Voice search and SEO: Why B2B marketers need to pay attention now
Voice search is being adopted for a variety of purposes, and columnist Nate Dame makes the case that its influence on B2B decision-makers is growing as well. B2B marketers, be prepared!
Voice search is commonly discussed in the context of local and B2C SEO, but it’s being used for more than just getting directions to nearby restaurants or hearing the next step in a recipe while cooking. Voice search is being adopted for a variety of purposes, and its influence on B2B decision-makers is growing as well.
By looking at who’s using voice search, why they’re using it, and where they’re using it, it becomes very clear that the impact of voice search on B2B SEO is inevitable. Adoption of the technology is on the rise, so it’s time for brands to begin optimizing for voice search.
Who’s using voice technology?
As early as 2014, 55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults were already using voice technology daily. Adults use it to dictate texts, illustrating a desire to avoid typing on small devices. Teens use it to get help with homework, demonstrating an early adoption of voice technology for organic search.
And those statistics were gathered before the proliferation of voice-operated personal assistant devices:
- Personal assistants now are included by default on smartphones.
- Amazon’s Echo was its best-selling product during the 2016 holiday season.
- Google Home and Amazon Echo device sales are expected to exceed 24 million this year.
As adoption of personal assistant devices continues to increase, people will become more accustomed to operating technology using voice commands. This familiarity will inevitably translate to organic search, even in B2B markets, because of the one common denominator in everyone’s reason for using voice technology: ease of use.
Why do people use voice search? (And why is its rule imminent?)
While familiarity with personal assistant technology will encourage more people to try voice search, it is convenience that will really drive adoption. The top reasons people use voice search are almost all related to improved user experience.
People use voice search because it’s faster, simpler and more user-friendly. It simplifies searching for individuals who struggle to type on small devices, and it helps searchers avoid navigating confusing site menus. It’s also faster than searching by text, guided by improved accuracy in the technology.
And that’s not just people’s perception: Google’s voice recognition technology is now 95 percent accurate — improved nearly 20 percent since 2013. On average, humans can speak more than three times as many words per minute as they can type. If voice recognition is just as accurate as typing, the speed of voice search provides a compelling justification for adoption.
Voice search provides a better user experience, particularly on mobile devices. Given that 90 percent of executives use mobile devices to conduct research before making a purchase, it’s not hard to imagine that those executives will transition to voice search — not to mention the next generation of B2B buyers who are growing up with the technology as second nature.
Where do people use voice search?
If the most popular reason for using voice search is occupied hands/vision, then it’s easy to assume that people are using voice search in their cars and kitchens. But there are many other places where people use voice search:
Nearly 50 percent of respondents in a recent survey conducted by Stone Temple Consulting reported that they use voice search at the office. And, while most people are uncomfortable using voice search in public, individuals in the highest income bracket are, interestingly, the least likely to be inhibited about using voice search in front of others:
So here’s what we know:
- Executives use mobile devices to research purchase decisions.
- People are already using voice search in the office.
- Individuals with executive-level incomes are more comfortable using voice search, even in situations where others might not.
All things considered, the importance of voice search in B2B marketing becomes hard to ignore.
How to prepare for B2B voice search
Some predict that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be conducted by voice. Current numbers show that this prediction may not be too much of a stretch: last year, Google reported that 20 percent of its mobile queries were already voice searches.
To prepare for the impact of voice search on B2B SEO, marketers should take steps now to begin optimizing for voice queries. There are three major ways to optimize site content for voice search:
- Focus on mobile. Voice searches are most likely to be conducted on mobile devices, so mobile optimization is more important than ever. But optimizing for mobile goes beyond simple responsive design — you’ll need to improve page load speeds, remove intrusive interstitials, abandon drop-down navigation menus and format videos to display in full-screen when held vertically to improve the mobile user experience.
- Target long-tail keywords. Voice search queries are more likely to be longer than their text counterparts, and use more conversational language. Find relevant long-tail keywords, and target them in site content to cater to natural language queries.
- Target featured snippets. When a featured snippet is populated for a query, voice search devices read the snippet and source aloud. This is a huge boost for brand recognition and authority, as Google essentially declares one company the expert. As far as voice search is concerned, “position zero” is the new page one.
The best part of taking time to optimize for voice search is that it improves overall SEO as well. Mobile optimization and page load speeds are already ranking factors, long-tail keywords comprise half of all searches, and featured snippets can drive traffic by securing a position-zero result. Voice search SEO isn’t really a separate initiative — it’s just an expansion or reprioritization of existing SEO best practices.
Voice search and B2B SEO
Voice search is used by people of all ages at home, in the car and in the office. And the rise of personal assistant devices, combined with the improved accuracy of voice recognition technology, will continue to drive voice search adoption through the end of the decade.
B2B brands are not exempt from voice search’s impact on user behavior, and these companies should take time now to begin focusing on voice search optimization.
Get started by optimizing existing content for featured snippets. Find keywords you’re currently ranking on page one for, analyze search results for user intent, and update your content to provide a direct answer. This will help boost brand recognition when a digital assistant reads your business’s name as the source of an answer in response to a voice search query.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.