SEO is a core concern in the eCommerce world. With voice search becoming increasingly sophisticated, how will it affect things?
Lacking physical premises (one of the key advantages of eCommerce) deprives a store of everyday footfall from people who simply happen to be nearby.
If you want to sell online, you need to ensure that the right people can find you — and while you can use social media activity and even PPC to pick up traffic, it’s SEO that must be your top priority.
Consider that the journey to making an online purchase typically starts with a Google search, and the assumption is that the most relevant and useful stores are going to show up.
What’s more, good SEO work has long-lasting effects:
A front-page ranking can consistently deliver traffic for many months after you’ve stopped making changes
But what if someone searches using voice commands instead of typing into Google? Is that cause for concern? Let’s consider how voice search will affect eCommerce SEO.
The Role of Featured Snippets
The first thing you need to consider is how much harder it is to be chosen as the result of a voice search when the answer is provided through speech.
If you just speak the query but get the results in text, you’ll get the conventional experience — but use a voice assistant, and you’ll receive just one response.
This is a massive challenge.
What you need to be thinking about is what’s known as position zero: the very first result that appears in the SERPs, even before the top-ranking page.
In most cases, this result will be selected by voice assistants: it consists of a featured snippet, which is a page extract considered to be optimally relevant to the search.
Now, there are two reasons why it’s worthwhile to win the featured snippet for a search as an eCommerce brand.
Firstly, it helps establish your brand’s expertise (if people know that Google is selecting your answers for results, it will lend you extra credibility), and secondly, it could help drive sales in the event that searchers decide to visit the website behind the featured snippet and start looking for products there.
Voice search is far more natural and conversational than typed search. When we type things into Google, we’re fundamentally economical, using fragments instead of sentences — for instance, if you wanted to find red dance shoes made from leather, you might type “dance shoes leather red”, whereas you’d say something like “Show me red dance shoes made from leather”.
But the disparity doesn’t stop there, because there’s also the commonality of questions in voice search.
What’s the best USB microphone? What’s the cheapest gaming desk? What TV should you use with a PS4?
Again, the framing is very different from typed searching, which would probably start with something like “budget gaming desks” and narrow things down from there.
Because of this, eCommerce SEO for voice search needs to build content around questions
Subheadings should sound natural, tying into what people would actually be asking. Fortunately, this isn’t too challenging, particularly with tools like AnswerThePublic making it easy to line up the most popular questions for particular keywords.
How to Handle Voice Action
Voice search is interesting, but what’s far more significant is voice action: telling your phone or computer to get something done for you.
You’ve probably used a voice assistant to set a reminder before (“Remind at 8pm to do the dishes” etc.), but voice actions are getting far more complex.
What about outright telling your phone to order a specific product, or even whichever product meets certain parameters? (“Order the cheapest USB hub”, perhaps).
To deal with complex voice actions, eCommerce merchants will need to provide rich APIs to make their systems easy for voice assistants to access.
Just as the point of Google results is to deliver the most relevant pages as rapidly as possible, the goal of an action-centric system will be to get things done quickly and conveniently — which means no unnecessary steps.
If you tell your voice assistant to place an order, you won’t want to be asked for your payment details. You’ll want them to be logged and ready to go.
You won’t want to be asked about the delivery location, because you’ll want a default location set.
More than just appearing in regular search results, this is a major concern for retailers, because a store that can’t provide that kind of convenience isn’t going to be selected for action-based search queries.
The best brands create natural purchase paths on the channels people want to use.
And the best part?
With each additional channel, multi-channel marketing and selling can increase revenue by up to 190%.
Right now, when building a multi-channel strategy, this makes voice a vital component.
It caters for the new way people shop, delivers channel choice, which, in turn, helps to create deeper, more profitable relationships.
Why the Impact Won’t be Enormous
We’ve looked at how featured snippets are involved in voice search, how natural queries are more common in speech, and how voice assistants can carry out direct actions.
Each of these things is driving change in eCommerce SEO, forcing retailers (and SaaS companies) to adapt.
However, it isn’t accurate to say that voice search isn’t going to radically overhaul anything, because it has an obvious ceiling — and it’s difficult to see it being broken.
So what’s this ceiling?
It’s simple: voice search isn’t useful all the time. It isn’t even useful that often.
In most circumstances, it’s easier — for one reason or another — to simply type a search.
Maybe you don’t want to annoy people around you, or there’s too much noise, or your throat is sore, or you’ve had issues getting your accent recognised, or (as is quite common) you just feel silly talking to your phone.
There will never be a good reason to focus on voice search when carrying out SEO because it isn’t going to supplant text search.
It isn’t even going to come close. A sensible SEO strategy will accommodate voice search wherever possible but sensibly view it as a secondary concern.
Does voice search matter for eCommerce? Sure, particularly with ever-improving language processing technology. It might one day be possible to say exactly what you want to order in one long string and have the order parsed and placed immediately. But it isn’t something to worry about. Focus on providing a great UX and covering your technical SEO bases — that should be enough.