What B2B Marketers Need to Know About Voice Search in 2020

January 31, 2020

Voice search took drastic steps towards gaining mainstream popularity in 2019.

As more houses adopt Google Home and Alexa, that trend should only continue. Yet marketers remain unclear about how voice search can impact them or if they should even bother optimizing for its arrival.

Over the past few years, SEO experts took a mostly observational approach towards voice-enabled search and analyzing the effect it’s having on people’s habits and behaviors. Not only has voice search changed the way we communicate and seek information, it has also infiltrated and comfortably settled right into our personal surroundings — our homes, cars and pockets.

Naturally, this is having a profound impact on companies that conduct business online. And I’m not just referring to local pizza shops and news providers: Voice search is growing within the business-to-business world, as well. The reality is, if you aren’t optimizing your B2B site for voice search, you’re doing your brand a major disservice.

The State of Voice Search in 2020

More than ever, consumers have access to voice search and digital assistants via smart speakers and smartphones. Among the most popular uses for voice commands are making a call, texting, getting directions and playing music. A recent study found that just over 20 percent of participants have conducted a voice search via a mobile app. While this may seem low—and is undoubtedly below what many in the SEO world expected several years ago—that’s still a hefty percentage of the population.

The question facing B2B companies is how they can benefit from this growth and stake out a claim to voice search results before the competition moves in.

How is Voice Search Different?

Thanks to advancements in digital technology, we live in a world where instant gratification is the name of the game and time is measured in seconds, not minutes or hours. We work faster and produce more than ever before. People expect instant, easier and simpler access to information, and voice search makes that possible.

Speed

Voice search helps users avoid navigating complex websites, and it’s faster than searching by text. According to Purna Virji, senior training manager with Microsoft, we speak nearly four times as fast as we type.

“You can type 38-40 words per minute on a mobile device, but you can speak at least 150 words per minute.”

-Purna Virji

Speed is the primary reason people like voice search. And with voice recognition quickly approaching 100-percent accuracy, it’s no wonder more and more searchers are using speech as their preferred method of search.

Text vs. Voice Queries

The biggest difference between text and voice search is tone. Text queries tend to be terse and robotic in nature, while voice queries are more conversational and personal.

Examples:

Text – “hiccups and bread”
Voice – “Why do I get the hiccups after eating bread?” (True story)

Text – “seo benefits”
Voice – “What are the benefits of SEO?” or “Should I invest in SEO?”

Additionally, our experience tells us that long-tail queries usually have less search volume, but greater intent. What this means is that they’re more likely to convert.

What Does This Mean for SEO?

It means that all digital marketers should be optimizing for voice search. It doesn’t mean that you should ditch your current SEO best practices, but rather, make voice search an additional part of your overall SEO strategy.

Does Voice Search SEO Really Apply to B2B?

Yes! Don’t assume that just because your company doesn’t provide directions or weather updates, it doesn’t need to worry about voice SEO. B2B brands should absolutely integrate voice search optimization into their digital marketing plans.

Here are three ways to position yourself for success with voice search:

  1. Optimize for Featured Snippets. Many voice search results are pulled from Featured Snippets, the excerpts or lists that can appear at the top of Google search results. Targeting Snippets related to your products or services is a great way to cover your bases on voice search, as well.
  2. Target long-tail, “ask” keywords. While it isn’t possible to parse out voice queries from text queries on most analytics platforms, it doesn’t take much to figure out which ones are which. Look for the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how” keywords and see where they’re landing on your site. Then ask yourself, are you adequately answering their questions? If time-on-site and bounce rate metrics look bleak, the answer is probably “no.” Take the time to understand your audience, identify long-tail keywords and deliver relevant content that’s conversational and natural in tone.
  3. Focus on mobile UX. The vast majority of voice searches are conducted on mobile devices, so this should be a no-brainer. Number one, work towards improving load times. Remember my spiel in the beginning of this article about speed? Yeah. If your page takes more than two seconds to load, there’s less chance Google is going to choose you for a voice search result.

Key Takeaways

There’s no escaping the fact that voice search is here to stay. For consumers, it’s becoming an essential part of how we shop, communicate and navigate. As B2B marketers, it presents yet another opportunity to get in front of target audiences and build brand recognition, so don’t miss the boat!

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