Have you thought about Smart Speaker optimization?

If not, you probably should, and I’ll go over all the reasons why below.

Should You be Thinking About Smart Speaker Optimization?

What are Smart Speakers?

The hottest trend of 2017, that’s what.

Smart speakers are wireless speakers with voice control built into them. You talk to them, ask them questions, and they talk back.

They’re the Amazon Echos and Google Homes that seem to suddenly be staples in everyone’s homes.

And they’re not going anywhere; in fact, smart speaker sales grew 103% last year.

But they’re not just for playing music anymore, and marketers need to start paying attention.

That’s because users are increasingly beginning to use their speakers to search and shop, activities typically reserved for search engines.

According to a Smart Audio Report:

  • 57% say they have ordered an item through their smart speaker, with households with children even more likely to have purchased through the speaker.
  • 65% of those who ordered an item through their smart speaker said they added a product to their shopping cart to review later.
  • 58% of those who have ordered using a smart speaker bought something they previously had not purchased, while 49% reordered an item they had bought before.

The Case for Smart Speaker Optimization

Many still aren’t convinced that smart speakers need a place in marketing strategies.

But as they begin to dominate how people search, they may start to see things a little differently.

Why? Because more and more customers are buying straight from those smart speakers. I covered plenty of stats about this above, but here’s a big one: 31% of smart speaker owners say they spend more money on Amazon/Google since getting their smart speaker.

That’s huge.

It means that people are buying more (great for business), but they’re doing it straight through the speaker (bad if you’re not optimized for it).

The reason for the trend is simple: it simplifies the buying process by eliminating barriers related to physical stores and even internet searches.

And that number of smart speaker owner is only going up. As of now, 7% of US households own a smart speaker, but by 2020 that number is estimated to increase to 75%.

If the trend continues, that means more and more people will be turning to smart speakers in lieu of traditional desktop and mobile search engines as well.

Local businesses, in particular, should be thinking seriously about smart speaker optimization. According to an Internet Trends study, an estimated 22% of people using voice search are searching for local content and information.

Local businesses in particular should be thinking seriously about smart speaker optimization.

Local businesses in particular should be thinking seriously about smart speaker optimization.

As people increasingly turn to voice search and smart speakers, businesses who hope to stay in the game will eventually have to consider voice optimization in their SEO strategies.

Considerations for Smart Speaker Optimization

The real question when it comes to smart speaker optimization is this: how different is it from regular SEO?

Should you decide to optimize, there are a few unique factors to consider.

First of all, there’s the obvious gap between a typed search query and a question asked aloud. Mainly, voice searches are typically asked in question form, so instead of typing “pizza near me” someone may ask “where is the closest pizza place?”

So when thinking smart speaker optimization, think questions and long tail keywords.

Another thing to keep in mind is the differences between the systems – Amazon Alexa, Google Home – and how the optimization strategies for each will differ.

Create an Alexa Skill for Smart Speaker Optimization

Skills are to smart speakers what apps were to mobile. And just like every business has the ability to create its own apps, businesses can now create their own Alexa skills.

But skills go beyond customer service and interaction; they can actually help improve and streamline your internal communications and tasks.

In a business setting, Alexa can basically serve as your virtual assistant, and anyone is free to create and build an Alexa skill they want or need.

Creating Alexa skills is a great way to optimize for smart speakers

Creating Alexa skills is a great way to optimize for smart speakers

Of course, there are plenty already available, including everything from scheduling assistants to managing invoices.

Alexa skills can also be used to better customer service relationships, and skills that drive high customer engagement can even earn you money.

As marketers, we’re all aware of the importance of engagement. Skills are no different, and the factors that correlate with the highest engagement are similar to what produces the highest engagement via content, etc. That includes:

  • Ease of use
  • Sets clear expectations on what it can do
  • Is consistently reliable
  • Delivers fresh content
  • Minimizes friction

So when optimizing for smart speakers, keep in mind that engagement remains a key factor in overall success.

Google Home – Focus on Featured Snippets for Smart Speaker Optimization

When it comes to Google Home, your best bet is through featured snippets.

Featured snippets appear in the very first result in the SERPS, often called “position 0”.

For example, if you type in “how many countries are there,” Google pulls this as the top result:

When it comes to smart speaker optimization for Google Home, focus on featured snippets

When it comes to smart speaker optimization for Google Home, focus on featured snippets

The information included with the link is the featured snippet, and it pulls information directly from the website’s page.

Similarly, when Google Home or Google Assistant returns an answer to a searchers question, it reads the snippets from the site ranked in “position 0”.

Not only that, but it will say the source’s name and oftentimes send a link to the page directly to the searchers Google Home app.

Naturally, that makes earning the elusive “position 0” spot a bigger deal than ever.

The bad news? It’s not exactly easy to come by.

But the good news is that it plays into traditional optimization, and efforts to improve your Google Home rankings will have a positive effect on both your desktop and mobile rankings.

So, Should You Be Thinking About Smart Speaker Optimization?

Short answer: Yes.

But don’t stress too much just yet. The technology is still new, and there’s still a lot to be learned before smart speaker optimization becomes a tried and true marketing staple.

The biggest takeaway here is that by incorporating practices you already use (customer engagement for Alexa skills, content optimization for Google Home, etc.) you can prepare yourself for success with smart speakers as well.

As analytics become more readily available, we’ll gain a better understanding of the types of searches people are conducting via smart speaker, and how we can better enhance our own SEO efforts to match them.

As for now, incorporating the general principles of voice search will not only help you with the new technology but with existing SEO practices as well.