Turn up the volume: Voice search optimization is the next step for an effective SEO
July 9, 2019
No longer the subject of a bleak “Black Mirror” episode or perceived as a tech fad destined to suffer an undignified death (RIP Google+, gone and thankfully forgotten) voice recognition technology and voice searches are the future of marketing. Recent user statistics show that 58% of consumers in the US have used voice search at least once in the past year, while experts believe that within two years 50% of all searches globally will be voice searches. The turn to voice search will be felt mostly by local business, as 27% of users said that they visited a local business after a voice search. Local SME businesses is actually is the industry that will feel the most impact by the transition to voice searching, especially those in the services and hospitality sector. Restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and other service offering businesses stand to lose much from not making sure that their website is not voice search optimized.
Here’s a couple of things to take into consideration:
Your SEO strategy needs to be revised
SEO went through a massive evolution since the first days the term made its appearance. When the technology took its first steps marketers opted for the nuclear option of over-optimization, by blanketing search engines with key words. That crude practice went quickly away in favor of more engaging content that was relevant to the user, which in itself later morphed into a more personalized experience, tailored to the individual user’s search history and preferences. The SEO evolution was born out of necessity, as marketers are always looking for ways to refine their message and make it as targeted as possible.
Now is the time to take the next step. Voice search optimization will be the new leap forward. Don’t be concerned if you spent capital to have your website optimized, only to be forced to change it again. Progress and evolution in the digital industry is much like Thanos in Endgame; inevitable. So instead of lamenting the effort already made, it’s better if you contact your digital agency and ask them to revise your SEO strategy to make fit the voice recognition age. No need to be reactive when you can be proactive.
Meet the help
To start working on optimizing your website for voice searches, first you must understand the hardware. In the market currently there are 4 major digital assistants.
The first one is Google Assistant, which can be accessed by any device that supports voice searches or if you are looking for the home option, the Google Home speaker. It should be noted here that Google Assistant is the only one of the digital assistants that uses Google for its searches, as all the others are powered by Microsoft’s Bing. While SEO guiding principles apply to all search engines, optimizing with Google Assistant specifically in mind is probably a better idea.
Perhaps the most well-known home voice assistant is Alexa, Amazon’s response to Google Home. Alexa’s primary function is to allow voice search shopping from Amazon, although it is perfectly capable of answering queries and acting as digital assistant.
And if Alexa is the most known home voice assistant, the Apple exclusive Siri is it’s mobile equivalent. While Apple does face troubles and has seen sales drop significantly in 2018, the US embargo on China-based competitor Huawei will probably benefit the phone company, forcing marketers to include Siri in their SEO optimizing plans.
Finally, Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Assistant. The tech giant might have come late into the digital assistant game – Cortana was launched in 2014- but the company’s intent is to integrate Cortana on all of its platforms.
FAQ becomes SOS
The first step on properly optimizing your website for voice searches is understanding underlying need behind the surge of this technology; people want to ask quick questions and they want specific responses to those questions. So far content was crafted to fit SEO purposes and to allow the company to get the information it wanted to the user. Paragraphs upon paragraphs extolling the company’s virtues, history, and advantages, carefully crafted to fit the branding and company message. The FAQ section -if there was one as the practice is all but abandoned- was usually reserved for questions the company wanted to answer, again written in such a way as to cast the best possible light on the company.
This is all changing now. Almost all voice searches are triggered by a combination of 25 words, with the first being by far “how”, followed by “what” and “best”, which of course are ways of phrasing a question.
And if the consumer is asking a question, your company better have an answer. Users are no longer concerned with the proud history of your family owned plumbing company, they want to know “how to fix a leaking pipe”. They don’t care if you are always using best quality beef, they want to know “what is the best burger in town”. Having this user behavior in mind, it’s easy to see how the FAQ now becomes invaluable. Content creators must learn to anticipate questions users will have and make sure the website provides an answer. Education now takes lead as the more knowledgeable your company appears to be, the more questions it can answer so the more traffic it would generate.
The old core principle, Keep It Simple Stupid, finds an appliccation in voice search optimization in a very specific way. If the content creator’s concern is anticipating questions users might have, it should also anticipate the style these questions will be phrased. Keeping your content simple and in a more conversational tone will help with pinpointing the exact same way the question would be worded by a user, thus increasing your chance that your website will come up first in the search list.
Striking the perfect balance between formal and informal tone can even land you a spot on the Google featured snippet, the quick answer summary box on the top of the search results that features the best perceived answer to any given query. But writing eloquent, hard to understand content for the joy of writing is now a thing of the past.
Also a factor to keep in mind is international customers. While people type in google searches in more or less the same way, spoken, informal language might impose hurdles that companies haven’t considered before. If, for example, you are the owner of a restaurant in a tourist area frequented by British people, by only offering the menu option of a “full english breakfast” might cause you to be missed by voice searching, as that type of breakfast is colloquially referred to as a “fry up”. Like keyword optimization, preparing your website for voice searches means that you must consider every single combination and possibility.
The UX is now more important than ever
As with SEO, the science behind the user experience journey (UX) has also been refined over the last years. Getting the consumer to your website is half the work, the other half is to keep him/her there and ultimately guide them to your product. In that respect, a UX design for voice search for a restaurant must be kept really simple and follow a logical thinking progression: what restaurant serves the best food, how much will it cost, how do I get there.
Structured data is a code that allows search engines to better make sense of your content, thus making it easier for the crawl to pick up relevant information and displaying them to the user. Recognizing the need for integration with voice assistants, structured data coding for voice search optimization allows the virtual assistant to read the answer to the query out loud, providing it with a boost in searches. Explain complex procedures such as DIY projects and recipes with a step by step simple text, ideally accompanied with pictures. Simplifying your content this way by structuring your data will help with boosting your website in Google searches. Which leads to the next point…
The Fast and the Safer
Optimizing your website for voice searches by carefully structuring your data amounts to nothing if the user can’t get to your content. After Google started flagging websites that have not shifted to HTTPS as “unsafe”, not upgrading to an HTTPS protocol will affect your search rating. Same goes with loading speed. Encumbering the website with loads of images and hosting videos instead of embedding it will negatively affect loading time, discouraging users from using it. If you want to check how your website performs, you can always try using tools that are available.
We at Action Digital always have our finger on the current trends pulse and keep an open eye for new ways to optimize your website. Contact us for effective SEO optimization and other digital marketing services!