The Voice Search Playbook for Brands

This article concludes the voice search three-part series with a ‘What to do’ playbook you can use to capitalize on the growing voice-digital ecosystem.

As a quick refresher:

In this part (Part 3), you’ll get ideas, tips, and recommendations on how to reach, connect, and stay connected with your audience as voice search and engagement continues to grow.

Also, if you’d like more information on voice search, please join me at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 29 for an AMA Chicago online workshop series, Future of Search.

First, you must embrace the seismic perspective shift

Voice search and voice actions have created a seismic shift in digital marketing.

Where digital marketing may once have focused on customer acquisition, it must now focus on the customer experience – from the first contact to after-sales engagement with your Internet of Things (IoT) devices. A voice search may seek information like movie times. It may also seek to buy new shoes. Or, it may instead be a voice action to a personal assistant like Alexa that makes your dinner reservations.

Digital marketers need to accept this seismic shift that has taken their roles beyond acquisition. Today, a digital marketer’s role can overlap with sales and customer service in the building of a complete customer experience. And a full digital marketing strategy accounts for every customer engagement along the way. 

One way to get yourself in the right mindset is to ask yourself this question:

What would you buy with voice?

Maybe you’ve bought a pair of shoes through your Google Assistant or made hotel reservations? That doesn’t seem too far-fetched, does it?

No, probably not. But ask yourself, would you buy that new, slick orange and grey Porsche?

Or, how about ordering toilet paper via voice command?

As a marketer, you can easily understand the buying of a pair of $90 shoes with voice, right? The six-figure sports car might be a little bit of a stretch, but if someone has the money and knows the vendor, it’s still conceivable within the scope of marketing.

But how about your role as a marketer in the reorder of toilet paper from your customer’s IoT toilet?

There is a big difference between all three. Fortunately, if you aren’t quite ready for marketing through a toilet, you have a little time. Surveys show 7 in 10 Americans still have not used a voice assistant to find or purchase a product.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get started now. In fact, right now is the perfect time to start.

The Voice Search Marketer’s Action Plan

Search, and especially voice search, involves far more than finding the right keywords. Voice search truly encompasses the entire landscape of digital connectivity.

Here are 7 ways marketers can position their brand in this new ecosystem.

1. Get ‘Skill’-ed

Often, I refer to this as Phone-a-friend. You create apps, or ‘skills’, for personal assistants that bring your brand to your audience. The skill you create should reduce friction, making engagement seamless.

To build a skill, you want to follow these four general steps.

1.  Before you start planning your skill, you want to start with the right questions about the customer experience:

  • What are the most used actions/features?
  • What can we automate?
  • What do loyal customers ask for?
  • How can you promote repeat purchase behavior?
  • What does my call center or front office waste their time on?

2.  Once you identify which element will deliver the best results, then it’s time to confirm the platforms where your customers live. Are they primarily Alexa users? Google Assistant? Or maybe they use Apple’s Siri or Samsung’s Bixby, or a mix of them.

3.  Now, dig into the respective skill libraries to see what you can build.

Each personal assistant provider has its own way of building a skill, or even what they call it. Amazon calls it the Alexa Skill Store, but Google Assistant has an Action Library. Siri has shortcuts that Apple builds. Samsung’s Bixby has capsules with specific connection types.

Provider created skills, or actions, or…are not the only ones available. Take some time to research the third-party created skills. These often represent the best innovation for the personal assistant.

4.  Finally, build the skill. And, of course, track, analyze, and test to ensure the best customer experience.

2. Find out what your audience wants to know

With skills, you create a seamless customer experience. To connect with new customers and create new opportunities, you need to deliver the content they want.

Although this challenge has been at the heart of marketing from the very beginning, you don’t need to stress it. All you need to do is a little research. And where is the best place to start? The questions they ask.

You can find plenty of free tools online like,, and Google keyword tool. (I receive no compensation for mentioning them.)

