Working toward “position 0” for smart speaker queries.

By Nathalie Rodriguez, C-K’s Search and Paid Social Team; Christine Formenti, C-K’s Strategic Audio Video Investments (SAVI) Team; Nick Papagiannis, C-K’s SEO Team

Voice assistants have taken over how consumers search.

The days of searching via text may really be fading. Consumers can now speak directly to their smart devices for information, which changes the way consumers are seeing or hearing their results. While we have seen voice assistants flourish across smartphones, as nearly 40% of the adult population uses them at least once a month, smart speakers are now also gaining steam. But advertising within these devices can be a challenge.

Smartphones have a leg up, as search results still appear on a screen. Most speakers are screenless and that represents the challenge: If consumers can’t see the results, and limited results will be read, how can brands ensure consumers know they are part of the results?

This is why “position 0” and voice search optimization, especially for smart speakers, needs to be evaluated in conjunction with traditional search engine optimizations (SEO).

So, let’s look at the smart speaker landscape, how people are utilizing their smart speakers beyond general information, and the ways brands can make their way into the top answer when consumers are querying their smart speakers.

Smart speaker queries continue to grow and not just for general information.

It is estimated that there will be over 80 million adults using a smart speaker every month by 2021. And that number may be outdated as COVID-19 is allowing people to interact more frequently with their smart speaker with stay-at-home orders. A study by NPR and Edison research shows people that use voice assistants are now 52% more likely to buy a smart speaker, which will only further the growth of usage. While most consumers are using these devices for listening to news, weather or music, they are doing much more than that now. Consumers are starting to look to smart speakers for recommendations and querying with an intention of making a purchase. 

As e-commerce becomes a prevalent activity for smart speaker usage, brands will need to find a way into an arena that you cannot “pay into”… yet.

Can brands find a way to make it to the top of a voice search query?

Yes! But brands must consider what a consumer wants to know when they are using their smart speaker for search.

  • Are they trying to find general information?
  • Are they trying to find a business location?
  • Do they want to purchase a product?
  • Are they looking to find something to do?

Thinking about the intent of a search will help you drive toward a more effective voice search optimization plan.

Tips to optimize for voice search on smart speakers

When optimizing for voice search, keep in mind that different smart speakers use different search engines. This means you will need to provide the same steps across both Google and Bing. As a reminder, Amazon uses Bing and other smart speaker manufacturers use Alexa technology.

  1. Make your content snippet worthy

Creating valuable, substantial content can be challenging but the benefits will prove to be worthwhile when you start to see your content qualify for featured snippets. Featured snippets offer consumers seeking answers within search engines an abbreviated and well-rounded response at “position 0” – the very top of the results. These featured snippets are most often the source of information used to generate voice speaker responses. While your optimizations are sure to improve your likelihood of having a brand presence across smart speakers, you’ll also build brand authority as you lead in sharing your industry knowledge.

  1. Make sure your website coding is speaking in search engine language

Although your content will play a significant role in your rankings on its own, it’s important that you facilitate the process of being reviewed as much as possible, using what’s known as structured schema. Schema is a type of code that speaks in search engine language. It is embedded on the backend of your website and allows search engines to crawl your website and better understand your website’s subject matter. Schema structure varies in the fields it requires based on your business category and the types of content included on your website.

For example, a food blog may use ‘recipe schema’ to help the engine understand the steps for making your recipes. As a result, the search engine may provide rich snippets in your organic listings to improve user experience. These rich snippets vary by category as well but can offer things like enabling Google Assistant to guide your audience in creating your recipe.

  1. Optimize for conversational and question-based queries

It’s important to understand that the smart speaker ecosystem is used differently by consumers. In this environment, consumers are much more conversational and have even been known to say things like ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ in their searches. Consumers will normally ask their smart speakers questions rather than a statement or a few words.

Because of this, your content must be written to include headlines and copy that includes long-tail keywords. For instance, if you’re selling lawn care products you may want to have content that includes terms like ‘where to buy lawn mowers?’ in place of only including ‘lawn mowers.’ Consumers have unique needs and will need certain details understood before they move forward with purchasing your product or service. Try including a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page to answer all their questions with thorough but concise answers. Knowing that voice search results are generally about 29 words long, try to keep that number in mind as you build out your FAQ page responses.

  1. Don’t forget about local voice search

Local voice search uses local listings like Google My Business, Apple Maps, Bing Places and Yelp Business listings to generate responses for queries made by consumers. These different local listings each hold a unique share of space across different voice assistants. When deciding where to start within local, first consider claiming listings that feed into the voice assistants your consumers are most likely using. Then, focus on ensuring those listings offer information on your consumers’ searches. There are three different types of queries that can relate to local search as they reference a specific location:

Because 74% of voice search users look for a local business on a weekly basis, it’s vital that each local listing provider (mentioned above) has the most up-to-date address, hours of operation, contact information and descriptions.

  1. Prioritize page load time

In between the SEO optimizations needed to make a site present across voice search, page speed can often fall between the cracks. Page speed is key as it impacts user experience and determines how many pages a search engine can crawl on your website based on an engine’s allocated crawl budget. If a search engine cannot crawl all your pages within that time, your chances of ranking are diminished. Google’s free page speed tool can offer insight on how quickly your pages load based on their criteria.

Organic and paid search can work together

Integrating organic and paid search efforts offers a variety of opportunities to maximize your presence across search engines. Optimizations against your content and your website offer an opportunity to improve your rankings on organic search and ultimately, to boost your opportunity to serve across voice search. Along the way, you’ll generate more site traffic due to improved visibility across your top organic terms. By leveraging audience remarketing lists within paid search, you’ll be able to retarget those new organic site visitors with personalized messaging. For instance, you can target users who visited, but did not make a purchase, with a luring discount message such as, ‘Complete your order now for free shipping and 20% off your entire purchase.’ Visibility within the paid and organic section of the search engine results page will ensure your brand is dominating in-page real estate for your top terms.

Future of paid ads

Currently, smart speakers and voice assistants do not include ads within responses for fear of disrupting user experience in a growing ecosystem. However, paid ad opportunities are expected to roll out in the future. Voice search inherently intends to provide convenience to users in real-time, meaning search giants need to create a strong foundation of confidence and trust before imposing any interruptions in user experience. As voice search becomes more widely adopted and can ensure that featured ads enhance user experience, more ad opportunities will become available.

Until the day when paid search is possible in smart speaker searches, think about how you can design your website with consumers in mind. Voice search will only continue to grow as smart speakers become commonplace in our homes. Keeping your website optimized for voice search will make it easier for search engines to pull data from your website and obtain “position 0” for consumers searching on smart speakers and using voice assistants in general.

A great example of how voice search optimization was applied can be found here. While not solely for smart speakers, it shows how voice SEO was an important piece of driving to “position 0.”

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