voice Optimization? Well, if your website doesn’t load fast, then less people will wait for it to fully load and the more people who don’t wait the less value Google places on your website, thus giving them a reason not to introduce your website to Voice users.

If your website was made by White Whale Web Design, your website was built with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) technology and loads almost instantaneously on any device.

Think Conversational

This strategy focuses on the content of the website and specifically the blog section. When writing blogs, don’t think of it as a term paper or a doctorate dissertation. When writing remember that the average reading level in the United States is similar to a 7th graders reading level.

When writing your website’s content, keep the content conversational; almost as if you were speaking directly to your customer about your product and services. This style of writing will be detected by the Google crawl bots and increase your chances of being featured.

If your website was built by White Whale Web Design, then we have already verified that your content meets this standard based on your target market.

Aim for The Top Spot

The saying goes “shoot for the moon, even if you miss you will land among the stars”. This is a great way to approach Voice Optimization. It is unlikely that all of your web pages will be included in Voice search, however if you attempt the best possible outcome then most likely at least some of your pages will show up as a Voice result.

So, when you are writing your blogs and curating content, put time and effort into researching, editing and revising to ensure everything that ends up on your website is of the highest quality. If you write an article about “how to fix a leaking pipe” then make sure that article is thought-out, detailed, provides references and includes videos. Everything on your website is a direct reflection of your brand.

Focus on Local

Voice Optimization’s real advantages come in the local market. If you own a coffee shop in Seattle and write a blog about how to make the best cup of coffee, it doesn’t necessarily benefit your business if only Voice users in Europe see it.

When thinking about Voice, focus on how Voice will help you achieve a bigger local footprint rather than a national or international one. If your business is located in several cities, then each business should be focusing on growing their local market.

Mark Up Your Content with Structured Data Markup

Structured Data Markup is the additional code added directly to the HTML of a web page to enable it to be featured as a Featured Snippet. If you think you have written some quality content, but you don’t have Structured Data Markup it is almost impossible to get chosen as a Featured Snippet.

Think of Structured Data Markup as a way of translating your content into a language Google can understand. When you use Structured Data Markup you are telling Google what specific category your article falls into, and the answers it provides to specific questions. Google uses the information derived from the Structured Data Markup and then compares it to the articles like it. If Google believes it is the best, then they will give it the top spot and feature it in Voice searches.

If you had your website developed by White Whale Web Design, then we have optimized your website with Structured Data Markup for you.

Answer The Public

If you haven’t read our discussion on the book “They Ask You Answer” then it is worth the read. In the book, Mark turns an almost bankrupt business into a global authority by simply answering the public’s questions.

At its core, Voice Optimization is simply answering questions – questions users ask their virtual assistants. So, answering your customers questions via your website is a great way to reach others. Fortunately, this strategy is one of the easiest. Over the next month, when a someone asks you a question about a product or service, write it down. Later type up the answer in a thorough, thought-out, detailed blog and place it in the Frequently Asked Questions section of your website. Add some Structured Data Markup to it and publish it to the world.

This approach is not only a great way to add Voice Optimization to your website, but it also provides an additional service for your potential clients.

How to Voice Optimize Your Website

Voice Optimization doesn’t have to be complicated, however it does take some investment whether you decide to do it yourself or use a professional. Any one of the 8 strategies above can be used individually or in groups, but a truly optimized website will use them all.

If you decide to use a professional, here is some advice:

Just because a company designs websites, doesn’t mean they can Voice Optimize your website. Before working with them, ask them if they have Voice Optimized a website before, what strategies they have used and if they use Voice in their daily lives. A good Voice Optimization company should be skilled in Search Engine Optimization and be able to custom code a website from scratch.

If you don’t have a developer or your developer does not focus on Voice, then we would be happy to perform some initial tests on your website to determine its SEO health. After collecting the data, we will provide you with a solution that meets your goals and work with you to implement the strategy.

The Future of Voice and How I Can Prepare

Voice is growing at a rapid pace with almost half of all global searches expected to be Voice by 2020. Voice will substantially grow in the eCommerce sector with some believing that Voice will become a $40 billion channel in 2022.

If you want to be in business for at least the next 5 years, then we do not recommend avoiding the social wave, but embrace it. Work with professionals who pride themselves on staying up to date with the Voice market and continuously develop and evolve Voice strategies. Similar to Google’s algorithm, Voice is a living, breathing movement driven by social fluidity and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.