In today’s digital world, most of us have used Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana or Siri for voice search. Industry leaders are predicting that by 2020, between 20-50% of all online searches will be through voice. Now is the time to implement SEO best practices and techniques to optimise content for voice search and virtual assistants.

Google launched a major algorithm update in 2013, called the Google Hummingbird. It started to consider user intent and contextual meaning of queries. At that stage, marketers had to refine their strategies from stuffing keywords in articles to identifying and addressing the challenges of their audience.

Now, voice technology is another step in the right direction to improve user experience through semantics. It relies on Natural Language Processing (NLP) to recognise voice texture, interests and behaviour. Understanding how to optimise your content for Google Assistant and other technologies are becoming increasingly important for search marketing in 2018. We’ll take a closer look at how you can get started today.

SEO and Voice Search

SEO for voice search may not be perfected yet, however, as more people start using it and the algorithms get better, this digital landscape will advance. In fact, there are already opportunities for companies to start optimising with existing resources and approaches.

Improve Page Speed

Page speed is an important factor in SEO and something we covered in several earlier articles. Page speed appears to play a vital role, at least according to a research study Backlinko conducted. Their findings showed that the average voice search results page loads in 4.6 seconds which is 52% faster than the average page.

Many SEO experts don’t believe that page speed is a direct factor but they all agree on one thing. Well-optimised websites generally rank high anyway and voice search results tend to come from top-ranking results. This conclusion makes sense but more detailed research is required. Until then, there is no harm in making sure that your website loads faster to provide the ultimate user experience.

Use Schema Markups (Structured Data)

Companies must integrate structured data into their websites as Google continues to create new features that would take advantage of it. The process is all about figuring out which type of voice queries match your web pages. Using structured data correctly will tell people (and search engines) more about what your page is about. Websites with schema markup will rank better in SERPs than those who don’t.

In terms of SEO, structured data generally refers to implementing a form of markup on your webpage to provide additional detail around the content. This helps search engines understand the content which benefits relevancy score. It also means that websites can benefit from enhanced results in SERPs such as rich snippets and carousels among others.

Related: How To Boost Your SEO Using Schema Markup

Featured Voice Snippets

While this is undoubtedly good in traditional search, it becomes critical for voice queries as most of the responses Google provides come from featured snippets. Google Home often reads a snippet (excerpt) that best describes the answer to a question and leaves a link to the full page. In most cases, featured snippets are the direct answer to question-based search queries and knowing how to organise your content is essential.

When targeting voice search, you may want to rethink how your content is delivered. Avoid pages of links or large tables with data as this type of content may not be suitable. If your content cannot be read aloud and still make sense, it will likely not show up in search results.

Featured snippets and voice search essentially have the same goal – to answer questions. The strategy for both is similar which entails creating helpful content that provides simple and relevant answers to your audience.

Bonus Tip: How to get featured snippets for your website

  • Identify common or frequently asked questions within your specific sector
  • Determine which are the most relevant and interesting to your business offering
  • Create a set of closely related questions that users might also be interested in for every question that you choose
  • Create content that addresses target and related questions in a single article

Optimise Your Title

Optimising existing content for new Google SERP features is more effective than creating fresh content. We recommend that businesses should change their existing content instead of creating new articles just for voice-related queries.

According to a Backlinko study, “We found that very few voice search results had the exact query in their title tag. Therefore, creating individual pages for each voice search query doesn’t appear to be an effective voice search SEO strategy.”

Before you think about creating a simple web page with a single paragraph to target voice queries, Google has already anticipated that possibility. While voice search queries are increasing, there are still many other search methods and you should never focus on one approach.

The ultimate goal is to provide solutions for all types of search whether it’s on desktop, mobile or voice. In fact, content that already ranks high on desktop search is very likely to also appear as a voice search answer. A Backlinko study revealed that approximately 75% of voice search results rank in the top 3 for that query.

Produce Concise Answers To Queries

Google generally prefers concise answers to voice queries which makes perfect sense. They will likely implement a similar approach to sourcing responses as it does with featured snippets. In light of Google’s announcement to incorporate more than one featured snippet in search results, marketers should prepare for that eventuality.

Companies will benefit greatly from creating content that is ready for voice and featured snippets. Displaying additional featured snippets in SERPs could mean more clicks especially if snippets provide exceptionally good answers that the user doesn’t have to search any further.

Five Interesting Facts from the Backlinko Research Study

  • HTTPS websites dominate Google’s voice search results (70.4% of Google Home result pages are HTTPS)
  • Short answers are best as the typical voice query result is only 29 words long
  • Content with high levels of social engagement generally performs well as the average voice search result has 1,199 Facebook shares and 44 Tweets
  • The average word count of a voice search result page is 2 312 words which mean voice search answers mostly come from long form content
  • Simple, easy-to-read content may help with voice search SEO (the average Google voice search result is at a 9th grade level)

Here is a full report on the research study of Backlinko.

Marketers need to understand the power of voice search and start to optimise their content accordingly. Businesses must go back to the drawing board and modify their SEO strategies to incorporate voice search and virtual assistants.

What are your thoughts on voice search and have you come across an interesting search result? Please comment in the section below or find us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or Google+. If you need help with your SEO, we can help you optimise your content and tailor a digital marketing strategy for your business. Give us a call on 01453 542761 or get in touch through our website.

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