Voice search SEO is not a futuristic concept; it’s a current reality. Here’s what you can do to help your company make the most of the latest frontier in digital engagement.
Voice search is here and it’s here to stay.
In 2015, 1.7 million voice-first devices were delivered. In 2017, that number rose to an estimated 24.5 million. And in January 2018, new data suggested there are over one billion voice search queries per month. (source: Alpine).
With those kind of figures, it’s clear that the time to do something about it is now – not in some distant future inspired by Joaquin Phoenix.
So, how can you get your content ready for the voice revolution?
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Keywords are the cornerstone of any successful SEO or content marketing campaign, and they are just as important when it comes to voice search SEO. That being said, there is an additional layer of analysis required which involves reviewing target keywords for voice intent, and then taking the required steps to help search engines extract relevant content from your website.
Broadly speaking, there a few key principles to keep in mind when it comes to voice search SEO:
- It’s friendlier and more conversational than traditional search
- Search entries are longer and are often framed as questions
- Search entries are more specific and may require lateral thinking
- Content needs to be classified and easily extractable
To demonstrate, imagine you’re going on a sunny holiday to the south of France. As part of the research phase you need to look into some flights that meet your criteria. So you pull out your phone and say ‘OK Google, find me some cheap non-stop morning flights to Nice next month.’
Google will always try to serve the most relevant results to users, and in this instance that will require a number of content elements to be easily understood and extracted from the page – price, stopovers, departure time, date and destination.
The lengthy nature of voice searches means that long-tail keywords are even more important than before. And this can be more than just a handful of words – don’t be afraid to consider whole questions or even full sentences as part of your qualified keyword list.
This is an important point to note – thinking laterally around relevant brand, industry and product attributes can help you rank for more semantically related questions, increasing brand presence and organic visibility in the process.
Once you’ve pulled together a list of target keywords there are two final questions which will help you determine where to focus your efforts:
- Which of these keywords are likely to be used in voice searches? (Question-based queries or keywords that trigger featured snippets are a good start.)
- Of these, which are relevant for your company and will help acquire qualified users that are valuable to your digital marketing goals?
While a more conversational tone may help you to rank better for voice search, it’s important to protect your brand voice and maintain consistency. Be relevant and keyword targeted, but avoid sounding fake or contrived.
AIM FOR ZERO
In the world of voice search, position zero is the new first place.
For certain queries, Google currently ranks featured snippets in position zero, above all other pages, and they contain the information that Google deems most relevant to the search query.
Crucially for voice search, the majority of digital assistants will not only rely on these featured snippets for information, they’ll also identify the source – giving your brand greater visibility as the only answer to that query.
So if you want to rank for voice search, it’s essential to make your content worthy of a featured snippet.
By making your content easily extractable.
The key is to help Google find useful information on your website quickly and easily. A simple way of doing this is to ‘mark up’ or classify relevant page content with structured data from Schema.org. Labeling things like addresses and contact information are of great value for local SEO, as well as any other product attributes that users are searching for. To use our previous example, if you are a website which sells flights it would make sense to mark up all important flight information such as price, airport, departure time, cost, destination etc.
Another key to helping you rank in position 0 is the layout of page content. Breaking text into manageable chunks is crucial. Text-rich paragraphs are difficult to extract into a featured snippet – and are even less well equipped for answering voice searches. So make sure to separate your information out clearly. Use headings, bullet or number lists and clear pointers to the key information.
FAQs, recipes and methodologies are all great fodder for voice search, as they will often contain the most direct answers to customer questions. It’s important to make sure they’re easy to find, represent your brand well and contain the right information.
FOLLOW GOOGLE’S SEARCH QUALITY GUIDELINES
Ranking for featured snippets is a good start, but it’s not the only factor you’ll need to take into account when it comes to voice search.
In December 2017, Google released a series of guidelines explaining how they select content to answer voice search queries. There are four key criteria, and your content will need to be compliant with all four to succeed:
- Information satisfaction
The information you provide needs to be relevant and answer the question.
Users have limited attention spans, but they also want you to answer their question. Aim to find a middle ground between providing too much and too little content.
Grammatically incorrect sentences or poor syntax can be figured out when written down, but will just cause confusion when read aloud – so accuracy is key.
Content needs to be pronounced correctly. The technology is quickly improving, but it’s best to avoid using language that’s too complex as this will not translate well into speech. Your answer will sound better when it’s natural and easy to understand.
The best way of meeting these criteria is to make sure that your content is clear, concise and correct – no matter which languages you’re working with. A human eye will always be a better guarantee of this than a machine translation, for best results make sure to preserve a personal touch.
KEEP IT LOCAL
Voice search is not just restricted to stay-at-home speakers like Amazon Echo; it can also be used on-the-go with smartphones, tablets, laptops and in-car assistants.
And those users are likely to ask local questions – whether that’s for directions, restaurant recommendations, or anything else. Searches like “What’s a good Thai restaurant near me?” are much more likely to be via voice search than a traditional search query like “Thai restaurant Soho London”.
This is particularly important for brick and mortar stores looking to drive footfall, so you’ll want to make sure you’re as visible as possible for these types of searches. And you’ll need more than just good website content to do so. Up-to-date information on Google My Business and other authoritative review sites like Yelp are crucial, and a strong presence on relevant local directories is also advisable. Don’t forget the local business schema we mentioned earlier, as its critical to add that correctly to any local landing pages on your website.
Bear in mind that tourists as well as residents will be asking these questions – and they’ll be doing it in their own language. So being covered in multiple languages is definitely something to consider if it makes sense for your brand. One way of doing this is to identify your key audience demographics and the languages they speak. Catering to them as a starting point and expanding as needed later will help you build a successful voice search strategy.
GET READY FOR ADVERTISING
When it comes to advertising, marketers are still just beginning to figure out what could and couldn’t work for voice search – but tentative research suggests that a more personalized approach will be required.
In an eMarketer survey, over a quarter of respondents said they would listen to an ad if it were personalized based on their searches or if they got to choose which brands they listened to. So making a real connection with customers will be crucial to being able to cut through the noise.
And there are things you can do now to prepare for this.
- Make sure you have a consistent brand voice and identity.
- Connect consistently with your audience across relevant voice search touchpoints.
By establishing these principles now, you can make sure that when voice advertising does become a possibility it will just feel like a natural extension of an already existing customer relationship.
There are a lot of unknowns about the future of voice search, but by doing what you can today and keeping an eye on tomorrow, you can make sure that your company is prepared for whatever the future holds.