I remember when I first started to play around with voice search. Back then, I was convinced that it was just a gimmick and would barely serve a purpose in our daily lives. I was excited to see just how badly it would fail at recognising my voice. I threw stupid jokes at Siri. I asked Alexa really sophisticated and obscure questions. It was all in the hopes of showing everyone just how useless this technology was.

But to my surprise, it wasn’t useless at all.

Although we were all a bit skeptical when virtual assistants became a thing, we’ve grown to use them on a regular basis. We now use them for real tasks and not just for ‘playing around’. Mobiles, smartphones and smart home devices featuring digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, Google Now and Cortana are invading our lives. The allure of voice searching is undeniable – it’s faster, hands-free and you get to feel like James Bond. 

These new technologies make it easier than ever to get relevant information from asking a simple question. Using your voice, you can play music, turn on the lights, search for a local pizza place, order products and get information about breaking news or weather.

So where does that leave SEO?

Optimising for voice search

If you want to stay ahead of the game and make the most of voice search for your search engine optimisation, it’s time to start today. Here are a few tips for your content and SEO strategy:

Ensure your site is mobile friendly

If you haven’t already done so, your website must work flawlessly on mobile devices.  Most voice search is currently happening on mobile devices, so your website should be mobile friendly for the voice search user. This isn’t just about design, it’s about speed – you need your page to load as quickly as possible. Thanks to technologies like Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP, mobile users are becoming accustomed to websites loading faster and faster. If you want to win in voice and mobile search, your website needs to be fast and mobile friendly.

Check how your site functions on multiple smartphones, tablets and other devices. Google’s Mobile Friendly Test and WebPageTest are two free tools to help ensure you have both in check.

Include long-tail keywords

Physical typing a query into your computer takes a little time and effort. Since the mid 90s when search engines were first introduced to the mainstream, we have all learned to succinctly enter keyword phrases to find information quickly. Very few people type the way they speak. Everyone typically adopts some sort of stilted shorthand into the search bar (e.g. “Bristol weather”). However, when speaking you’re more likely to ask the complete questions (“What’s the weather like in Bristol?”). This pattern holds true with voice searching too. Now keywords are no longer keywords, especially when it comes to search queries. Keywords in the voice search world are long-tail and include more conversational phrases in a natural tone.

This new style of search and query formats must be factored into your SEO. Your keyword strategy must now be more conversational and mimic how real people talk and ask questions verbally.

The first step is to identify the queries that relate to your product or service. You can use keyword tools, but it’s also extremely useful to ask real customers and consider the questions you receive on a regular basis. Answer the Public is a great tool for these more conversational search queries and allows you to dig even deeper into user intent. You can even separate results into question starters, such as ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’. Build on this research by uncovering other similar queries using the ‘People also asked’ feature on Google.

Introduce language and phrases to your site

Once you have some natural language keywords and phrases, it’s time to put them into action on pages around your site.

A great way to create content that focuses on those long-tail conversational keyword phrases is to create FAQ pages. Go for more natural-sounding questions and phrases, instead of the old SEO keyword phrases you’re probably used to. It may seem like a daunting task, but creating these pages and snippets of content centred around semantic questions that people are asking can help your site show up in voice search results. It can also increase your chances of appearing in a Google ‘Featured Snippet’ (win-win!).

It’s important to test and iterate on your FAQ page. After updates are published, talk to your customers directly and see if your FAQ page really tells them what they need to know. If the number of questions people usually ask has decreased, it could indicate that you have more satisfied customers. Using this information, you can learn whether your FAQs contain the right types of questions and answers, or if it still needs improvement. Keep on top of keyword research too. Customer trends can change overnight and you should always check your content to ensure you’re phrasing questions in the right way to maximise voice search value.

Localisation

When it comes to voice search, 61% of users prefer talking to typing when their hands and eyes are needed elsewhere (e.g. driving or walking). In these cases, they are usually on the go and in need of general or local information. “Near me” searches first spiked in 2015, and this turned marketers’ attention to the growing importance of location in search. After all, 76% of location searches result in a visit to a physical location within a day. These queries have risen significantly over the last couple years, so it’s important not to miss out on possible customers by ignoring avenues to capture the local traffic.

The popularity of near me searches on voice means many devices will use Google listings to identify relevant results. It’s very important to make sure all of your relevant business information is up-to-date. Your contact information must be as accessible as possible too (i.e. not in an image!). Make Google’s life easy when it comes to crawling your site. You’ll be more likely to feature higher up in the featured results and be the winner of the voice search game.

The future of voice search

Voice-activated commands are perhaps the most persistent concept across science fiction movies and TV shows.  Well that future has essentially arrived. We’re now accustomed to speaking aloud into our smartphones, narrating text messages and ordering Siri to search online. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The potential of voice search really is limitless; it’s both the future and present of search. As companies such as Apple, Google and Samsung invest more and more in voice search technology, we’ll no doubt see more sophisticated developments for years to come. Voice is already evolving into an essential part of the Internet of Things. As we grow more connected, voice will become the unifying link between ourselves and our devices.

 

*Image by Pixabay