Why authors need a voice search strategy

I attended my friend Miral Sattar’s workshop on voice search at the recent American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference in New York City and was so intrigued that I asked her to write a guest post about it for us. Miral, who offers author tech training programs, has worked in media for 15 years, most recently at TIME Magazine where she developed and implemented the digital SEO strategy that enabled TIME to be one of the most trafficked sites in the industry. She has lectured at Yale, NYU, CUNY, Pace, and other universities and helped numerous authors market their books. Miral has an M.S. in publishing from NYU and a B.S. from Columbia University in electrical engineering and computer science. Miral is offering you half off her latest training program from Learn Self Publishing Fast. Get the offer at the end of her article.

Why authors need a voice search strategy

By Miral Sattar

Have you ever asked Siri on your iPhone to tell you the time or set an alarm? Do you own a smart speaker, one of those voice-controlled search devices that include Amazon’s Echo and Google Home?

If not, you probably know someone who does.

What they all have in common is that they perform voice search through a voice assistant  on a smart speaker that you speak to.

Here’s what all of that means.

voice search

What is voice search? 

Voice search is speech technology that allows users to search by saying the terms rather than by typing them into a search engine.

Voice search is growing in popularity and by next year, 50 percent of all searches will be done through voice.

What is a voice assistant?

A voice assistant is a digital assistant that uses voice recognition, natural language processing, and speech synthesis to help users through phones and voice recognition applications.

Common voice assistants are Siri, Cortana, and Alexa. Built into smartphones and smart speakers (see below), they help with tasks that often include:

  • Listening to audiobooks
  • Requesting information (that’s where voice search comes in)
  • Performing mathematical calculations (like my kids love doing)
  • Playing music

What is a smart speaker?

A smart speaker is a device that processes voice search commands and responds to voice commands. Examples include most smartphone brands plus Echo, Echo Dot, and Google Home.

Why you need to optimize for voice search

Optimizing for voice search is critical to book marketing because a smart speaker and a voice assistant such as Siri are gateways to purchasing in the home.

What happens currently with your book if someone performs a voice search for it?


Does it return your website? Recommend your book?

Getting smart about how to use voice search to your advantage as an author reminds me of what happened with audiobooks. A few years ago, they weren’t the norm, but now, you can listen to almost any book you want in audio format.

You want to leverage the power of voice search in the same way that authors are taking advantage of audiobook popularity, too.

Just like with regular search engine optimization (SEO), there are things you need to do to get your book optimized for voice search SEO.

What you can do right now to prepare for voice search

In fact, there are a couple things you can do right now to make sure you’re prepared for the voice search revolution.

1. Update your meta description.

Having a meta description for your home page is especially important for voice search and voice assistants. The meta description is what voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google use to describe your website.

The meta description is hidden text on every page of your website that tells search engines what’s on the page. It’s a snippet of up to about 150 characters.

Search engines display the meta description in search results mostly when the searched-for phrase, such as the author’s name, is in the description. You can make sure yours is as good as possible using an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO.

To see how this works, do a test. If you have an iPhone, ask Siri about your favorite author and see what comes up.

Example: “Siri, who is (favorite author name)?” 

If you have an Amazon Echo or Dot device, speak the following prompts.

“Alexa, who is (favorite author name)?” 

The search results that get displayed on your phone screen or read aloud are often the meta description on the author’s website.

2. Make sure your book is available in audiobook format:

Because smart speakers can play audiobooks, they give preference to books that are available in audiobook format when delivering search results.

That means that if there are two books with the same title and only one of them is available as an audiobook, that’s the one that will be at the top of search results.

To see how this works, if you have an Amazon Echo or Dot device say the following prompts:

“Alexa, read (book title).”

It will demonstrate why you want to make sure your audiobook is available on Amazon and Google Play. That way, the smart speakers can purchase, read, and recommend your audiobook to potential readers.

Authors and publishers stand to lose millions this year because they are not optimizing for voice search. Be prepared for the voice search revolution. It’s already here.

Learn how to leverage voice search for your book

Save 50 percent on my new course, “How to Leverage Voice Search to Sell Books,” with coupon code LAUNCH by May 30 at the Build Book Buzz affiliate link for the course. I will also give you another one of my training programs, the SEO Masterclass ($299 value), for free – but only if you purchase by May 30 at this link: “How to Leverage Voice Search to Sell Books.”

Subscribe to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter and get the free special report, “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources,” immediately!

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