Last night, I was cooking dinner and then wondered what NBA games would be on national television. I grabbed my phone, but rather than typing “NBA TNT” on my browser, I asked the Microsoft Cortana and promptly got the answer I sought.

Moments like these are an example of how voice searching has grown in popularity thanks to the development of virtual assistants like Cortana, Amazon Alexa, and the newer Google Assistant. These virtual assistants, combined with how mobile search has become more accepted, means that searching is now a constant presence in our lives and not just something we do behind a computer.

This change in how we search affects how businesses and digital marketers need to attract attention online. While the old strategies of SEO and keywords are still important, voice searching is different from typed searching. Marketers needs to understand those differences and adjust their strategies by placing a greater emphasis on providing an answer to customer inquiries or concerns.

Verbal vs. written communication

Back in the early 2000s before Google was Google, I remember typing actual questions such as “What basketball games are on tonight” into search engines like Ask Jeeves or AltaVista. But we eventually stopped doing that and instead typed in keywords like “NBA national games” to search. Digital marketers take advantage of this trend to get their businesses associated with certain important keywords, getting them higher in the search results and better business.

But with voice search and digital assistants, we are once again back to asking questions like we did nearly two decades ago. Furthermore, voice searchers do not want a bunch of links to places like ESPN or in response to a verbal inquiry like what NBA games are on tonight. They want their assistant to give a clear answer like “The Cavaliers and Thunder are playing tonight.”

But a website cannot provide answers if a marketer does not know exactly what questions related to his business are being asked. Business can find out to some degree by checking industry-related forums and social media, but the most important step is to promote greater customer engagement and encourage them to ask questions, possibly with a Q&A form.

A change in content marketing

Once a business knows what questions needs to be answered, then it can provide content to answer them. While content marketing has been talked about for years, voice searching will change it. Instead of simply using a particular keyword a lot of times to attract search inquiries, business need to make it easy for virtual assistants and search engines to answer questions by scouring their websites. This means adding more easily accessible content, and Amine Bentahar recommends setting up a FAQ page to make it even easier.

Furthermore, the keywords which we use for typed SEO are now going to be replaced by blocks of phrases or even sentences in response to the long inquiries made by searchers. This was something noted at a recent London SEO conference. The ideal FAQ would essentially be the questions which you know people are asking, followed by answers which promote your businesses. This will attract the attention of search engines, shows that your business has a human touch and cares about answering a searcher’s questions, and increase your mobile web site’s ranking accordingly.

The importance of local and third-party websites

Another change with the rise of voice searching is that local searching is now more popular. Users will often head to an area and then ask their phones to find a nearby good Asian restaurant or interesting attraction. With this sort of search, the user will almost never go directly to a specific business’s website, but will instead check out Google Local or other websites such as Yelp or Facebook.

While a business should already be aware of the impact a bad Yelp review can have, the growing importance of these third-party websites through voice searching makes fighting bad reviews more important than ever. Information listed on third party sites such as an address or opening hours should also be updated to be as comprehensive and accurate as possible, to provide another avenue to help virtual assistants answer questions.

Adapting for human communication

The growing emphasis on voice searching will make searching a more human experience, as the change from typing keywords to asking questions shows. This means that marketers need to develop a more human approach by ensuring that their businesses are designed to answer questions and optimize for longer keywords. This means providing content both on a business’s website and third-party sites as well as adjusting SEO to use keywords relating to questions.

Voice searching still has a ways to go, especially as voice recognition software is far from perfect. But its already growing popularity shows that people want to ask questions, not type in keywords. Businesses and marketers need to ready themselves accordingly for this new vocal trend.

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