If Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri have made their way into your daily routine, then you know first-hand how online search and marketing have changed in recent years. Analysts predict that within the next two years, 50% of all internet searches will be made through voice search. Thanks to smart devices, smart watches, smart speakers, and digital assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, younger generations are growing up in a world where voice rules.

How does this play into marketing? Until recently, search engine optimization (SEO) was based on keyboard search inputs. But speaking and typing are very different, and to stay ahead of the curve, marketers must begin transitioning their SEO toward natural speech patterns. For example, to optimize for a traditional Google search, you might use a key phrase like “used bike shop Dallas.” But to optimize for voice search, think about how you normally speak and adjust key phrases accordingly. For example, “where can I buy a used bike in Dallas?”

The rise of digital assistants may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but modern technology has made them an affordable reality —  and one that is here to stay. All you need is an internet-connected device outfitted with voice recognition, and you can receive a nearly human response to your question about directions, an update on a shipment you’re expecting or make dinner reservations at your favorite restaurant.

Not convinced digital assistants aren’t more than a fad? A report by OC&C Strategy Consultants shows that Americans spent $1.8 billion on voice-recognition technology and digital assistants in 2017. That figure is predicted to reach $40 billion by 2022. Gartner predicts that voice search will account for 30% of all online searches by next year.

You simply cannot afford to ignore this new movement. Growing popularity for digital assistants and the use of voice-recognition technology means making necessary changes to the way you market your content. Rather than entering keywords into search engines, your customers are likely talking to their digital devices.

Is your digital marketing strategy ready to adapt to these changes? Does voice search really change search engine optimization (SEO)? The simple answer: YES. While Google search isn’t going anywhere, it’s time to start optimizing your online content for voice search.

How? Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Use Natural Speech. Voice search allows marketers to focus content in terms of natural conversation, rather than disjointed keywords. How we speak and how we type are very different. Consider how you might ask a question of a friend. For example, you might ask “What is your favorite Chinese restaurant around here?” But if you’re searching on Google, “best Chinese Dallas” will suffice. With voice search, users are able to return to natural speech, such as “Where is the best place to get Chinese food near me?”

Digital assistants are designed to process natural conversation, so voice search opens the door for companies to be more authentic in content and online conversations.

Employ Long-Tail Keywords. Of course, keyword optimization is still essential in your overall digital strategy, but to optimize for voice, utilize long-tail keywords instead of one-word keywords. A long-tail keyword is typically three to five words in length and more specific than the average keyword. Because they are more specific in nature, long-tail keywords also provide small businesses a chance to rank high on Google. Consider a search for “vintage women’s clothing” vs. a simple search for “clothes.” Need help coming up with long-tail keywords? Check out Answer the Public, a popular SEO tool. Simply type in a single, root keyword and it will return a list of commonly asked questions related to that keyword.

Consider the Customer Journey. To stay relevant through voice search at any stage of the customer journey, structure your online content to answer questions at various points along the way. Search Engine Journal offers this helpful example:

Awareness: “What’s the best home voice assistant?”

Interest: “Can you make a phone call with Google Home?”

Evaluation: “Who is more intelligent Siri or Google?”

Purchase: “How much does an Amazon Echo cost?”

Customer support: “Why does Google Home sometimes not respond?”

Loyalty: “What products work with Google Home?”

Go Mobile-First. A “mobile-first” environment already exists, therefore your website and digital marketing should all be optimized for the mobile device if you want to receive top rankings in search engines like Google. In the future, this may swing to a higher priority on voice-friendly results, but in the meantime, optimizing for mobile can also help on the voice search front.

The use of digital assistants is becoming more and more mainstream. Now is the time to adapt your content marketing strategy to make room for voice search. While traditional search engines are not yet obsolete, making changes toward voice search now will set you up for marketing success in 2019 and beyond.

Is it time to refresh your marketing strategy and bring your content marketing up to speed with voice search? Contact Fuse Associates today to learn more about our digital marketing services.