Do you remember the days of talking into your phone and getting a completely undecipherable result? That’s over. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have propelled voice recognition over the past few years. In 2017, Google’s AI-powered assistant earned an accuracy rate of up to 95 percent with a word error rate of only 4.9 percent. What does that mean for your marketing strategy? Consider these stats.
- 2018 saw an average of one billion voice searches every month.
- By 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be mobile searches.
- 1 in 2 people use voice technology on their smartphone.
- 1 in 3 voice technology users use voice technology daily.
- Smart speaker shipments grew nearly 200 percent in 2018.
People are using AI-based assistants like Siri and Alexa to get their local weather, find a new favorite restaurant, research their questions and get top-rated local services. In fact, here’s how usage breaks down:
- General information: 30 percent
- Personal assistant: 27 percent
- Local information: 22 percent
- Fun and entertainment: 21 percent
It’s not just the younger generation either. PwC found that 61 percent of people between 25 and 64 said they will use voice devices more in the future, compared to 57 percent of respondents aged 18 to 24 who said they will increase their usage in the coming years.
What’s the attraction of voice search? Instead of having to scroll through their search engine results page (SERP), consumers can now get an instant answer through voice search. It’s also easy to do while driving, walking around your house or any other time your hands are tied up. That’s why Forbes calls it “the key to successful brands in the future.” That means consumers looking for legal services are changing the way they search for, find, and evaluate legal services. Is your firm prepared for this shifting trend? If not, you are going to miss a big portion of consumers that are only using voice search. Read on to find out how to optimize your marketing strategy for voice.
VEO: Critical to Your Marketing Strategy
Voice engine optimization (VEO) is a term that has developed to refer to optimizing your content, location and brand information in order to earn top ranking in voice searches. Think of VEO as SEO, but with a lot higher stakes. Here’s why:
Voice search is a totally different playing field from text search. Your window of getting noticed is really small. For mobile voice searches, only the top three results are returned. For smart speakers, only one result is given. With text searches, if you are on the first page of the user’s SERP, you have a good chance of being seen. That chance is gone if a user searches Alexa and you are not the No. 1 spot.
Your comprehensive VEO strategy must include optimizing for various data sources. Here’s a list of where the most popular devices are getting the bulk of their data:
- Siri: Google, Apple Maps, and Yelp
- Alexa: Bing search, Yelp and Yext
- Google Assistant: Google and Google My Business
- Cortana: Bing and Yelp
Companies that are already optimized for voice stand out. Test out any voice device and you’ll immediately know which websites are already ahead of the game. Alexa can search through Spotify’s music inventory, find an answer on Wikipedia or a product on Amazon in seconds. Try out your own device, asking for legal services in your area to find out if your competitors are optimized yet.
According to Google, voice searches are 30 times more likely to be action queries than traditional text searches. For example, desktop text searches are often performed to gather information. However, voice searches are usually performed when people are ready to take action. “Alexa, find a divorce attorney near me” is a search performed by someone who is ready to contact an attorney. Optimizing for voice will give your firm a huge advantage over others if you are the answer that search returns.
Where Do the Search Results Come From?
Before you can optimize for voice search, you must understand where the search voice results come from. In addition to the data sources mentioned above, about 40.7 percent of voice search answers come from Google’s featured snippets, those nice little boxes of information that display at the top of your SERP. Google pulls the most relevant content and packages it in a neat little package for users. Why are they important? If Google views your content as authoritative enough to be selected for the prime snippet spot, it’s likely to pick your content for the answer to a voice searcher’s question too.
To optimize for a featured snippet, provide a concise summary of 29 words or less at the top of your content page. Include lists and bullets, as well as your long-tail keywords so Google can easily identify it. Check out this example of how getting their snippet featured resulted in a 516 percent increase in visitor sessions and a higher click-through-rate for one company.
Optimize Your Content
In order to get identified for Google’s snippet feature, your website must have easy-to-read content. Forty-one percent of people who use voice search say it feels like talking to a friend. Think about how you would ask a friend a question. “How is alimony calculated?” “How much does a divorce cost?” A user may type in “uncontested divorce definition” into their search engine. However, they will ask a voice device, “Alexa, what is a contested divorce?” With that change in phrasing, follow these five tips to optimize your content:
Avoid legal jargon.
The average voice search results are written at a ninth-grade level. You’ll simply get looked over by voice search if your content is not easy to understand for the average reader.
People talk to their devices as if they were conversing with a human. That means you must use natural language and ask questions. Users don’t just rattle off keywords. Be conversational and ask questions that effectively use long-tail keyword phrases. Voice queries are typically three to five keywords long and start with who, what, when, where, why and how. Think about natural language keyword phrases (questions) your potential clients are likely to ask. The FAQ section of your website and your blog are perfect areas to use questions that will match the searcher’s voice. Keep in mind that 22 percent of voice search queries are looking for local results. So, include phrases that identify your location, such as your city or region. Try including phrases like “near me” in your long-tail keywords.
