As the Internet of Things continues to grow and change, voice technology is becoming more important. With all the internet-connected devices out there, people are typing less and talking more, whether they’re in their car, walking with a cell phone in hand or sitting in their living rooms.

The changes are happening quickly. A 2016 Google trends report showed that a whopping 20% of its mobile searches were already being performed by voice, not keyed-in commands. Experts predict that as early as 2020 half of all online searches will be done by voice and 30% will be done on devices that don’t even have a screen.

For small businesses, that means it’s time to take search engine optimization to the next level. You need to have your website optimized for voice in order to stay truly competitive. Here’s how to start:

1. Learn Everything You Can About Google’s Featured Snippets

Featured Snippets have been around for a couple of years now. They’re short, concise answers to questions Google users ask. Extracted from a web page, they occupy the top spot in SERPs, above the first actual search results. That’s the spot marketers are now calling “Position Zero.”

Being at the top of the page can increase your CTR up to 30% in searches that come back to a screen. In voice searches on devices that don’t use a screen, whatever’s in Position Zero is the only thing the end-user is going to hear.

Google generates Featured Snippets organically so the only way to land in Position Zero is to earn it. To do that, your information naturally needs to be relevant to the search terms. You can also significantly increase your odds of landing in Position Zero by adopting the following strategies:

  • Analyze keywords and develop new content with Snippets in mind.
  • Devote single pages to important questions, especially about your products or services.
  • Incorporate “frequently asked questions” into your content.
  • Break up content with subheadings, lists, tables, and graphics when possible.
  • Use images, since Snippets seem to favor them.

If you can use Snippets effectively, you can skip ahead of your competition even when you’re fourth or fifth in organic search results. In fact, 2/3 of the Featured Snippets analyzed in 2016 came from sites that are ranked 2-5 on the SERPs.

2. Think About the Questions Your Customers or Clients Ask

In particular, you need to be thinking and analyzing how people talk, especially if they are talking to a virtual assistant. Use that analysis, as well as whatever questions pop up on your social media or customer service sites, to generate new content that will help you land in Position Zero. As always, content is king, even when search results are being read to a device’s user.

As the technology surrounding artificial intelligence evolves, the way that people talk to their machines may also evolve. Right now, consider the following when you’re creating new content:

  • People are wordier in voice searches, so target long-tail keywords.
  • Think hard about what questions your target audience may have. Focus on the “How?” and “What?” questions your customers are asking. Those are the top two trigger words that are included in Snippets.
  • Try to include the answer to your target audience’s question at the top of a page.
  • Remember that voice search is highly mobile, so write with your location in mind. That means making sure that you have a page that completely answers the question where people can find you and your product or services.

It’s time to overhaul your website with voice searches in mind and the knowledge that data needs to be broken down into easily digestible chunks that hopefully turn into Snippets.

3. Help Voice Search Find You

Do you have your site optimized for local, mobile searches? If you don’t, you won’t show up in all the local voice searches people do while walking, driving, or riding in a car. At the very minimum, make sure you follow these rules:

  • Make sure each page has your name, address, and phone number on it.
  • Claim your “Google My Business” listing and complete it.

While these might seem like fairly simple steps, they’re easily overlooked. The more effort you can put into optimizing your site for mobile technology and local searches, the bigger the payoff is likely to be when it comes to voice searches as well.

The Takeaway

People are increasingly relying on voice searches and virtual assistants. When there’s no screen involved in a search, there’s no “second place” in an SERP. Because the task of updating your website for voice searches is likely to be a detailed process, your small business can’t afford to delay voice optimization. If you do, you risk being left behind.

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