Optimizing Product Content for Voice Search

Science fiction has been promising us the convenience of voice interaction with computers for decades. Smart devices and voice assistants like OK Google, Siri, Cortana, and Alexa have brought our futuristic dreams closer to reality. A report by OC&C Strategy Consultants predicts that voice shopping spending will grow to over $40 billion in 2022 alone, compared to $2 billion in spending today. Now that the capability is available, voice search use is growing, both at home and on mobile devices.

27% population using voice search

A Market Research Future forecast through 2023 estimates that, “North America [is] expected to dominate the smart speaker market…owing to the presence of early adopters and key smart speaker providers such as Google Inc. and Amazon.com.

Smart speaker adoption is growing globally, with Asia-Pacific leading the way:

Smart speakers set to surge in East Asia

S: What Voice Search means for PIM

Siri, is our product data tuned to deliver answers to voice queries?

Chances are, it isn’t. Web searching has trained us to speak to computers in their natural language: keywords. And organizing and populating content according to keywords has been the basis of web search since Netscape was the hot new thing. Voice search flips the script and expects computers to be able to interpret natural language requests. It’s the difference between entering: Backpacking Store Boulder and saying “Alexa, where can I buy a sleeping bag near me.”

The instinct may be to assume voice search is primarily a concern for B2C ecommerce sites. However, the B2B ecommerce shopper is also a B2C shopper for their personal needs, and they bring the expectations and behaviors from one to the other. For instance, according to an Accenture study, 94% of B2B buyers admit to conducting online research before making a buying decision and Forrester found that 59% of buyers prefer to do research online instead of interacting with a sales rep because the rep pushes a sales agenda rather than helps solve a problem. Combine that with the ease and speed with which a user can get an answer to a question using voice search, and the top of the sales funnel now runs through Siri or OK Google.

There are four main strategies for product content managers to capitalize on the opportunities of voice search:

1.Understand the questions

Responding to the which, what, when, and where requires an understanding of the types of questions customers will ask about your products. These questions tend to come in a few forms:

  • A request for specific information, like “Does STORE carry raincoats?”
  • A location-specific request, like “Which STORE is closest to me?”
  • A time-frame request, like “Is STORE open tomorrow?”
  • A value-based request, like “Which STORE has the best raincoats?”

Research you’ve done on website traffic analytics will reveal typical search engine phrases that can be of great help in building an effective voice search strategy. Another option is the site, AnswerThePublic, which “listens into autocomplete data from search engines like Google then quickly cranks out every useful phrase and question people are asking around your keyword.” Search results are rendered in either CSV form, or as a visualization:

From this intelligence, you can evaluate your product content to align your meta tags and descriptions to what customers are asking for. Schema markup that includes elements like product name, brand, size, rating, review count, and availability status also makes it easy for voice searchers to get a quick preview of your site.

If you have a Frequently Asked Questions page that is built from actual customer questions, that’s both a good place to start and an indispensable tool for voice search as it already frames your product information in the form of the answer. If your FAQ page isn’t robust and current, now is the time to build it out. Write answers in short simple sentences and be sure to answer the question in the first sentence, ideally repeating the keyword upfront as shown here.

2. Be the ONE

With voice search you ask one question and voice search returns one answer based on a combination of algorithms, SEO and AI. In this scenario, you don’t just want to make the first page, you want to be the ONE product that fits the bill.

Including specific value-based words in your content like best, affordable, water resistant, or durable will make it more likely that a voice search will identify your product as the best answer for that value. This is important because more and more voice searches are framing queries this way: At the end of 2017, Google revealed that it had seen an 80% growth in mobile searches containing the word “best” in the past two years.

3. Appeal to the Featured Snippet

All voice assistants, be it Siri, Cortana, Alexa, or ‘OK Google’, use either Bing or Google as their default search engines, but Google wins for e-commerce: 35% of all online purchases start with a Google search.

Google’s featured snippet, also known as the “answer box” is ideally designed for voice search.

Google featured snippet

Searchengineland.com says Google “takes snippets of relevant content from web pages, often preferring semantically sound ordered and unordered lists, and displays them in a box directly below paid listings and just above the first organic result. Below the displayed content, Google provides a link to the web page where they found this information.” Research by Backlinko found that 40.7% of all voice search answers came from a Featured Snippet.

Occupying “position zero” at the top of the search engine results page (SERP), featured snippets are usually formatted in such a way as to be “snippable,” in either paragraph, bulleted list, or table form.  While Google can parse site content to construct its own snippet, it’s smart to make information easier for both users and Google to find and understand. Backlinko found that Google prefers short, concise answers to voice search queries. The typical voice search result is only 29 words in length and is written at a 9th grade level.

4. Make It Local

For the “instant gratification” set, shopping for an item on an e-commerce site and picking it up at the local brick and mortar store is the best of both worlds. Product content managers can satisfy these hybrid shoppers by ensuring they know when a product can be secured in their area.

SEMRush advises that “a Google My Business listing is a way to let Google know that your business is located at a particular place. When someone asks Google to display similar businesses in that area, your business could rank for that voice query.”

S: Advantage for First Movers

While the B2B e-commerce implications of voice search are still emerging, Businessworld Magazine warns “upgrade your website and content for voice search. Getting a first-mover advantage is significant and imperative on the grounds that soon different brands in the same sector start optimizing their content to be voice search friendly thereby generating more traffic creating direct competition to your business.”

As you considering how to use PIM to capitalize on the opportunities of voice search? Contact our PIM experts today to get started.