We’ve seen some mind-boggling stats about the number of households with a smart speaker, how many adults use voice search in a single day (40%), and predictions that 50% of all online searches will be of the voice variety by 2020.

That’s huge.

But what does that even mean?

Well, for starters, it means text-based searches are declining, which will have serious consequences for how search engines rank online pages.

Pretty soon, businesses big and small will have to worry about Personal Assistant Search Optimization (PASO), the way we speak, as well as SEO, the way we type.

The Importance of PASO

Search rankings are not just about keywords anymore. When people do a voice search, instead of saying, “restaurants,” like they’d type into the Google search bar, they ask a question.

“Hey, Alexa, what’s the best Mexican restaurant within 10 miles?”

People are becoming conversational in their searches, making PASO a whole new frontier of search ranking optimization strategy.

Fewer Search Results

When you type in a search for “sports equipment,” an astonishing 4 billion hits come up. No one’s looking at all that, and what’s more, most people don’t click past the first page of results. So if your SEO isn’t ranking you within the top 10 results, you’re hard pressed to get your site seen. The answer in the past has been to get specific. If you’ve got every size baseball, football, and soccer cleat available for kids, your keywords be tailored to that information.

With PASO, the AI assistant will return even fewer hits than 10, no more than 2-5, and in some cases, just one result comes back. The AI assistant isn’t sifting through the millions of results.

So how do you get noticed?

  • Pay attention not just to key phrases, but how they’re used. Phrase your best resulting keywords into questions. “What’s the best facial cleanser to fight acne?” works better in voice search, while “acne-fighting cleanser,” is better for a text-based search.
  • Pay attention to local searches. Sure, you want people from all over to find your bookstore’s website, but remember you have a local presence, too. A huge chunk of searches are done on smartphones while people are out and about in your area. Include your zip-code or street address in your PASO, and your foot traffic will likely increase.
  • Get your business listed in online directories and libraries, where the AI assistants search to provide answers. Put your restaurant in OpenTable, or your bookstore in CitySearch. Yahoo! Local and Yelp are great resources, too. Find travel guides to join online, even if most of brick-and-mortar traffic is from residents in your town. Think of these places as the online Yellow Pages of the future. You never know where the AI bots will go for information.
  • Consider the development of skills that offer content value above and beyond a simple product or service description. You can read more about skills in our article on harnessing the power of AI Assistants.

Soaring Click-Through Rates

With only a maximum of 5 results getting returned in voice searches, the rate at which people will “click through” for more information is astonishing.

It stands to reason when competing against fewer search returns that the incidents of people choosing your site to continue seeking answers increases. Some people are reporting click through rates as high as 180% above their regularly ranked pages.

Which brings us to another question: What do you do when someone asks their AI assistant to read your content aloud?

Structuring Your Content for Voice

The way we read and the way we speak are entirely different. There are 180,000 words in the English language, and the prevailing understanding is we use between 3,000 and 5,000 of those words in conversation.

When creating voice-searchable content, keep in mind how it sounds more than how it reads.

  • Write concise headlines with readily verbalized summaries that sound appealing. Make it comprehensible.
  • Keep titles to sound-bite length. Anything longer than 20 or 30 seconds is going to seem long-winded.
  • Consider the entirety of the content in terms of speakable rhythms. If you want AI assistants to read your content to consumers, break the information up in sentences that are clear for text-to-speech. Be sure it reads succinctly. Convoluted sentences will make people go back to the results and get the next article instead.

One thing is certain with voice searches: the way people shop, research, stay informed, and learn is about to change. Businesses should concern themselves not only with brand voice in text, but brand voice in sound. The carousel of devices, and technologies available because of them, are becoming more diverse, and with them, our methods of getting noticed are diversifying, too.

Need help with content marketing for the voice-activated economy? Sign up for our newsletter for great ideas in today’s world.