If there’s one constant in technology, it’s that technology is always changing. Brands need to be ready to adapt to these changes to be successful.
In the last few years, we’ve seen a transformation in the way people search, and much of that transformation is attributed to the rise of digital assistants and voice search.
Back in 2015, 40% of smartphone users had started using voice search within the last six months of being surveyed. Now, with the improvements in voice search and the increase in adoption, 33 million devices, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, are predicted to be in circulation in 2017.
“With the vast improvement in the quality of digital voice assistants like Google Now, Siri, and Cortana, it was only a matter of time [before] people discovered the immense convenience of voice search and rely on it for their queries,” says Michael Georgiou, CMO and co-founder of Imaginovation.
When I say voice search, I’m talking about the searches made when speaking to a digital assistant. Rather than being typed in a search bar, these search queries are spoken and fed through these digital assistants.
There are some differences in how people use voice search over text search. Being aware of these differences and understanding how to adapt to them is critical for e-commerce success. Here are five ways your brand can prepare for success with voice search:
1. Understand your customers
Before you go making changes to your SEO strategy, you need to know the reasons behind your strategy. And that starts with research. Pay attention to and delve deep into your audience’s habits, preferences and desires. The more information you can gather, the better you’ll be able to determine how your customers shop and how your brand can sell to them.
Voice first devices have transformed the shopping experience. Now, people can order a pizza, book an Uber and compare prices all without looking at a screen. This means brands need to be able to position their products in a simple and easily accessible way.
Brands also need to be prepared to anticipate their customers’ needs. This could mean more personalization and customization of the shopping experience, such as remembering past orders and offering product recommendations based on users’ preferences.
2. Think about natural language search queries
One in five mobile users rely on voice search to find information, but how are they searching for that information? When typing, people are most likely to search for what they want with short phrases, such as “best vacation spots.”
But with voice search, the search queries are more akin to how people naturally speak, and are more likely to be in a question format, such as “what are the best vacation spots?” Research shows there has been growth in question queries year over year.
“We don’t search with voice the same way that we search with a keyboard,” says Rebecca Sentance, deputy editor at ClickZ and Search Engine Watch. “Computer users have evolved a specific set of habits and expectations for web search based on its limitations and capabilities.”
When optimizing your website, you’ll want to focus on long-tail keywords that are more conversational in nature to include those people searching through voice first devices.
3. Follow SEO best practices
While there are definitely things your brand can do to be more accommodating to voice searchers, there shouldn’t be a lot of drastic changes. The SEO best practices you should already be following are still effective.
Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics, says, “While the times where just delivering the best quality content would make you stand out from the crowd are long gone, it is still the starting point for any successful SEO effort (and online business, really).”
This should also be the starting point for your voice search strategy. Having relevant content, relevant links and well-labeled images will set you up for success no matter what type of search your users are performing.
4. Focus on local search
People using voice search are often using queries that are based around a local need. They may be looking for the best pizza restaurants around them or the closest gas station. This is a huge opportunity for your brand, especially if you have a brick and mortar store.
Research shows that voice search is three times more likely to be local in nature, so optimizing for local search is critical. To do so, make sure your local listings and business listings are up to date and follow standard SEO best practices.
5. Test voice search yourself
To best understand how voice search works, you should try it for yourself. See how the devices work and observe your own behaviors. How are you using voice search? What types of queries are you searching?
Try to pinpoint opportunities where your business can insert itself. Voice search is poised to only continue growing, so understanding and optimizing voice search now will help set your brand up for success in the future.
“Widespread adoption of voice-controlled e-commerce is inevitable, and forward-thinking brands are already thinking about and investing in the digital solutions that will propel them ahead in this new market,” says Igor Gorin, CEO and co-founder of Astound Commerce.
Have you already started to prepare for voice search? What steps have you taken? Let me know in the comments below:
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.