The ultimate primer on using voice assistants in B2B marketing

voice assistants
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Voice assistants have transformed the realm of consumer marketing. Now you can get closer than ever to your customers—literally, your voice is in their home.

And while some may dismiss voice marketing as a viable B2B sales technique, it’s important to note that executives and business owners have also jumped on the voice bandwagon.  Some 90% of executives do research from their mobile devices before making a decision and 50% use voice search in the office. It’s even been seen that those who earn higher incomes are less shy about vocalizing queries in public.

Voice assistants—both on smart speakers and mobile phones—are changing your prospect’s path to purchase. While a website used to be the first place customers looked for information, now, consumer traffic is moving elsewhere. Comscore predicts that by 2020, more than half of all searches will be performed by voice.

Meet your target audience where they’re at by optimizing your product or service for voice search. This article will discuss strategies that will help you leverage voice to market your business.

SEO to VSO

In the transfer from Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to Voice Search Optimization (VSO), a lot of principles align. However, because voice queries are more conversational, there are a few minor tweaks you can make to optimize for voice.

While SEO cares about keywords, VSO cares about how those words are spoken. Most voice searches are more action-based, with stronger intent, so providing the most detailed, highest quality information is crucial. Utilizing schema markup to make your pages more crawlable will help you rank at the coveted zero spot.

Featured snippet

While ranking is important in SEO, it matters even more for voice search. When a user asks their voice assistant a question, they will be provided with the best answer, not a top ten list. In other words, if your answer is not in the featured snippet, your content will not receive a voice.

The featured snippet (aka Google’s answer box aka the zero result) is a response to a user’s query extracted from the top ranking website. Voice assistants pull answers from this snippet and some speakers even cite their source (like Google Home).  

To optimize your content for the featured snippet, you need to write your content a certain way. Create informative content and simple answers that can be easily read by Google. Consider targeting keywords that already have answer boxes and review your competitors’ content to provide the best information.

Answer boxes can take the form of a paragraph, list or table so integrate these formats in your webpages. Try to provide an answer in less than 100 words, addressing queries straight-away and leaving your listener wanting more.

Landing the featured snippet means that you have optimized both SEO and VSO. Not only will the voice assistant speak your name, but users are more likely to trust featured snippet brands as experts in their industry. Whether or not users pursue your webpage further, being featured in the zero ranking increases brand awareness and authority.

Long-tail keywords

Because spoken queries tend to be longer than typed queries, it is important to prioritize long-tail keywords. Keywords that are more than three words long will help you target your niche demographic (voice users) rather than just a mass audience.

Consider the conversational tone of voice queries and compile a list of questions. “How” or “what” queries are most common for voice. You should also address questions typical of B2B prospects and those answered by competitors.  Additionally, consider follow-up questions and query logic to return the most relevant results.

Answer those questions with valuable information written in a succinct manner.  Use keywords in your replies and target overall topics rather than zeroing in on specific terms. Getting your site ranked for long-tail keywords will provide maximum brand visibility and VSO.

FAQs

If you haven’t done so already, optimize your content for voice search by building an FAQs page. This will help you to address the long-tail keywords discussed above and will provide genuinely valuable content to your customers.

To match voice search structure, craft answers to common questions in a conversational tone. If a voice assistant reads your answer out loud it should be easy-to-understand, not complex or clunky. Building up a database of FAQs will help voice search provide the best results for your clients.

“People Also Ask” boxes (PPAs) are often featured in queries as well. If you see PPA boxes for your keywords, create content that answers each of the additional questions, so someone else doesn’t do it for you.

Mobile Optimization

Another SEO principle that transfers to VSO is mobile optimization. Optimizing your site for mobile will improve loading times and focus on the user.  

The top-cited reason people prefer voice assistants over human interaction is the speed of response. If your site does not provide a fast answer, listeners will skip over it. Optimize content for mobile with scrollable content, less clicking and short paragraphs. If you’re not sure if your webpage will rank in Google’s mobile first index, consider running a quick free test.

And while you’re optimizing, don’t neglect the multiple voice platforms. Optimize marketing for each of the voice assistants by monitoring activity on more than just Google. Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and sometimes even Apple’s Siri rely on Bing to provide search results as well.

Business Listings

Because voice search pulls content from more than just your website, you ought to verify that your business listings are in sync. In fact, 88% of mobile searches include the term “near me,” so if your B2B caters to local clients, this step is even more important.

Voice assistants typically allow users to call businesses through their platform if that business’s contact information is up-to-date. To make sure you’re not missing out on these prospects, claim your business listing on both Google and Bing and update it regularly. Your name, address and phone (NAP) should be consistent across every website.

Include geographically relevant keywords to optimize your content for location-based searches. Make sure that Google Maps and Apple Maps take your clients to the right location.

Additionally, enable reviews as part of your business listings and monitor and respond to feedback. Tools like Vendasta’s reputation management and small business alternatives can help B2B companies make the most of their online presence.

Skills and Actions

Amazon “skills” and Google “actions” are the apps that make your content voice-enabled. You can create original content (or repurpose old content) to be featured in voice assistant stores.

Alexa’s “flash briefings” are one example of the digital marketing possibilities available with voice. Companies can create flash briefings (like mini-podcasts) to provide useful information to potential consumers and build up brand recognition. Flash briefing and podcast skills are made available for free, but can link users to longer, more intentional content.

Once you’ve created a skill or action, take the time to promote it. Post teasers on social media and integrate off-platform promotion. If you can receive high consumer ratings and get your skill featured on a voice platform, you will be able to market your brand directly through the voice assistant.

Brand Voice

As you create voice content and experiment with voice assistants, it’s important to keep your brand in mind. Brand voice has long been an element of written copy, but now, it’s just more literal.

As of yet, you may not have much of a say in the gender or tone of voice utilized by voice assistants delivering your content—though in the future, you should invest time and consideration into these possibilities. For now, however, you can control the words the voice assistant will use.

Saying the right words in the right way is critical to building your brand. Give careful consideration to the words and phrases used in your written content so that they will sound natural when spoken aloud. If you haven’t done so already, shift from highly technical jargon to conversational, straightforward answers. Infuse your writing with personality and be wary of spamming.

The voice assistant is reinventing client-to-brand interactions. Your prospects are using voice search because they want conversational back-and-forth, a sense of humanity within technology—don’t neglect that humanity by disregarding your brand voice.

Content Creation

Marketing your business with voice is just an extension of content creation—it’s just that content is taking a new form.  

The most important thing to remember with voice content is to think in terms of questions and answers. Content creation has been shifting towards quality over quantity and VSO is an extension of that trend. Consumers want to know everything there is about your business and they want to know it as quickly as possible.

Likely, you have already developed most of the content you need, just repurpose it to serve voice assistants and their humans.  Adapt your content strategy to be voice search friendly. Not only does your content need to read well, it needs to be spoken well.

For Businesses

Voice assistants have many applications for business marketing and internal organization. If you cater to businesses that are early adopters of technology, it’s time to update your strategy to include VSO.

At the very least, start experimenting with voice search optimization. Remember, responses to voice queries are only as good as the content available online. Optimizing for voice search will help you get ahead in the tech game and simultaneously improve your content creation—it’s a win-win.

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Jaren Nichols
Jaren Nichols is Chief Operating Officer at ZipBooks, free accounting software for small businesses. Jaren was previously a Product Manager at Google and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Jaren Nichols

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