Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices are evolving again. Voice search is changing the game, owning half of all searches by 2020. Is your brand ready?
“Hey Siri, how does voice search affect my SEO strategy?”
What Does ‘Voice Search’ Even Mean?
The first question that brands need to ask themselves is “What is voice search and how does it affect SEO?” Voice search is the use of any piece of technology with a voice-based user interface (UI) that allows a user to speak a query out loud and have a device to return the results.
The popularity of “digital assistants” like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Home have started changing the way in which the world searches, with longer phrases that mimic natural speech patterns. The search through internet information has moved forward and evolved away from short keyword phrases and boolean search operations, to technology that can recognize and process natural language patterns. As the advancements of these technologies continue to grow at a rapid pace, the accuracy of voice search results is reaching near-human levels of understanding.
“According to Google, as of May 2017, Google machine learning has hit the threshold of human accuracy for voice recognition.”
Simply put, voice search is fast, convenient, and available on the move: it meets all the requirements for a product that the Connected Consumer will adopt. And in order to reach the Connected Consumer, brands have to be ready, willing, and able to provide a seamless experience across their devices.
How Does Voice Search Affect My SEO Strategy?
Both the creators of content and those in the digital marketing space need to re-evaluate how they optimize their content and platforms, as voice search is changing the way in which consumers interact with the digital landscape. More time and money needs to be invested in researching users, language that needs to be adjusted, and strategies that need to be refined.
The first step is to identify what your target audience’s intent is; content needs to be optimized to clearly answer the actual questions they are asking the search engines through their voice searches. The target audience is looking for something very specific; your content needs to provide what they are looking for. Because consumers are utilizing natural language patterns when they are conducting voice searches, it is easier than ever before to identify which of the three types of basic searches they are looking for: informational, navigational, or transaction based.
These natural speech patterns also affect the structure of their searches. Consumers simply don’t type queries out the same way they speak them aloud. Instead of shortening down their question, users are employing complete sentences when it comes to voice searches. Content needs to be developed to reflect the nuances of everyday language; this means that your content creators can now actually focus on creating genuinely conversational content.
How Do I Optimize My Content For Voice Search?
The biggest shift that is actionable right now is the manner in which search queries are being structured when something is searched via voice. When people are speaking to their virtual personal assistants, they are speaking in a more conversational manner. Those “natural speech patterns” your digital team has been talking to you about for a while? Yeah, they matter now. Like, they matter A LOT. Long tail keywords will stop being a secondary measurement for keyword ranking and move into the standard for all search rankings. As we know that users are searching with complete questions, rather than a few keywords, we can develop a content strategy that clearly and concisely answers these questions that consumers are asking.
You’ve got to make sure that you are also optimizing for returning results for localized searches. Consumers are moving beyond just adding the phrases “near me” or “by me” into their searches; they expect search engines to already be looking for results that are close to their physical location. Additionally, it is now more important than ever to incorporate structured data and microdata tagging into your content.
Finally, remember that consumers aren’t using jargon, lingo, or acronyms in their voice searches. Use plain language and descriptors, or consumers are just going to find themselves entering your competitors’ sales funnels because they know where to position themselves so that consumers find them.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that compelling content will always be the ultimate “best practice.” Trying to find a formula of keyword densities and meta tags may very well end up creating something that appeals to a soulless web crawler, but you’re never going to reach an audience with such sterile content. That is one of the greatest shifts occurring with the emergence of voice search: people are searching for content written in the way they think and talk. These “conversational language” phrases they are asking can become the page titles, headers, and FAQ questions on your website.
Voice search is here to stay and a failure to get a strategy in place that addresses it will result in your brand being left behind. Zen Media can partner with you and your brand to show you how to turn this trend into a competitive advantage for your brand. Contact us now, so we can get the conversation started!
Chris Erickson is the Director of Search for Zen Media, handling all things from web analytics, to search engine optimization (SEO), to paid search engine marketing (SEM/PPC).