The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is unfolding fast. And now businesses have a lot of things to be concerned about.

But, practically it’s just one thing, i.e., customers! How could it not be?

Businesses are 100% about customers. Thanks to rapid advancement in technology and powerful recommendation engines, consumers are cheering for convenience and personalization. In this scenario, smart personal voice assistants have the capability to fulfill both of these expectations.

Voice assistants are natural, convenient, and fast, to name a few. This is a hands-free conversational medium as well. Consumers can do many things on-the-go, without interruption so that they can focus on the things that matter.
Why do they touch their devices when they can talk to them? Consumers expect smart, connected products and services more than ever.

From wearables to appliances, nowadays, most devices that hit the market (even motorcycle helmets) are equipped with one of the popular voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa Apple Siri, or Google Assistant.

Can you imagine a sci-fi movie character typing on a keyboard or swiping his/her mobile screen!

The future of search is voice. And the future user interfaces are mostly conversational, thanks to artificial intelligence, machine learning, and of course Internet of Things technology.

Businesses are going to be wired up to audience voice. And this is just a beginning.

Let’s start with some stats, figure out what’s going on, and warm-up for the rest of the story.

    • 32 percent of Americans own a smart speaker. Worldwide, Alexa is in about 51 million smart speakers, and Google is in about 24 million. Google expanded to 80 countries in 2018, up from 14 the year earlier. (CNET, CES 2019)
    • Google expected its assistant to reach 1 billion devices by the end of January 2019. More than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices have been sold globally by January 2019. (Venturebeat, 2019)
    • More than 91% of business decision-makers have already invested in voice; 66% of brands believe voice can increase conversion and revenue; 71% see it improving the user experience. (Adobe, 2019)

Now is the time for brands to adjust or even re-invent the search engine optimization strategy to adapt to voice queries and conversations.

Being on the top in the search result is always important

In the era that social media has been losing its credibility and marketing campaigns are not effective as before due to a lack of trust in brands, voice brings about a huge opportunity for brands to disrupt themselves, build and sustain trust, and beat competitors to the punch.

According to Gartner, by 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30 percent.

Voice is gradually affecting how people consume information online, and as a result, many fundamental digital marketing concepts, including SEM and SEO as brands know, are rapidly changing. Search queries via voice commands differ from text-based searches — they are longer in length and more conversational, commonly expressed as a question. Embodying time, location, and context, voice queries are more specific as well. So they convey stronger feeling and intent that reveal the chance of taking action.

When people ask a voice assistant to find something, they want the single most relevant, accurate result, especially when spoken on mobile, not a list. So brands have to be ranked not on the first page or first three results, but as the single top result, in position zero (featured snippet).

Here is a great example of how one our clients, Smart Nora is leveraging this:

Position zero - featured snippet
As you can see, the Smart Nora community discussion shows up as a featured snippet when we fire a query about their competitor.

There is no doubt that search behavior of consumers has been changing, and getting found in the voice-first world entails fresh, relevant, and optimized content for all possible consumers intentions during their purchase journey.
A bad experience through personal voice-based assistants may be the end of a business.

Why online communities must be included in a brand’s voice strategy

Content is the key success factor in any search engine optimization strategy for any type of search query.

The interesting point about an online community is that it’s built for and grown mostly by consumers and fueled by user-generated content as well. They create and share relevant content around a shared history, values, and problems in the way they naturally speak and converse in real life.

A brand and its users ask questions, respond, discuss, share their experiences, and community gradually turns into a knowledge engine that both humans and search engine bots could use as a trusted source to find their answers. Still, communities, even in their old fashioned structure, forums, are the place people dig to find solutions to their problems about a product or service.

Google prefers trusted websites that provide exact answers for specific questions as well and pick credible posts to show in its “featured snippets”. Surprisingly Google assistant and most other voice assistants read these featured snippets when responding to voice queries.

Here are four characteristics of a well-managed community that make them one of the most essential tools for any SEO strategy to survive the voice-first era.

Communities are conversational

It’s the most important characteristics of communities in terms of optimization for voice search. Content is mostly in the way people interact in real life. It’s conversational and written with natural language. Users ask and answer, and discussions flow in the most natural way possible. It’s optimized for featured snippets as well.

Such content is what Google looks for:

“We display featured snippets when our systems determine this format will help people more easily discover what they’re seeking, both from the description about the page and when they click on the link to read the page itself. They’re especially helpful for those on mobile or searching by voice.”

One of the primary responsibilities of community moderators is to create relevant questions about the brand’s products, services, and consumers problems, and also provide accurate answers and solutions to questions consumers ask.

You can nudge Google bot in the right direction by adding the schema mark up specifically for QnA pages where the content is presented in question and answer format. This mark up is valid in the following cases:

QnA markup schema org

Communities are alive and continuously learn

A well-managed, modern online community is alive and feeds from fresh and up-to-date content and information. Communities powered by Tribe enjoy the AI-powered recommendation engine and deliver highly personalized content to the members which fosters further engagement and discussion.

A community facilitates a secure platform to build collective wisdom from aggregated fresh answers and opinions of a diverse group of users. So it’s a reliable and credible source of knowledge for search engines and personal assistants to find the best and most relevant solution for a specific problem.

Communities are relevant

Unlike content on social media that most of the times are wide-ranging and un-relevant, well-moderated communities create value by providing noise-free and relevant knowledge for the target audience.

Indeed, as brands and their audience clearly know each other and have an understanding about the problems in the industry and questions around the products or services, content and discussions are deeper, meaningful, context-aware, and of course, highly relevant.

Trends come and go, but a keen community moderator, aware of new trends and events in the industry keeps up the community discussions up-to-date and dynamic so that community never lose its freshness and relevancy. Search engines love and seek such content. They no longer look for keywords, but quality and relevancy for the audience.

Surprisingly, no one can determine the content relevancy better than audience themselves, and since communities are built to serve the audience and keep them as close as possible, they also remain relevant and help brands stand out from the crowd.

Communities are authentic

People do trust real stories narrated by their peers more than marketing and advertising messages.
And communities are where they can establish open and honest communications and collaborations about their problems and pains, not only with brands but other consumers as well, all in a highly personal way.

So they are likely to return again to read more stories and may even write theirs. This helps online branded communities to position themselves as a trusted and authentic source of knowledge for both audience and search engines.

The Takeaway

As time goes on, voice tech is rapidly getting bigger. More and more devices are produced with a built-in voice-based assistant, and smart marketers realize it’s not a fad.

Building a community on an owned platform helps brands listen to audience stories across their customer journey and provide highly relevant answers to their questions, simultaneously turning into a trustworthy source of knowledge for related voice search queries. And of course, this helps them stay ahead of the competition in the long-term.


About the author

Iman is a researcher and content marketer who delivers engaging content on a wide range of topics related to marketing, business, and technology. Follow him on LinkedIn at @ibarazandeh.


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