When it comes to the internet, search is still king. According to Smart Insights, more than 6.5 billion searches occur every day, and not just for cute cat videos — businesses are seeing the benefits of a smart search and SEO strategy.
Marketing Dive reported that 82 percent of surveyed marketers believe that SEO effectiveness is increasing, with 42 percent stating that its usefulness is increasing "significantly."
These numbers offer quite a contrast to the famed words of marketing pioneer John Wanamaker, who quipped, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted — trouble is I don't know which half." If SEO strategy had been around during the Industrial Revolution, Wanamaker would have been able to tell that the money he directed toward SEO strategy was working.
Leading that change is the rapid advance of voice search and virtual personal assistants (VPA). Software developer MindMeld recently reported that 40 percent of smartphone owners had begun using voice search and VPAs in 2015. Perhaps the most recognized name in the VPA space is Apple's Siri interface, which has been part of that operating system since 2011 and provides a variety of functions including voice-activated web search, live weather updates, meeting reminders and email dictation/recitation — plus corny jokes.
Other lesser known VPAs for business include Microsoft's Cortana and the nameless Google Assistant. While Amazon's Alexa VPA and companion Echo hardware are currently geared toward home use, it seems likely that once Amazon "owns the home," it will pivot to the office/productivity market as its brand expands.
As these VPA technologies — and voice search generally — become more accepted by the general public, there are several ways that corporate communicators can integrate them and upgrade their SEO efforts.
Make sure your message is heard and not "herd"
If your organization is known for a catchphrase or publishing industry-ranking lists, seasonal reports, white papers or market analyses, make sure to research the most popular titles and convert them into natural language queries.
Examples include Fortune Magazine's annual "most admired" companies list or the Edelman agency's annual "trust barometer" report. Each of these phrases can easily be spoken, phonetically transcribed and optimized for the ear and thus for your SEO strategy, too.
Because voice searches must adjust for pronunciation errors, accents and dialects, the spoken word can be tricky. For instance, a search for "Gartner's Magic Quadrant" could easily produce a nonsensical search for "Gardener's Matchstick Wad Rent."
One solution is to have a variety of different people from your office with varying speech patterns and vocal characteristics read target phrases out loud and record them. Then go through and spell out three versions of each term or phrase with the phonetic misspellings. You can then add and test those misspellings, along with corresponding negative keywords, as part of your SEO strategy.
Use question-based search and natural language queries
We speak differently from how we type or text. For example, someone looking to raise awareness for prostate cancer by participating in No Shave November will want to maximize his beard growth and might type "best beard growth" as a search query, whereas he might ask voice search, "How can I grow a beard in 30 days?" We often speak in questions, so consider your company's strengths or unique selling proposition and translate them into a few meaningful questions that can be integrated into your SEO strategy.
While voice search is continually becoming more proficient at understanding conversational interactions, it's still important to avoid using industry jargon, slang, sarcasm or compound descriptions, all of which can confuse even the best artificial intelligence or VPA software.
These tactics can readily be applied across a wide range of corporate communications and investor relations tools, from press releases and quarterly earnings reports to executive keynotes, product launches or corporate social responsibility campaigns.
So it's safe to say the future of corporate communications' SEO may be heard rather than seen.
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