Voice recognition has been around for a long time – since the early 1950’s, when initial systems could recognize spoken numbers – but it’s really only in the past few years, with the advent of voice assistants, that we’ve really seen the power and potential of the voice technology taking off. And taking off it is, through voice experiences in which humans interact with devices in all sorts of way – from turning up the thermostat to asking for directions to ordering a pizza to checking out what a symptom might mean. How rapidly are voice experiences being adopted? In June 2016, there were 1,000 Amazon Echo skills (capabilities). As of June 2017, there are 14,000. And we’re still in the early stages, with a wide range of applications that cover pretty much everything you can think of.
What Makes the Voice Experience So Compelling?
Unless you’re a speed typist, you get more words out per minute when you’re speaking than when you’re typing. This is helpful not just to those of us who are impatient and/or who find it hard to navigate the keyboard on a small device, but it has practical applications as well. (Think doctors typing in notes and orders.) Then there’s the fact that most of us spend an awful lot of time in our cars. Voice technology lets us make use of drive-time more safely than if we’re trying to enter information manually. It’s not just drivers that need to be hands-free. As the population ages, there’ll be greater need for those with mobility impairments to use assistive devices that are voice-driven.
In any case, as the growth in Alexa skills shows, and with a number of scenarios that make voice so compelling, developers are looking for ways to voice enable their content respositories and applications. But it’s not just applications you need to worry about. You also need to make sure that your website , and all of your content, are voice-experience ready.
Voice Experience Challenges: Be Prepared for Voice Search and Avoid Giving TMI
Gartner has predicted that, within a few years, half of all queries conducted on mobile devices will be voice-based. For your website there are a number of things you need to keep in mind. First off, voice queries are different than typed queries. Think of how you type in a Google search. If you’re like most, you’re not writing in full sentences but focusing instead on keywords. This may change over time, but for now, voice queries tend to be less abbreviated and more conversational. Rather than keywords, think key phrases.
And people process information differently through voiced experiences than they do through visual experiences, so if you’re going to be providing voice-based content, that content needs to be presented in a different way than it is when it’s delivered in the written word. There’s more chance that the user will experience cognitive overload if presented with a lot of voice information, so a voice experience will need to make sure that there’s a lid on the amount of information that someone needs to keep in memory at one time. Which is not to say that you don’t need to use full sentences when providing information. People have an easier time following a sentence than they do a choppy string of words.
Preparing your Marketing Content for Voice Search
There are a number of ways you can make your content voice-ready. As noted above, the first thing to do is remember that phrases matter more than single words. For voice-based SEO, your focus should be on longtail keywords that are more specific to your actual products and services. For example, if you’re a gym, you don’t necessarily want to optimize around the keyword “gym.” If your gym offers Pilates classes, “Pilates classes” might be something you want to optimize for. When you’re ranking for the extra verbiage that longtail keywords allow for, you’ll actually find that those who find you are more likely to be the customers you want to find you. I.e., the ones who are looking precisely for what you have to offer.
Another way to prepare your content for voice search is to create a very detailed FAQ that anticipates the sorts of questions that people will be asking. The FAQ should be centered around longtail keywords (and, if your business is location-specific, should include location information).
The bottom line on the voice experience is: it’s different. Whether you’re developing voice-ready applications or skills for Alexa or not, you’ll want to make sure that the content on your website is voice-ready as well.