Voice search technology — also known as “voice assist” — uses voice recognition and machine learning to process commands and requests from users on phones, smart speakers, and other devices.

As B2B buyers adapt to voice search in their personal lives, it will soon make its way into their professional lives as well. As voice search becomes more popular, it will inevitably be a relevant platform for B2B organizations.

In 2011, Apple introduced the world to voice assist technology with the launch of Siri. Since then, a growing number of voice assist tools have entered the market including Alexa (Amazon), Now (Google) and Cortana (Microsoft).

As voice assist technology evolves, its use has been growing. More than half of consumers are already using voice assist technology with the majority (81%) accessing it via a smartphone. And the technology is getting better. As of 2017, Google’s speech recognition was 95% accurate for the English language.

Voice search technology is changing how we use our devices to get information and interact with the world around us. The potential for this new technology is seemingly endless and businesses have an enormous opportunity to leverage it, but how?

How can businesses leverage voice search?

Voice search results are only as good as the information available. This is a new technology that’s dependent on an existing infrastructure–namely, website content. The best way for businesses to leverage voice search is to have a content strategy that includes search engine friendly content. That’s right, folks, the shiniest new technology on the web is dependent on a decidedly unsexy digital marketing tactic–search engine optimization.

Start by making sure your content is up-to-date, relevant, and clear. You’ll want to use natural language that’s not overly complex. For example, if you’re a WordPress hosting provider aimed at small businesses, then you might have an entire page that addresses the question, “How do I find the best WordPress hosting provider?” (side note: most questions asked of voice assistants start with “how” or “what”).

It’s not enough to define your company as a WordPress hosting provider, you also need to clearly define your target audience in your text (e.g., “Acme Hosting is the top WordPress Hosting Provider for small businesses”) and explain why you’re the best. List the features and benefits of your service. Explain how you’re different from your competitors. And, most importantly, answer your customers’ specific questions.

Tips for writing voice-assist-friendly content

At its core, voice search is still just search which is all about keyword-targeting. But the types of keywords you’re targeting look different with voice search as compared to traditional text-based queries.

Write for the long tail.

Voice-search leverages long tail queries rather than short keyword phrases. The tone of your content should be conversational and natural. Imagine that your customer just tapped you on the shoulder and asked you a question about your product or service. Would you respond to them using boilerplate sales jargon? Hopefully not. Write it the way you would say it.

Strive for the featured snippet.

Google often includes something called a featured snippet (sometimes referred to as an “answer box”) at the top of the organic search results. Featured snippets are key to optimizing for voice search because these are the results that are read aloud in response to a voice query. The answer box shows a snippet of text extracted from a webpage with a link back to the page. Per Google, “ When we recognize that a query asks a question, we programmatically detect pages that answer the user’s question, and display a top result as a featured snippet in the search results.”

Keep it local (if applicable).

The rise of voice search is inextricably tied to the ubiquity of mobile phones. In short, people are conducting searches on their phones while on the go. If your business caters to a local market, make sure you use geographically relevant keywords in your content (e.g., “the Capital Region’s top industrial cleaning service”) and make sure your business has a My Business page which will help your search engine rankings.

Look beyond Google (sort of).

Siri uses Apple Maps to provide local business results for searches like, “Where is the nearest office supply store” so make sure your business appears on Apple Maps. Apple uses Google as its default provider of web searches on Siri though, so all of the tips listed above in terms of website optimization still apply. Note: optimizing for Amazon’s Alexa is a whole different ball game since you’re optimizing for a product listing versus an entire website.

Other things to consider

Voice search is about instant gratification and that means users want fast results. Thus, it goes without saying (but we’re saying it anyway) that your website should be mobile friendly and fast loading. Google’s even created a handy (free) tool where website owners can test their site’s mobile readiness. People who conduct searches on their phones may want to dig deeper than just a featured snippet, so it’s important that your website delivers a positive mobile experience.

Businesses can also take control of the way their brand is being represented on voice assist platforms by working with a company like Splice Software which creates personalized, automated messages for phone, SMS and voice assistants.

Finally, voice search also provides an opportunity for businesses to advertise. For now, audio ads are not part of the voice search experience, but you can still advertise your business on Google’s paid advertising platform, Google Ads (formerly AdWords). Google ads appear at the top of the search results page when someone conducts a voice search, so keywords targeting these users should include longer phrases and questions (e.g, “what is the best shift scheduling software for hospitals?”)

ComScore predicts that more than half of searches will be conducted using voice search technology by 2020. It’s clear that this trend isn’t going away. With voice assist still in its infancy, B2B marketers who embrace the technology now will gain a clear advantage over their competitors.