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How Multi-Location Brands Can Optimize Websites for Voice Search Results

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When it comes to media adoption, consumers are a little like speedboats — adapting quickly to the changing currents, ready to go in a different direction and try new paths. Brands, on the other hand, can be more like tanker ships – changing directions slowly, hesitant to change faster than a few degrees at a time. This problem is often exacerbated for multi-location and franchise brands who need to relay changes in organizational direction to hundreds or thousands of decentralized locations.

For example, traditional media dominated consumer attention and advertisers’ spending for years. In 2008, TV alone accounted for 56 percent of all time spent with media in the U.S. and pulled in just over one-third of all ad dollars, according to eMarketer.

But, a big shift was underway. Apple had recently introduced the iPhone and now, suddenly, everyone had a smartphone.

With the ability to stay connected anywhere, consumers adapted quickly. Digital media usage skyrocketed from about a quarter of time spent with media in 2008 to more than half in 2018. Time spent with traditional media took a hit, with TV dropping to less than a third of time spent with media.

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The brands looking to reach those consumers didn’t adapt as quickly. It wasn’t until 2016 that digital ad dollars eclipsed TV ad spending, even though consumers had been spending more time with digital media than watching TV since 2013.

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Luckily, brands already have the opportunity to redeem themselves. Voice-enabled speakers like Amazon’s Echo and the Google Home have been steadily increasing in popularity. These smart speakers are powered by intelligent, AI-driven software that responds to users’ voice commands and queries. Consumers often rely on these devices to provide essential information to connect with nearby businesses.

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Sources: Technalysis Research, 2017; eMarketer, 2017

While the iron is still heating up, multi-location brands need to start thinking about how they’ll connect with smart speaker users. There’s a variety of ways to do this, from basic steps like making sure local listings are up-to-date and optimized, to advanced measures like developing smart speaker integrations (e.g., skills for Amazon Alexa).

For multi-location brands, a great place to start is by optimizing technical elements and copy on their websites to improve visibility of key product, service and location pages in voice search results.

Optimizing Technical Site Elements for Voice Search

Unlike desktop searches, there’s only one result for searches conducted on a voice-enabled speaker. With such little room for error, it’s crucial multi-location brands do everything they can to optimize their site.

Backlinko recently analyzed 10,000 Google Home search results to identify the most important ranking factors for voice search. As it turns out, it’s pretty similar to desktop search. In fact, 75 percent of voice search results are in the top 3 desktop results for the same query. But, there are a few technical factors that play a significant role in helping sites appear in voice searches:

Page speed: The average voice search result page loaded in 4.6 seconds vs. 8.8 seconds for an average page.

HTTPS: Seventy percent of Google Home result pages were secured with HTTPS vs. 50 percent of all Google’s desktop result pages.

Domain authority: The average domain authority rating for voice search results was 76.8 (which, even most SEO professionals will agree, is pretty good).

Optimizing Website Content for Voice Search

When developing website content, brands need to create copy that aligns with how users communicate with voice-enabled speakers and with the natural voice language used by the smart speakers. This is true for any organization, but multi-location brands face the additional challenge of creating copy not just for product and service pages, but for location pages too.

Here are some tips to help multi-location brands start the process:

No. 1: Create content that matches how users search

According to Google, almost 70 percent of requests to digital assistant software (from speakers and phones) use natural language, not the typical keywords people type in a web search. This means voice searches are more likely to be framed as complete sentences and use trigger words like “how,” “what” and “best.”

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Source: seoClarity

No. 2: Focus on in-depth content

Backlinko found that less than 2 percent of voice search result pages had the exact search term in their title. The study also revealed the average voice result page contained more than 2,300 words. These findings suggest brands should shift their focus from creating web pages for every topic and sub-topic to creating content like FAQ pages that directly answer a variety of questions (which can then link out to those specific pages).

No. 3: Keep the content simple

According to Backlinko, the average voice search result page was written at a ninth-grade reading level. Brands need to create content that’s easy for the smart speaker to pronounce and users to understand. Unlike visual searches, users can’t reread results without conducting the search again.

No. 4: Create engaging content

Engaging content is more likely to get shared across social media platforms. And, while social shares probably don’t have a direct impact on rankings, there’s a strong correlation between a page’s social popularity and voice search success.

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Image source: Backlinko

Next Steps

Over the next few years, more and more consumers will start using voice-enabled speakers. For multi-location brands, optimizing your website for voice search is a great start; but that’s all it is – a start. In the same way smartphones disrupted the marketing and advertising status quo, brands will need to adapt and develop new holistic paid, organic and earned strategies to reach potential customers on their Google Home, Echo and any other smart speaker that comes along.

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