Voice search is poised to be one of the most disruptive forces in the digital landscape in the next several years (if not decades) as the "smart assistants" (including but not limited to devices such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, etc.) take over.
As the technology powering them (machine learning, artificial intelligence) becomes increasingly sophisticated, their use is only expected to become even more widespread.
Fortunately, marketers have an opportunity right now to position their brand and its information in the path of consumers as they interact with these digital devices and gather data on their level of interest in and familiarity with a particular topic, perhaps their position/location in the sales funnel based on a search history, and more, along the way.
The practice of "voice search optimization" has already begun for many of the savviest brands. It appears that advertisers using Google's keyword planner tool, for example, are encountering and being exposed to what looks to be keyword ideas/suggestions based on actual voice search queries. Expect the trend to continue and that specific functionality to improve as Google moves toward its "mobile-first" index in the coming months and years.
What, however, are the specific terms being used by 'your' prospective audience? What does an SEO need to do to find these queries, integrate them into their own optimization initiatives and measure the results of the performance accrued over time? Slow your roll... you likely already know the answer (because you've been told this before).
What advertisers and marketers are discovering about voice search (and voice search optimization) is that outside of longer queries being used in general, the type of content being sought out by consumers isn't all that different from what has been sought out by them in the past. In short, consumers are looking for answers and it is your responsibility (as the brand or the SEO) to deliver them.
Website Magazine's "Aim to Please with KBO (Knowledge Base Optimization)" article, for example, provides a strong foundation and some practical guidance (still relevant and useful six years later) for delivering an optimized search experience and driving brand exposure with those looking for answers and guidance. SEO professionals may also want to try out a solution like Answer The Public, a Web-based offering that provides content ideas in the form of questions based on the keyword entered (to which SEOs can apply an answer).
Focusing on the long-tail search terms and phrases provided by keyword suggestion tools and developing content of a more informational variety however only gets SEOs so far. You also need to be lucky (and super good at link building). While search engine optimization professionals have long recommended that website owners develop content that answers the questions of their users, the search engine experience provided by Google has evolved over time. The search engine now uses a far broader set of signals to identify the best result, but it is showing that lone "best" result in ways much different than before.
In order to be this elusive lone result (and likely the result that will be provided as the response to a query from a user's smart device) it is becoming increasingly evident that being rewarded with the featured snippet is the only way to get there. There is a shocking lack of guidance and information available about optimizing for the featured snippet but for those looking to fully capitalize on the trend consider reviewing Website Magazine's Semantic Markup Crash Course to get up to speed on one of the first steps of capturing the increasingly important position available through voice search.
Successfully optimizing for voice search requires a deep understanding of what users need and the ability to develop content that answers their requests. When brands and SEOs can deliver on that, they'll be fully present on smart devices when the time is right.