An Introduction to Voice Engine Optimization (VEO)
Marketers should be looking at voice engine optimization (VEO) as a growing and important part of their digital marketing.
I will admit that for a guy who has spent most of his career in close proximity to "The Next Big Things" in technology, I can be a bit of a cranky Luddite. Which is what keeps me from inviting, Alexa, Google, or Siri into my home in the form of a voice-activitated digital assistant.
And though my privacy paranoia may seem prudent given recent headlines about Facebook’s sharing of personal data, voice-activated digital assistants like the big three and others are not going away.
Nor are tie-ins to these voice-activated assistants built into other devices like our phones and televisions.
Clearly, I’m swimming against the tide and so are you if, as a marketer, you’re not looking at voice engine optimization as a growing and important part of your digital marketing.
What Businesses Will VEO Impact Most?
That doesn’t mean you need to run out tomorrow to add VEO to your arsenal. How quickly VEO becomes critical to your business depends on what business you’re in. For location-based and time-dependent businesses like local retail, you’re already late to the party. Most B2B businesses have some time before VEO becomes critical.
Before you get too comfortable waiting, recognize that voice-driven search already goes beyond the now-familiar, “Hey, Google. Where can I get a pizza right now?” Unexpected examples include universities using smart speakers to allow students to check schedules, set alarms, and review meal plan details and balances.
Similarly, hotel chains are piloting smart speakers to let guests adjust room lighting and HVAC in addition to finding local attractions, eateries, and transportation.
Why VEO Stakes Are Higher
Getting VEO right is even more critical than getting SEO right. Yes, we’d all like the very top organic spot on search engine results pages, but there’s still hope for spots 2-10. They typically garner about two-thirds of search clicks.
But VEO has only the top spot. If you’re not in it, you’re not anywhere.
How do we improve our odds of being in that one-and-only spot? Here are a few ideas.
Easily Understandable Content
Usually, when we talk about content that’s easy to understand, it’s the human audience for whom we want content that’s easy to digest. In this case, it’s the search engines that need to grasp it quickly and easily. Tools like Semantic HTML 5 and structured data markup make it much more likely that the search engines will understand what your web page is about. These tools can help provide context for everything from your contact information to details about the products or services you offer.
This is particularly true for Google. According to Tim Peter, the e-commerce and Internet marketing expert, “For Google Home, the key is less about voice specifically and more about targeting the featured snippet in Google's search results or ranking well in local, depending on the nature of the query and the searcher's intent. Your goal is to improve your ranking for the feature box or the local pack to ensure you're offered as an answer in voice search. The great thing there is that you then gain the benefit from both voice and traditional search.”
Longer Search Queries / Question Answers
Voice search is frequently done in the form of fully-formed questions rather than the shorthand so many of us have been trained to use by our earliest search experiences. (Though that’s far less necessary now.) More conversational content can help you perform better in voice searches.
Though true for SEO, as well, site performance is even more important for VEO. The underlying reasons are very much the same as for mobile SEO. This is partly because, as Mr. Peter notes, “Many voice searches are conducted via mobile and tend to have either an explicit or implicit location intent.” Ranking better for local search will help in voice search, and fast-loading pages will help for both.
Test, Test, Test
If your business depends on VEO – or soon will – don’t be a cranky privacy paranoiac like me. Buy one – or all – of the voice assistants and test how well you perform for the customer questions you hear most frequently. If your competitors are outperforming you, reverse engineer their success and improve your own results.
One last note: it will be interesting to see how nomenclature and acronyms develop over time. “VEO” is actually “VEO™” as it is a registered trademark of Chatmeter. I get the sense this may wind up joining "Kleenex" and "Xerox" (and "Google" as a verb ...) in popular usage.
Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured?
A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms encourage audience engagement through solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either.
His work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components, and he has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events. His writing appears in various online and print publications.
Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")