“Okay, Google, place my order.”
With devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, people are starting to get used to the idea of verbally controlling their environment. Even better, for retailers, intelligent personal assistants are increasingly being used for search – and for shopping. The audience isn’t huge just yet, but it’s growing. And with it comes a whole new way to connect with potential buyers.
So how do you take advantage of voice search while the competition is still relatively minimal?
First things first – make sure your products are listed and eligible. After that, you want to follow general SEO best practices to make sure your listing is clear, well-written, includes all pertinent information, and catches searches using the language that comes out naturally when shoppers use voice search.
Understand conversational search
You’re working on your laptop at home and start craving tikka masala. You want to make it yourself, so you type in a search: “tikka masala vegetarian recipe.”
Now imagine this same scenario playing out if you’re lounging on the couch and you can use voice search. You wouldn't say it that way, though. Instead, you would probably ask something along the lines of: “How do I make a vegetarian tikka masala?”
And although contextually the difference may be negligible, where search is concerned, the difference matters.
If you want more voice search customers to find your products, you need to think about how someone might search using speech rather than text. Use this to your advantage by including similar “natural language” in your product descriptions.
Try to not only mimic the questions they’re asking, but also answer them.
Bolster your products' structured data
Chances are good that you’re already using structured data for mobile and desktop searches. With voice search, structured data becomes even more important. While text-based searches rely on well-documented exact- and similar-match keywords, how we say what we’re searching for varies greatly from person to person.
If you’re thinking, “Sounds good, but what the heck is structured data?” You’re not alone.
Structured data pairs a name with a value to help search engines categorize and index content. By using structured data, you can give your products search-friendly properties like brand, category, color, SKU, and GTIN among many others.
Look at what you can do with your shopping cart's native structured data capabilities, which may also be labeled as microdata, rich snippets and/or Schema. Plugins may also be an option if your shopping cart platform does not offer structured data as part of your products' data set.
Voice search is still in its infancy in terms of understanding natural language – so providing structured data to fine-tune the signals your products are sending to search bots will help them get picked up by Alexa and Google Assistant for relevant searches.
Know what products sell
Currently, the types of items that people buy using voice search tend to be entertainment-based (movies, music, video games, etc.), household items, and apparel. What does this mean?
It means if you sell these types of items, it is more important than ever to optimize for structured data, positive reviews, and conversational search. Because you’re going to have more competition.
If you sell different products, it means that utilizing these best practices may provide you with an opportunity to stand out and grab a larger portion of the market before it starts getting crowded.
Sell your products on ecommerce apps
How do you advertise on voice search devices? Right now you really don’t.
That may change in the future, but currently if you want to get your brand in front of people, the best way to do it is to promote your products on Google, Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and other popular shopping apps whose listings appear in SERPs.
Amazon’s Alexa, in particular, relies heavily on apps, which it calls "skills." With Google, you'll want to apply more traditional-ish SEO techniques. And yes, of course that means optimizing your product pages, but it also means optimizing your product listings for Google Shopping as well as for marketplaces that dominate Google search results (i.e., Amazon, Google Express, eBay, Walmart, etc.).
Optimize for "near me"
Here’s an ugly truth for small-to-medium size businesses: voice search can’t help but be weighted toward big, well-known brands.
Why? Because one of your biggest ways to level the playing field – price comparisons – isn’t as easy to do using voice search, since there are no screens that let people quickly see the difference.
The most effective way for smaller companies to stand out in voice search is to optimize for local – especially for "near me" phrases. Even if someone isn’t specifically looking for a nearby company to get a particular product, local signifiers like beacons and geofencing for proximity searches will make those businesses much more likely to be listed in results.
Maintain high ratings and positive reviews
Obviously, you always want to have good ratings and reviews, but it matters more with voice search. This is true for two reasons.
First, because reviews and ratings are an increasingly important part of the SEO equation in general. Put simply, positive reviews add to your store’s credibility and authority.
Second, because comparison shopping is not easily done without screens. Where shoppers might overlook a half-star difference in traditional (screen) comparison shopping, they may not be so forgiving with voice search. Without a screen to compare, they will find it easier to go with the highest-ranked choice if only because it’s listed first.
As voice search evolves, so will ecommerce strategies. By getting in the game early, you will get a head start over the competition and begin building your own standards and best practices.