Provide direct answers.
Ask a question and give a concise answer. The first step in doing this is to understand user intent. What are visitors coming to your website for? Is it for information? Is it to hire you? Craft your answers around their intent. This will enhance the relevance of your content to certain search queries. Give a short, concise answer. While long-form content still yields better rankings for both voice and text search, you still want to first give a direct, short answer. This technique will increase the chance of Google picking your content for a snippet.
Ninety-nine percent of featured snippets come from a page that already ranks in the top 10. Be sure you are already implementing content best practices, such as optimizing your metadata and providing internal and external links.
Hit all three major content types.
People use voice search for three main types of searches- informational, navigational and transactional. Be sure your questions and answers hit all three of these areas. Informational would be your guides and how-to’s. Think of the “What is an uncontested divorce?” example. Navigational would be your location, services and customer service info. For example, users might ask “Where is the closest personal injury attorney?” Transactional would be specific questions about your services. “What kind of attorney can write my will?”
Speed is King
Research has shown that most voice searches are performed on handheld devices, including smartphones and smartwatches, making it critical to optimize for mobile. So, optimizing for mobile is the first step to optimizing for voice. That means speed rules. Just like your users, voice search prefers pages that load quickly. Google recently announced its speed update, which ensures page speed is factored into mobile search ranking. If your mobile search speed is slow, you’re definitely not going to rank high on voice search. Ensure your speed is optimized by implementing best practices, such as optimized images, compressed files, website caching and reducing your server response time.
Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an easy and effective way to create mobile pages that load instantly. AMP works by standardizing your coding and storing documents in one, centralized location. Read more about designing your website with AMP in this recent blog.
Focus on Local Search
Most likely, your firm is trying to attract local clients. That’s good news because voice searches are three times more likely to incorporate the user’s location than a texted-based search. In fact, Google reported that “near me” searches have increased by 130 percent year over year. Local SEO optimization is essential for search. Be intentional about marketing to local prospects by using geotagged keywords. Geotagging marks the coordinates of a business. It gives Google a very specific location. Google loves reliable information. It looks for consistency between your geotag as well as other citations across the web that include your address, name and phone number. More consistency ensures the relevancy of your business to the user’s search.
Further help this process by also optimizing your Google My Business listing and other data sources, ensuring your website and online listings are up-to-date so AI-powered assistants can find you easily. When a user asks for a “Personal Injury Attorney Near Me,” Google’s algorithms will search its business listings. By having accurate information available, you are helping to rank your site. For example, if you’ve listed that your office closes at 5 p.m., it’s unlikely that Google will find you if a searcher asks for “after hours lawyers near you.” On that note, if you have a 24/7 call service, don’t list your office hours as 9 to 5.
Incorporate scheme markup in your website design to provide all these details to Google’s search bots. Use the “legal service markup” to provide specific information, such as name, address, special events, seminars, the area you serve, awards you’ve won, the number of attorneys in your firm and much more.
Pay Attention to Your Online Reputation
Voice searchers frequently ask “Who’s the best…” Customer reviews play a huge role in Google determining who is “the best.” How can you control your reviews? Read them frequently. Make sure you respond to most (if not all) reviews on main sites like Google, Yelp and Facebook. Yes, that means you need to respond to even the negative ones. Yelp reports that providing a personalized response to a negative review within 24 hours increases the chances by 33 percent that the reviewer will update the review and improve the rating. Take the negative reviews to heart since they often provide constructive criticism. Implement measures to correct what was complained about, and better reviews will follow. Here are four ways to stay on top of your online reputation:
- Follow the online chatter. Keep up with your online reputation. Sign up for Google alerts. You can also use other tools to track online mentions of your firm, such as BrandWatch or BrandsEye.
- Stay on top of online review sites. In addition to Google and Yelp, monitor review sites designed specifically for attorneys, including LawyerRating, Justia, Avvo and even LinkedIn.
- Encourage positive comments. Combat the negative comments by encouraging your happy clients to leave feedback. Send them a direct link to relevant sites at the conclusion of a case. Make it easy.
- Share good reviews. When your clients leave good reviews, post them in the testimonials section of your Website. You can also mention them on Facebook.
Some Closing Thoughts
Now is the time to implement voice search strategies. Seventy-two percent of people who own activated speakers say their devices are part of their daily routine. That number will certainly continue to rise in the coming years. Prepare by working on optimizing your content now. Ensure your site loads quickly and is optimized for mobile and local search. Finally, work on improving your online reputation. If someone asks, “Who’s the best lawyer near me,” you want Google’s bots to identify your firm as the best.