In the near future, voice search is expected to overtake browser-based searches as the primary method of conducting searches via mobile devices. The market for these voice search solutions has produced a shortlist of voice-activated assistants offered by major tech companies, with Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri leading the way in name recognition.
As voice search activity increases, marketing departments are under greater pressure to embrace voice search content marketing as an essential component of overall search engine optimization. The long-tail search patterns encouraged by voice search are changing how businesses develop their keyword strategies to guide their content creation. At the same time, differences in the search algorithms for Alexa and Siri can give marketing leaders headaches when they approach voice search optimization projects.
Unlike browser-based search, where Google has the vast majority of market share over much smaller rivals such as Bing, the voice search market is much more fragmented. Even the hardware hosting these voice assistants varies from one solution to the next: Siri's half-a-billion users all access the voice assistant through their mobile devices, whereas Alexa is primarily offered on in-home speakers. While its user base pales in size to Siri's, in-home speakers using Alexa are now found in more than 68 percent of U.S. homes.
This begs some important questions: How different are the search algorithms for leading voice search tools such as Alexa and Siri? And how should you go about developing a voice search content strategy while balancing these different tools? Luckily, we've got some answers for you. Here's what you need to know about Alexa and Siri, as well as how to optimize for voice search across both of these solutions.
What Siri Wants
Apple's voice search assistant uses Google search results for basically all of its queries, with one key exception: For location-based searches, Siri crawls Apple Maps for results.
Another small thing you can do to help your business rank in Siri voice searches is to claim and manage your Yelp listing, if applicable. Siri sometimes pulls Yelp content to fill out its Apple Maps business listings, so an optimized Yelp account may make a difference with your voice search rankings through Siri.
What Alexa Wants
While Siri uses Google to generate its voice search results, Alexa uses Bing. In general, there's not a huge difference: While Bing and Google are separate search engines with their own proprietary search algorithms, SEO best practices tend to be the same for both.
Certain keywords and topics may encounter less competition through Alexa as a result of the smaller search volume offered on Bing. It's also worth noting that while Alexa's adoption rate is growing fast, Siri still maintains a larger market share of voice search volume because of its usability on mobile devices.
The biggest considerations with voice search marketing through Alexa have to do with any retail ambitions your brand might have. If you're targeting voice search as a new avenue for selling products, then it'll make a big difference if you're selling through Amazon; Alexa only offers voice ordering through Amazon Prime, so other retail platforms and even non-Prime products can't be sold through Alexa with the same convenience.
And because Alexa is owned by Amazon, any product-based voice search queries your customers make will result in an Amazon product as the top result—as long as the retailer offers a product in that category, of course. If you're using Amazon to drive sales and grow your business, this could make Alexa the clear favorite for your voice search marketing priorities. For other retailers, it could make Alexa far less valuable and, thus, not worth dedicating voice search optimization time on.
Do You Put All Your Eggs in One Basket?
For marketing leaders prepping to dedicate resources to new voice search initiatives, accounting for multiple different voice search tools can be a cumbersome task, especially if each platform has distinct and tedious optimization demands. The good news is that, for the most part, you don't have to prioritize one voice search tool at the expense of the other. The best practices for optimizing for both Siri and Alexa overlap, which can simplify your voice search marketing strategy.
The most important part of voice search optimization—for Alexa, Siri, and any other voice search tools you may target—is using Schema.org to contextualize your content and improve its visibility and value in the eyes of search engines. Keyword strategy decisions may be more platform-specific but there will be a lot of crossover, which makes it easy to use either Google or Bing for keyword research because each largely translates to the other.
You'll also want to consider your audience and your business goals. If you're a retailer with products on Amazon, Alexa should be your top priority. If you naturally see more traffic coming from Siri, this might reveal something about the type of audience you're targeting or the incidental success you've discovered without truly investing in voice search marketing.
For certain decisions such as keyword research, you'll have to focus on one tool over the other. Keep in mind, too, that these voice search tools are used in different ways: Siri is used primarily on the go, while Alexa is called on by users at home. This in and of itself can lead to a higher percentage of Siri search queries that are relevant to a specific location.
No matter which voice search tool you choose to prioritize, you can be confident that your optimization efforts will have a measurable benefit through other solutions as well.