“Alexa: How Is Voice Search Affecting SEO Strategies?”
Smart tech is starting to take over our homes. From the Amazon Echo turning down the volume on our TVs with a simple voice command, to Kinect allowing us to control our Xbox One games via spoken word, voice-related technology is continuing to evolve.
When you consider that, according to a recent post by Search Engine Land, smart speaker sales grew by 103% in the last year; it's an area that’s only going to gain increasing traction within mainstream marketing.
Nearly 50% of people are now using voice search to research products, according to Social Media Today. A Google study also found that over half of teenagers and 41% of adults use voice search every day - and it’s ever-growing.
What Does It Mean For Existing SEO?
How we speak and how we write are drastically different. Our speech is culturally and geographically influenced and it varies significantly to how we would type out a search query. With a voice search, we ask Google like a friend and with natural questions the approach is different:
‘Where’s the best place to eat in Manchester?’ vs a text search; ‘Best restaurants Manchester’.
Conventional SEO strategies are largely focused on written text searches. With the prediction that by 2020, 50% of all searches are projected to be voice initiated, it’s essential to optimise for the differences that this will bring.
How Do I Optimise My Website for Voice Search?
Many of the existing, commonplace SEO practices you should be following will remain integral to how you optimise your website for voice search queries. Yet it will be important for you to tweak the thought process you follow when you optimise your website.
Targeting Longer-Tail Keywords
Voice search being more question-like means queries are longer-tail than the the majority of typed queries we have been optimising for. Our written content should be optimised more for these full sentences, along with Pay-Per-Click keywords. As a bonus, longer tail keywords are often cheaper with good click-through-rates.
As voice searches are worded like colloquial questions, websites that have conversational questions and answers will be rewarded by Google. Creating an FAQ page structured in this style and including pre-empted/researched questions from your users or buyers is a great start for targeting these long-tail keywords.
Writing natural, informal content is an integral part of SEO. It will also remain a great way to stay with (and ahead of) the voice search rise. As search becomes more colloquial with this growth, it’s more likely your content will match these queries and improve ranking.
Creating conversational content is also beneficial for when voice search answers are read back verbally - this will sound more natural and concise to the user.
Catering for the intent behind voice searches will naturally form a key part of how successfully your site performs for them, just as it does with existing SEO. You can partially cater for the ‘action’ part of an intent-based search such as: ‘Where can I hire a car in (x)?’ by including ‘hire’ or ‘rent’ through headings and page titles. This way you can satisfy the query and appeal to Google without appearing spammy.
Local Businesses Should Optimise For ‘Near Me’ Searches
‘Near me’ is a common inclusion for voice searches on mobile and it’s more than likely to be a local search. Ensure your business is verified with Google, with up to date and exhaustive information (phone number, address, opening times etc.). Make sure location extensions are active on PPC and local search ads for Google Maps are live.
With a voice search, only one answer is read back, not a list to choose from like with a typed search. So now your content must be number one in the Featured Snippet. You must best answer the question searched for and Google chooses its winner based on popularity and relevance.
FAQ pages again are a good way to have a structured answer in place to pre-empted questions. It is also worth looking at adding Schema Markup to help Google understand your website’s content effectively.
What Are the Current Complications With Voice Search Optimisation?
How will paid advertising work for voice searches? We wouldn’t trust our voice search results if the only answer we hear is a paid ad.
Will we listen to the ads before our top organic answer? It will be interesting to see what solution the search engines implement.
Even by 2020, searches will still be 50% written text so in the short term we need to be optimising for both verbal and typed searches. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it requires a thought-out balance in content - optimising for both colloquial terms and more formal/short-tail terms.
How Will Google Account For Accents and Dialects?
There are hundreds of diverse accents and dialects across the English language. For example, ‘youse’ as an informal dialect word meaning ‘more than one person’, would currently be heard by Google as ‘use’ – a very different denotation.
This may lead to irrelevant results. It would be impossible for us to optimise for all different dialects within our content so it will be interesting to observe, as voice search becomes even more prominent, how Google handles this.
Will Google start to learn our colloquialisms and voice over time; Like it does with our search habits? According to Click Hub, Google’s Artificial Intelligence has already read thousands of romance narratives to help improve its conversational search capabilities.
This all highlights the importance of having a new search strategy optimised towards longer-tail, more colloquial, question-like terms. With a significant number of searches still being typed however, this must be incorporated alongside current SEO strategy for short-tail keywords, rather than replacing it.
At least until we stop typing altogether and we are shouting into the kitchen for the kettle to make us a cup of tea.