Virtual assistants are becoming the go-to search method for many consumers. Siri, Google Now, Cortana and Alexa are getting better in their ability to understand and respond to voice commands, and as the virtual assistant market grows, so does the number of voice searches.

In 2016, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that 20% of queries on its mobile app and on Android devices were voice searches. Social Media Today claims that 50% of people now use voice search when researching products, and ComScore estimates that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be by voice.

However, many marketers don’t have a plan to respond to this growing trend. According to research from BrightEdge, 62% of marketers have no plans to prepare for voice search. This gives savvy marketers an opportunity to get ahead of their competitors by making an effort to adapt their content for voice search technology.

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Optimizing Content for Voice Search

While voice search is still in its infancy, it has already become popular enough for brands to take seriously. Here are seven key steps you can take to optimize your content for voice search success.

1. Cater to “Micro-Moments”

With almost all voice searches occurring on smartphones, there is a clear overlap between mobile and voice searching. As mobile becomes an increasingly important search tool, it becomes even more critical for marketers to make sure they are catering to mobile.

In a Google guide looking at how to cater to mobile consumers, they talk about using micro-moments. It boils down to four types of user behavior:
• I-want-to-know moments, where users are researching something.
• I-want-to-go moments, where users are looking for shops or businesses nearby.
• I-want-to-do moments, where users want to know how to do something.
• I-want-to-buy moments, where users are searching for a product from a physical or online store.

Delivering content that addresses these four micro-moments will help align your content to the buyer journey and potential voice search queries.

2. Do Some Research

What are the most common questions asked by your target audience? Find out by searching industry forums, comments on social media and customer reviews. Alternatively, you can look at Q&A sites like Quora, ask your customer service team for feedback, and explore your analytics for clues. From there, you can then create content that addresses specific questions.

If you don’t have an FAQ section, consider creating one. Voice searchers usually have more urgent needs than other searchers, so companies cater to this group by offering them quick answers through FAQ pages and blog posts.

3. Target Long-Tail Keyword Phrases

Voice searches are typically longer than text searches, with more of a focus around “what,” “where,” “when,” “why” and “how.” Search Google Analytics for long-tail keyword phrases that include these question words and develop content that targets these phrases.

4. Try Using Voice Search

Once you’ve discovered the key topics to address, ask your virtual assistant some common questions and take note of how the answers are written and structured. What are the top results? Are there any answers that are hard to find that you could create new content for?

5. Consider Local Search

Consumers are often out and about, and performing voice searches on their mobile devices for convenience sake. If you’re a business with a physical address, make sure your business is listed on all the major online business directories, like Google My Business, Yahoo Local, Yelp and Bing Places for Business. You can go a step further by creating location-specific content that caters to this type of voice search.

6. Use More Natural Language

When people speak to a digital device, generally speaking, they use more natural-sounding language than when they type. Google reports that 70% of Google Assistant queries contain natural language, rather than the typical keywords people type in a web search. Think about how you can adapt your content to be more conversational, using language your customers use.

Preparing for the Future

Many consumers already expect to find content through voice search, so it makes sense to react to consumer demand today. If you start adjusting and fine-tuning your content now for voice search, you could gain the competitive advantage for years to come.

We are still in the early stages of the voice search trend, but when the answers become more accurate, more people will use it. As artificial intelligence and natural language processing becomes more sophisticated, voice search could grow to be the primary search method within the next few years. Will your content be ready for when this happens?