Voice Search: The Beginning…or the End?
Voice search technology promises to be one of the most important scientific developments of our era, but few real estate agents have any clue why it should matter to them.
If you own a website, invest in keyword campaigns and other online advertising, voice search is going to change the way you’re discovered online.
And while the technology is still growing, the rapid pace of development, along with a widening offering of Smart devices, will soon make voice search the standard for online searches globally.
Voice Search Facts
Still, think voice search isn’t worth investigating?
Virtual assistants from Google, Apple, and Microsoft were released in 2015, and have been steadily improving. Since the release of MS Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant, hundreds of virtual assistant apps have been introduced to the market, integrating the latest in A.I., voice recognition and search technology.
The integration of voice search technology on mobile devices and smart devices has also fuelled the development of smart homes, an industry expected to grow substantially. 80 million smart home devices were already sold worldwide in 2016, a staggering 64% increase over 2015.
Here are some other interesting facts about the growth of voice search:
- Since 2008, global usage of Google Voice search in 2016 increased by 35x.
- Evercore estimates there have been 500,000 shipments of Google Home in 2016
- Amazon sold 4.4 million Echo units in 2016
- By 2020, it’s expected that 50% of all online searches will be voice driven.
Why Do People Use Voice Search
Whether it’s for fun, or as a hands-free personal assistant, users are increasingly turning onto voice search and the trend isn’t going to reverse anytime soon.
So How Will Voice Search Impact Real Estate Agents?
By 2020, you can expect that the majority of your prospects won’t be typing keywords into Google anymore to find a house. They’ll be speaking into their virtual assistant or smart device, using phrases and long-tail keywords to find a prospective home or agent. They may even searching for a smart home. If your website, listings, blog articles and other online content isn’t optimized for voice searches, you’ll be missing out on 50% of your audience.
How Is Voice Search Different from Keyword Search?
Short forms, slang (bro, dude, cuz), popular local terms, abbreviations, and other forms of language that are natural to humans, aren’t exactly SEO-friendly. Search engines were initially designed to recognize and match keywords, not to interpret what those keywords mean.
So, for example, if you tried to search for a restaurant by typing ‘where is the closest restaurant’, only pages matching the phrase specifically would appear.
Today’s search engines use a complex processing system to analyze speech patterns and determine a user’s intent. Speech recognition technology has been advancing for several years. The application of Deep Neural Networks technology (DNNs) has drastically improved the accuracy and speed of speech recognition, making it possible for search engines to recognize and analyze speech patterns.
When a user chooses voice search, they can ask a question and interact with it in a very human-like manner. By tapping the microphone icon in the search bar on your mobile phone, you can ask “where do i find the best nachos in town” and the virtual assistant, using language recognition, semantic analysis, and voice recognition, can actually infer that what you really mean is, “Give me a list of local restaurants that have great reviews for their nachos serving.”
6 Ways To Optimize Your Real Estate Website for Voice Search
Websites that are optimized for voice search have to be slightly tweaked in order to be effective. The changes you’ll need to make, however, don’t have to be completed in one day. Step by step, you should review the following aspects of your SEO and implement the changes where necessary:
1. Create a Voice Search Keyword Strategy
The same way you compile a list of keywords you want to rank for, you should also create a list of voice search phrases and terms that prospects are likely to use in a search. A voice keyword plan should be composed of phrases and sentences a user is most likely to use searching for your properties.
Along with conventional keyword terms like real estate agent, you’ll want to consider alternatives:
Where do I find an agent in my city?
Who are the local realtors?
Show me houses for sale in my neighborhood
2. Study Your Target Audience
Your voice keyword strategy will take time to tweak. Research your social media threads to find phrases and terms common with your target audience. Experiment with the phrases you find, and keep track of the ones that boost traffic.
3. Use the Alt Text Fields
If you’re using a publishing platform like WordPress, or a content management system like Wix, your images can be optimized for visibility in voice searches by filling out the ‘Alt Text’ description field.
The description itself should be a physical description of the image.
So if you have images of homes you are listing, fill out the Alt Text with a detailed description of what the user would see. Imagine that you are describing the image to a blind person.
4. Install a Message Bot
A message bot, messenger bot, or chatbot, as they are called, is a highly sophisticated A.I. program that can interact with humans through conversation. They can be customized and programming to initiate conversations, probe users with questions, and provide recommendations or solutions. They are becoming extremely popular with large brands seeking to improve their online customer support and onboarding.
With a message bot installed on your website, you can engage prospects who discover your website with voice search. A message bot operates 24hrs a day, and can be automated to trigger a conversation with users based on their behaviour. Someone who visits your site looking for distressed properties on Google, can be directed by the message bot to similar listings on your site.
5. Improve Your Mobile SEO
The facts are increasingly pointing to a major shift in search behaviour by consumers. Voice search is predominantly conducted on smartphones. Close to 60% of all searches are conducted from a mobile phone. Google will soon be prioritizing mobile-friendly websites in its search results, as the pendulum shifts overwhelmingly to mobile platforms for global searches. Prospects who search for a real estate agent or housing market information using their smartphone won’t find you in search results if your website performs poorly on mobile.
6. Focus On Your Local SEO
People use voice search to find local content. If your website is registered with local directories and your business address is indexed with the major search engines, you’ll improve your odds of being seen on the first page of local search results. Focus on becoming the number one agent for your community, zip, neighborhood, or city.
Provide geo-specific content on your website so that search engines will index more of your content. Even without specific voice keywords, search engines will be able to match your content easily because of your geo-specific focus.
Voice search isn’t quite as common as sliced bread yet, but it will be, as more consumers catch on. And when it does, real estate agents who aren’t prepared will find it difficult to rank visibly in search results. Over half of prospective buyers begin their search for a home online. By 2020, homebuyers and sellers will be using voice search more often as part of their smart devices, mobile phones, and even their homes.
If you start working now on a voice search SEO strategy, you’ll be one of a handful of realty professionals who is prepared.