Another year and another trip to beautiful Brighton for the increasingly popular BrightonSEO! The que for the conference seems to get longer every year (luckily those of us who already had our tickets got to stroll right to the front with a smug look on our faces) and the venue, speakers and giant pandas never fail to impress. Organiser Kelvin Newman kicked the event off with a failed attempt at firing a t-shirt gun which became one of the biggest Tweeting points of the day, but the rest of the event can definitely be called a success!

One of the first talks of the day and one which I am keen to highlight in this blog was from Raj Nijjer of Yext who discussed how voice search is raising the stakes for businesses looking to dominate the search engine results pages. Assisted by his Amazon Echo Alexa, Raj proceeded to give us a few examples of how voice search is being used by every day consumers and just how quickly Alexa can return an accurate and useful answer.

As we all know, search is no longer just about ten blue links on the search engine results page, and Raj emphasised this, listing various places which searches go to find data; whether it’s on maps, voice search, knowledge graphs or anywhere else.

The future of search will be all about optimising each individual channel, whether that’s Yelp, Facebook or Google+ to ensure the search engines have as much relevant information about your business as possible. The reason for this is that voice search makes the market even more competitive, with only one answer being given to each question asked. Your job is to make sure you are the one answering that question.

why is voice search so important?

Raj predicts that by the year 2020, 50% of all searches will be done via voice search. This does sound like quite a staggeringly high statistic, but when you look at the growth of voice assistants in the last year alone, it starts to make sense. In 2015, 5% of households had a voice assistant device, by 2016 12% of all households had one. That is some serious growth and if it continues then we might not be far off Raj’s predictions. With engagement levels being 4.8 times higher through intelligence services than on websites, voice search is an opportunity not to be missed.

how do we optimise for voice search?

Raj went on to give a few pointers on how to optimise for voice search. Firstly, you need to ensure your schema mark-up in on point. That way the search engines can quickly identify the content on each of your web pages. Your rich content is also going to be key here, especially when it comes to reviews. If someone asks their Alexa or their Google Home “What is the best restaurant near me?”, the one with the highest reviews will be the one which returns an answer.

According to Raj, 60% of users say that star rating is the most important factor when deciding which business to choose online, while 87% say they won’t even consider a business which doesn’t have any reviews. Encouraging your customers to review your business (and review it well) will be key to dominating voice search.

Beyond reviews, you need to optimise your Google My Business Profile as well as any other online listings to ensure they have as much information as possible. For example, if someone asks their Alexa “Which toy shops open at 8am near me”, your business will need their exact location as well as opening hours listed for a chance to be the answer to that question.

Finally, you will need to optimise your on-page content for this new way of searching. For example, if your regular keyword is “shoe shop” then your new keyword types will be “best shoe shop” or “shoe shop in Bournemouth”. Obviously, the rules on keyword stuffing still apply and this shouldn’t look unnatural, but it’s just another slight competitive advantage you can give yourself. Even if you do all of this, you still need to have your basic optimisation in place to stand a chance of winning in voice search. You should also be wary of heavily investing in voice search right now. While the predictions for voice search look great, the reality may not match up.

The rest of the day was rich with golden nuggets of information and inspirational speakers, as well as a nice lunch in the sun on the beach. All in all, BrigtonSEO was yet again a great success and we look forward to going back again in September!

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