This post originally appeared on Searchenginewatch.com
By next year, comScore expects that 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches. And of course, it won’t stop there. A decade from now, it’s not unreasonable to think that nine out of 10 searches will be via voice, and at that point, a lot about what we know about best practices in digital marketing will have shifted.
After all, in the world of voice search, simply getting onto the search engine results page becomes insufficient. What brands need is to find their way into what’s become known as the “zero position”—that singular best response generated by a voice assistant in regards to a natural language query.
Most marketers are watching the ascent of voice search with obvious interest, but few are sure exactly what they should be doing as this brave new world unfolds before their eyes. The good news is that there are very concrete steps that can be taken right now to better position brands for the voice-dominated future. If you focus on the following three fundamentals today, you’re going to be in strong shape tomorrow.
Optimize according to Schema
Schema represents a foundational means of ensuring your online content can be found and understood by web crawlers and properly ingested by the major search engines’ algorithms. This is true today, and it will be true tomorrow. Unfortunately, given the ever-increasing complexity of the marketing technology landscape these days, too many marketers have lost site of this important priority. To succeed—or even survive—in the world of voice search, the schema need to be a top digital marketing priority.
In the most basic sense, schema is an agreed-upon structure for how online content should be organized in order to best be understood by search engines. The major search players of the world have codified the best practices of engagement via Schema.org, a joint effort focused on creating and maintaining schemas for structuring online data. These days, optimizing web pages with schema is a critical first step to succeeding in organic search.
The beauty of Schema.org is that it’s supported by all of the major search engines, and these are precisely the companies that are currently writing the future of voice search. We can expect to see similar structures dictating voice search results as we do in the currently established schema. Thus, best practices for site optimization today will remain the best practices for the future. However, neglecting these best practices in a world where the zero position can make or break a brand will become all the more vital.
Focus on featured snippets
Google’s Featured Snippets aren’t new, but they’re far more important in the world of voice search than in traditional web SEO. Featured snippets are designed to help people answer questions quickly in a way that naturally aligns with how people search with their voices. In other words, it rewards content that presents information in an obvious Q&A format versus being optimized for keyword searches.
To improve your chances of reaching the zero position for a given query, structure your content for featured snippets. In a blog post, for example, this might mean asking a question in the opening paragraph and ensuring it is answered in that same paragraph in 50 words or fewer.
Sure, the blog post can go on to discuss the subject in much more detail. But what a voice search engine will care about is being able to answer a user’s question in a succinct, straightforward way. Give them the questions and answers they crave.
Get your profiles under control
In preparing your brand and its digital assets for a voice-driven world, don’t forget about your third-party digital profiles. Again, this is a best practice in the search world today, but it’s going to become even more necessary for survival in a future dominated by voice search. After all, when people search for information relevant to your business, there’s a good chance the first place the search engine turns won’t be your website.
It will be a third-party profile that succinctly describes your business and, in particular, the details of nearby locations. After all, voice assistants powered by companies like Google also have their own business listings for your locations—and they’re highly likely to turn to those first when providing information back to users.
If your business information is inaccurate or outdated in your third-party profiles, reaching the zero position in a voice search with that information could be more harmful to your brand than not being found at all. So as you think through your digital strategy for a voice-driven world, be sure to get back to basics. Structure your content correctly. Give vs the answers they want. And above all, make sure your information is updated and accurate anywhere the algorithms might find it.
Bart Bartolozzi is Director of Product Marketing at Synup, a location intelligence tool that helps businesses with their local marketing, discovery, and engagement.
While Google is an obvious “horse to bet on,” ubiquity, UX and utility will dominate the voice-search innovation race in 2020 and beyond.
A new analysis of 73,000 business listings found that 96% of all business locations fail to list their business information correctly.