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Getting Voice Search Right: 6 Questions to Ask to Reach Position Zero

The time is now to use voice assistants professionally.

Do you have an Amazon Echo or a Google Home digital assistant? Have you used Siri to ask a question or send a text while driving? As marketers, many of us already use digital assistants in our personal lives. The time is now
to use them professionally, too.

Voice search is the critical first entry point in a hot new race to capture future brand share on digital assistants. If we wait to join that race, we won’t win. “Whoever wins this [voice search] race by a nose, wins,” said Aoife McIlraith, Lionbridge Senior Director of Global Search and Marketing Services.  “If brands take a ‘wait and see’ approach, they could be in second place.  Second place won’t get a prize.”

Aoife and I recently spoke marketer-to-marketer about how voice search and digital assistants are impacting global content and SEO strategies.  According to Aoife, “we really are at the beginning of something very big, and we don’t have traditional KPIs and metrics [yet] to make an informed decision.  We are at a point where we need to A/B test and learn.”


Why Digital Marketers Should Get into the Voice Search Race Now

While forecasts are bullish on the adoption of voice search (e.g., 50% by 2020 according to ComScore), many digital marketers are only cautiously optimistic about the impending resonance of voice search. They’re thus adopting a conservative “wait and see” attitude.

Here’s the rub: as marketers, we are spending time and budgets to research local search intent to create optimized multi-lingual content that drives conversations with our audiences.  It’s critical that we optimize this effort to ensure our audiences find our content in an increasingly crowded digital landscape.  Website optimization and text-based SEO are no longer sufficient to engage the hearts and minds of our customers, whether we are B2C or B2B marketers.

According to Aoife, there’s serious potential for a first-mover advantage. Fortunately, brands that want to emerge at the head of the voice search pack need only do a little to win big.


6 Questions to Ask to See Where your Brand Ranks on Voice Search

There is only one result that matters when it comes to voice search, said Aoife: the new “Position Zero.” If you want to reach Position Zero, where do you start?

Begin by thinking of the types of questions your customers might ask. As you do, be aware that each query won’t necessarily yield a voice search result yet, and that longer-tail searches have a higher likelihood of producing voice search results.

Currently, voice search works best for questions that drive results for certain topics. Here are the six questions you need to ask Alexa or Google to get started:

  1. Who is <your brand>? When you ask this question, you’re trying to determine whether the voice assistant returns a branded result at all. Does it respond with “According to Wikipedia …?” Do you want your brand to be defined by Wikipedia?

  2. What is the best way to ….. ? Content tip: Google loves tables or step-by-step instructions. Your current content likely isn’t optimized to answer a voice search query.  Crafting content that is tabular or includes step-by-step instructions is a great place to start.

  3. What are …. ?

  4. When was < your brand> established/launched)? Also ask this about your competitor.

  5. Why do …. ?

  6. Do I …. ? (personal request “need an umbrella today”)

As you ask these questions, you’ll likely discover that you need to develop new multi-lingual content to address potential voice search queries.


Voice Search Implications for Global Content

Research shows that humans speak around 150 words per minute, whereas they type just 40 words per minute.  Voice search queries thus tend to be longer and more conversational than text-based queries.  For example, a customer might type “home security systems” into a text-bases search engine, whereas she might say aloud “what is the best way to protect my home from a break in?” to a voice assistant.  According to Aoife, this longer search query is good news for companies, which can pursue longer-tail keyword searches to have a higher chance of voice search ranking and be top-of-mind with their audiences.

Multi-lingual and cultural content implications are even more complex for voice search, as the ways in which people ask questions can be influenced by variables including geo-region, language, ethnicity, and more. “How people structure sentences are very different,” Aoife said.  “If you are hoping that translation will simply work, it won’t. You have to do the local research and understand what drives these markets and the types of questions those customers will ask.”

Once you’ve discovered where your brand ranks on voice search, you need to ensure that you are doing the following four things regarding your global content:

  1. Answering the questions your customers are asking, in the specific languages and ways in which they’re asking them.

  2. Optimizing schema to win rich snippets (paragraphs of text read out), which drive approximately 75% of voice search results.

  3. Using winning, rich snippet-optimized content to promote marketing content.

  4. Considering the questions each campaign will trigger from your target audience as you create the campaign.

Winning the Voice Search Battle… and the SEO War

This race to claim the hearts and minds of our digital assistant and voice search audiences won’t be won by doing only one thing.  It will involve a focus on global technical search, global content voice optimization, and data analysis.

Experts like Aoife are working with global marketers across each of these areas to adapt brand strategies so they are visible to digital assistants. Indeed, Lionbridge’s Global Marketing Services teams work from beginning to end to help marketers worldwide develop and execute their strategies, whether that means ensuring technical search functionality is set up for French (as spoken in France vs. Canada) or launching a local market back-link strategy.

As marketers, we need to adapt our business strategies to be visible to digital assistants, make our content easily findable by both voice and text-based searches, and connect with our audiences in a way that will truly resonate—regardless of their country or native language.

Want to learn more?  Register to view our webinar: How Voice Search is Changing the Customer Experience, led by Aoife.

Cynthia is VP, Demand Generation at Lionbridge.  She is a B2B marketing architect and digital marketer with more than 15 years of experience designing strategies, content and programs that drive growth.

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