Voice Search Optimization: I have one radically different thought

By Laura Bergells on
voice search optimization

As I work on voice search optimization projects, I keep reading about the topic. The research fascinates me.

In short – voice search is on the rise. It impacts how people find your business online. You need to think about voice search optimization.

Cool. Makes sense.

Most of the articles I find online offer great advice. If you’re interested in voice search optimization — go ahead. Read some of these articles.

To find them, search your favorite search engine. And as you do your search…I have three questions for you:

1. Did you use your fingers or voice to search?

2. Did you try both?

3. If you did both, did you use different words for each type of search?

Those three questions are at the heart of your voice search optimization research process. That’s your warm up exercise. Go read the articles. And start to think about how people may find your business using the spoken word instead of the written word.

After you’ve thought about voice search and read a few articles, I’m going to give you one more thought. This thought differs radically from everything you’ve read about voice search optimization. Most of the advice you’ll read online today will tell you this:

“Write more conversationally.”

The more you read about voice search, the more you’ll read some version of this statement. The rational? Research shows that people may use more words when they voice search.

And the large tech companies that are investing gobs of money into voice technology? They’re also telling us to talk to our devices as if they are our friends. Big tech companies tell writers to write more conversationally to optimize for voice searches.

Makes sense, right? But think about it.

That’s the big tech company goal. It’s not necessarily yours.

This advice of “think and write conversationally” reflects how a big tech behemoth will want you to interact with their devices. It’s part of their branding. They want you to think of your device as your friend.

They don’t want you to think about your device as a creepy little spy that will report on your behaviors. It’s in the best interest of the tech company to have you act as if their creepy little spy is actually your beloved pet.

Your device is an insidious monster that will reveal your deepest darkest secrets to a corporation so that it can generate a profit.

But Google and Microsoft and Apple and Amazon? They don’t want you to think about their brand that way. “Invasive monster” is not a lovable or trustworthy brand attribute.

That’s why you’ll hear words like “personal” and “conversational”. Those are their desired brand attributes.

But the brand goals of big tech companies? That’s not necessarily your business goal. Your goal is to reach your customers. And to do that, you’ll want to talk the way your customers talk.

So while the big companies tell you to talk to your device conversationally, I want you to try something different.

Instead, listen to how your audience talks to their devices.

Does your target audience really talk to their devices in a way that’s natural and conversational? Do they really?


Sometimes, they may.

But often? Nah. They don’t talk conversationally. At all.

How do I know this? I listen. I listen hard.

Here’s what I hear:

conversation with a friend

How I ask a friend where to go for dinner

talk to Google

How I ask Google where to go for dinner

I hear people enunciate more distinctly when they talk to their phones. In an effort to be understood, they’ll talk like a radio announcer from the 1940’s. They’ll clip each syllable with precision. Or they’ll put huge spaces between words — all in an effort to make their phones understand them.

People talk differently to their friends, family, and colleagues. It’s not just the actual words we use. It’s our diction and cadence.

(If my boyfriend talked to me the way he talks to his phone, we’d have a huge problem. He tends to talk to the phone as if he is a mighty king, and the phone exists to obey his commands. It’s kind of hilarious.)

Of course, these are early days. Voice search technology will get better. Maybe in a few months, more people will speak to their phones in a way that’s conversational.

But right now? I know the big tech companies tell you to write the way you talk. But why not listen to the way your audience talks to their devices?

Use the words they use.

Talk the way they talk.

Listen to your audience. If they talk like 1940’s radio announcers, you’ve got to respect that choice.

The brand goal of big tech may not be in your best interest. Mirror and match the way your audience talks, not the way big tech wants you to talk.

Me? I’m going to resist. I refuse to speak to my phone as if it was my friend.

How about you? Do you talk to your phone as if it was your BFF? How’s voice search working out for you?