Voice search is everywhere these days. It’s in our Super Bowl commercials. It’s on every major smartphone platform. Forty-one percent of adults used voice search daily as of 2014, according to a NorthStar study. That percentage was even greater among teens, the next generation of searchers. Voice search and virtual assistant usage is expected to grow – up to 50 percent of search may be driven by voice in 2020, according to comScore projections.
Products with voice command have been around for years; it’s never been too difficult to program something to respond to a single word or a few simple commands. Semantic voice search, however, represents a massive shift in both user convenience and the ways search engines will have to deliver information.
This expansion in voice means Google, Siri, Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa must become more sophisticated about understanding user intent. It also means marketers will have to get more inventive in the ways we frame content to fit a voice search paradigm.
Moreover, marketers should consistently be as customer-oriented as ever when it comes to SEO. Here are a few ways that you should consider adjusting your strategy based on these trends.
1. Write For Conversational Phrases, Not Just Keywords
Let’s face it, our brains structure written search queries differently than how we verbally ask questions. In order to capture traffic for voice search you need to consider the way people may change their spoken search habits from the keyword-driven way most people search.
Written search queries may be more succinct, but verbal queries can be wordy and full of language that requires search engines to really leverage their semantic search listening tools.
Rather than “thai restaurant in Midtown,” a voice search may be closer to “What’s the name of that Thai place on Peachtree?”
In some cases it doesn’t seem like Google has figured out semantic voice searches yet – I’m in Atlanta, not NYC. A simpler non-semantic search produces a map pack result first with more helpful results.
Consider other ways your customer may search for your services or products. Brainstorm longer-tail keyword phrases that highlight the root of a searcher’s intent.
Instead of thinking about key search terms in one- or two-word phrases, try to ask yourself, “Who, what, when, why and how?” to help you consider what else might interest someone looking to learn more about your business. Then, be sure you’re including these phrases in your content strategy.
2. Long Tail Means Long(er) Form Content
If you want to own these long-tail phrases, your content needs to be substantial enough to support optimization without stuffing every paragraph with keyword phrases. Rather than just trying to capture a phrase or topic, think deeply about the question or problem your content will solve for your customers.
Marketers and SEOs should be comfortable creating this value-rich content. If you don’t currently have someone on your team with strong experience in customer-focused content creation, it’s time you find a way to bring someone on or partner with other parts of your business to create strong content together.
3. Think Local
When it comes to the “where” aspect of search queries, your strategy should delve deeper than creating a contact page for your business. Your earned SEO marketing channel should also loop in properties like your individual location pages on your website, along with your pay-to-play social channels like Yelp and other controlled local listings.
These local properties should be accurate and synchronized. Optimized local search provides a framework for Google to consistently serve up your results. This is a time intensive endeavor, whether you’re a brick-and-mortar or a click-and-mortar business.
If you’re service based, your focus should be on optimizing Google My Business listings. Service-based companies should also highly consider stepping up their reviews and ratings strategy by encouraging their customers to leave reviews both on-site and through platforms like Yelp. Local directories provide another platform for useful, trustworthy content, with the added bonus of delivering your Yelp star rating that appears so frequently in iOS spotlight searches with relevant content.
Note the “Reviews by Yelp” message for this iOS voice search result.
4. Prioritize Schema Markup
Google and iOS frequently use schema data to deliver Knowledge Graph results. If you want to appear in some of those direct results, you need the proper markup on your site to give Google the opportunity to serve up this kind of content from your company.
This can be an easy endeavor with the right resources, but if those resources are limited you need to highly consider which type of search (who, what, when, where, why, how) is most fruitful for you to optimize your schema strategy toward, and then create markup specifically for those queries and resulting landing pages first.
Populating metadata for your search results with reviews or useful content may provide some low-hanging fruit to test how search engines find voice-ready answers for search.
Schema data was created to improve the user-experience in SERPs. It only makes sense that search engines and operating systems would heavily rely on this type of extra information while parsing through what people mean by the semantic language that voice search encourages.
Google is always listening and learning from its users. Marketers must continue to align with Google trends and the needs of our customers. With the pace of technological change and customer adoption, we’ll need to hustle to stay ahead of the competition and continue to deliver results that customers want and need.
How have you adjusted your marketing strategy to reflect the changes with voice search trends?