Alternatively, you can check out question sites like Quora, Reddit, and Yahoo Answers.

Here’s a simple way to do the research:

  • Look at the questions asked. Then, find the question you want to answer. For example, are you looking for top of the funnel content like what, who, and how, or bottom of the funnel when and where questions?
  • Next, go for deeper insight by looking at long-tail keywords focused on prepositions like for, with, to, and near.
  • Many tools also allow you to see comparative searches, to understand how the subject relates to others in the mind of your audience.
  • Once you decide on what question you want to answer, run it through a question analyzer. These can reveal key topics that should be included in your answer.
  • Finally, connect with your customer service team and/or call center. They get questions every day and are a wealth of information.

3. Optimize local data

You want your name, address, phone (NAP) data everywhere it should be. First, you need to make sure you know where that is.

For efficient optimization, break down the effort by categorizing the multitude of sites and platforms into 5 groups:

  • Core search engines – These are Google, Apple, and Bing. You want to make sure your business data is both correct and up to date.
  • Key sites – For local, Yelp, FourSquare, Facebook, and YellowPages are examples. There are more, and you need to understand local search to confirm the best ones for you.
  • Data aggregators – Companies like Infogroup and Acxiom gather and consolidate data you can use to reach local markets.
  • Verticals – Vertical directories like those offered by Mapquest, Yahoo! Local, ad Citysearch simplify reaching specific industry types in local markets.
  • Geographic directories – Ziplocal, Hotdog, and Manta are a few you can leverage to ensure your business data is exactly where you need to be so that your audience can find you.

4. Bring back the FAQ

The FAQ is back in-style. When Google launched Q&A structured data, answering common questions became hip again.

Follow Google’s guidelines to ensure your FAQ pages have the correct schema markups so that you can compete for those prized rich results, Google Assistant relies on to answer your customers’ questions.

Speaking of schema…

5. Update schema on every page that you can

Google has been clear. If a brand wants its content found and used by Google Assistant, you need to apply schema everywhere you can. explains how to do it. You should also review related Google content on its site.

Once you have implemented the schema markup, test it with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

6. Optimize all assets

Every media asset you have, on every media channel it resides, should be optimized for that channel.

You’ve done the keyword research, so you have the keywords. You know how your audience searches and what it’s looking for. Now, make sure all your content gets optimized – and gets updated as needed.

Each platform may have different elements that need optimization. To ensure every media type gets properly optimized:

  • Create a content creation plan that requires all meta-data is produced at the time of production.
  • Run audits to identify any content not currently optimized.
  • Implement a system to monitor and track all of the relevant meta-data for simpler review, retrieval, and reporting.

By organizing your optimization strategy, you’ll find it easier to develop and execute an integrated strategy, allowing all your media and platforms to leverage the strength of each to deliver the content when your audience wants it.

7. Connect everywhere

With voice search, you need to connect yourself – especially your eCommerce capabilities – everywhere.

Customers who buy are not likely to choose to walk through your shopping cart purchase process. There are so many ways to buy and pay today. You need to connect with all that your customers do, may, or will use.

After all, there’s:

  • Apple Pay
  • PayPal
  • Amazon Pay
  • And, yes, even Bitcoin

Of course, there are more than these. And as Google and other search engines find ways to monetize, like Google is with Google Shopping, you want to be there too. And well, Amazon is Amazon, and you need to consider whether you will sell on the world’s largest digital mall.

Today, Amazon is a destination, but not the leader in search. Google still holds that title and aims to – like Amazon – become a destination. You need to be ready, and that means being connected anywhere and everywhere your customers are when they ask about you.

Final thoughts on the future of voice search

Voice search is here now. So are voice actions and voice commands.

Personal assistants continue to improve and chatbots continue to get smarter and more agile at answering questions.

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this three-part analysis of voice search and the changing search landscape. All that’s left is for you to get started.

At Be Found Online, we’re implementing these strategies to help our customers. They can work for you too.

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