Can you imagine if we actually talked to one another the same way we’ve historically talked to search engines? It would make for some awkward interactions.
“Minneapolis movie showtimes.”
“Um… come again?”
“Showtimes Captain Marvel 55441.”
“Are you –”
“Movie showtimes cheapest theater arcade games. I’m feeling lucky.”
“Sir, this is a Wendy’s.”
It’s only fitting I suppose that our adherence to Google’s robotic algorithms has, in turn, made us more robotic. Searchers became trained to speak in the engine’s keyword-driven language. Marketers crafted SEO strategies accordingly.
Today, the advent of voice search is making our conversations with search engines more… conversational. It’s not incidental that we activate this feature on our smartphones or voice assistants by addressing “Alexa” or “Siri” — this dynamic is very much intended to humanize the devices, which is a little creepy and dystopian if you think about it, but it’s best not to think about it.
In any event, this movement toward more conversational search aligns with a general focus on humanizing B2B brands. So let’s take a look at how marketers can adapt and thrive in the age of voice search.
Voice Search and B2B Marketing Strategy
In January, TopRank Marketing’s Associate Director of Search and Analytics Tiffani Allen outlined SEO predictions and trends for 2019, and voice search was of course one of the pillars.
“In 2019 and beyond it will be increasingly important for marketers to optimize and create content that lends itself to voice search,” she wrote, pointing out that — according to Gartner projections — 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen by next year. “From a technical perspective, the usual suspects of page speed, site security, and domain authority will play an important role here. But at the end of the day, it’s all about ensuring your site content can be easily found via voice search.”
So, beyond those mainstay technical aspects, how can we ensure our content is discoverable for the right people?
Fundamentally, the solution lies in best answer content. We recently discussed the ways in which a best answer SEO strategy lines up with voice search, because it compels us to understand the mindsets of searchers and speak their language. That post features a number of suggested methods for learning about the questions your customers are asking. Once you’ve completed this groundwork, it’s all about creating content that comprehensively answers those queries.
Beyond this overarching guideline, here a few specific items for B2B marketers to keep in mind when assessing their go-forward approach to voice search.
The majority of voice searches come from mobile devices, increasing the emphasis on what should already be a central consideration. Research shows that some 50% of B2B queries come from smartphones, and Boston Consulting Group expects that figure to reach 70% by 2020.
Responsive design and lightning-quick load times will be the big difference-makers here. If you haven’t lately, we recommend working with an agency or your internal SEO and analytics team to conduct a full mobile audit for your website and any other key digital real estate.
A significant portion of voice searches carry some level of location-based intent. This is often at odds with digitally oriented B2B brands, which tend to be less reliant on attracting physical customers and thus less likely to prioritize local search. But if you want to be visible (er — audible) in voice search results, it’s worth exploring ways you can invest in local content.
This brings us back to the “best answer” imperative we mentioned earlier. When conceiving and creating content, do so with a literal question-and-answer format in mind, based on the research you’ve done to understand your audience’s top curiosities. And I mean really answering the questions, not just fulfilling the search query. Nearly every piece of content we generate should tie back to some particular question that might follow a “Hey Alexa…”
Google has been prioritizing semantic search ever since the Hummingbird update, so this is a consideration that extends beyond voice.
B2B Marketers: Find Your Voice
Even though one recent study suggests that the seemingly unstoppable momentum of voice search is slowing just a tad, there’s no question that it has become a sizable factor in customer journeys and will remain one going forward.
The good news is that optimizing your B2B content strategy for voice search doesn’t need to be a separate and distinct focus. Most of the practices that are conducive to voice search traction are just plain generally advisable for B2B brands:
- Answer your audience’s most burning questions in conversational terms.
- Summarize the core substance of your content early on for traction in featured snippets.
- Deliver a seamless mobile experience at every step.
- Tap into the hidden B2B opportunity that is local search.
The bottom line is that B2B companies need to be less robotic, and more human. The rise of voice search is simply another trend feeding the urgency.
For a deeper dive into the combination of best answer content and search, read: How B2B Marketers Win at Search with Best Answer Content.