“Computer… Computer… Hello, Computer.”
- Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, attempting to communicate with a computer in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
When Star Trek debuted on television in 1966, Gene Roddenberry’s iconic franchise began a long history of introducing hypothetical technologies that, at the time, seemed nothing more than science fiction, but nonetheless inspired creative minds to pursue careers in science and innovation that might one day allow these technologies to truly exist.
Among those fictional technological marvels was a talking computer which could listen and respond to voice commands with speed and precision. Though such a feat may have seemed a farfetched fantasy at a time when computers were massive, often sprawling machines, today the technology exists for people to actually speak to their computers and have them respond accordingly.
This technology is already in place on our smartphones through programs like Apple’s Siri, and in our homes through items like Amazon’s series of Alexa-enabled Echo devices.
So what does that have to do with your website? In a word, everything. Just as the transition from a desktop-led Internet to a world in which most people use their smartphones for browsing changed the way websites need to look and behave, the rise of artificial intelligence and virtual voice assistants is changing the way people search the web.
The key to understanding voice search is to understand how people use it. While years of experience with search engines have taught most users to use keywords or simple phrases when typing a query, voice search makes for a much more conversational approach. Rather than typing out a few keywords, users are asking whole questions like “what time does the pizzeria close?” or “who won the game last night?” and similar such inquiries.
This means that your SEO strategy now needs to not only account for relevant keywords, but also longer, fully formed questions. You must identify what type of question someone looking for your business might ask, and then produce content on your website that answers it.
Think about the types of questions a client might ask you over the phone, or a partner asks in person. These are the inquiries that are beginning to lead people to your business, and the kind of content you have to account for.
The “Four Ws” have never been more relevant to SEO. You need to think “Who, What, Where, and Why?” in order to reach your audience.
Who might be searching for you? What are they looking for that your website can give them? Where are they searching from? Why should a voice assistant lead them to you?
If you can answer these questions, you’re on your way to optimizing your site for the new frontier of the World Wide Web.