Voice Search SEO Optimization 2018
Way back in the eighties, Madonna had a smash hit – “We are Living in a Material World.” Now, since then, things have changed a lot. Sure, we are still after material things, but if Madonna were to reprise her hit for the modern era, it would be “We are Living in a Mobile World and for that you will have to do Voice Search SEO activities on your website .”
Not convinced? How’s this for a fun fact – In 2017, 50.2% of all web searches globally were conducted on smartphones, and the experts at SEO Tribunal even report that mobile devices have been dominating the total search volume for years. And, as our phones become more powerful and their costs keep dropping, we can expect an even larger increase in the number of devices being used.
For years now, tech has been getting smarter and so capable of doing a lot more. It’s a running joke you see on Facebook from time to time, “Don’t expect me to answer your calls, that’s not what I use my phone for.”
It makes sense – most of us use our phones as a communication device, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we only use them to call each other. With all the different instant messaging apps, there really isn’t any need to call anymore.
Our phones have become so much more important to us in general – they remind us that we have a meeting coming up, they make sure we get up on time every day, keep us entertained and more.
Enter the Virtual Assistant
For a lot of people, the best part of having a smartphone is the fact that they’re able to use the voice assistant. After all, what’s more natural, looking for the timer app on your phone and then setting it yourself, or just telling Siri to do it for you? Of course, it wasn’t always so easy.
In the Beginning
Back when Steve Jobs first made Siri, she was a novelty item. True, she could do some simple searches, perform tasks such as setting your alarm, and so on – but it wasn’t very accurate and reliable at all. Sometimes she’d get things right, most of the time she wouldn’t.
So, in the early days with virtual assistants, you were bound to give up in frustration during a voice search. If you used a word that Siri didn’t understand, or if you spoke in a thick accent, that was it. You’d often have to give up on the voice search entirely and type out your query instead.
So, even though we’d had the tech around for ages, it wasn’t gaining much traction because the AI was not returning accurate results, or it was difficult to get it to understand what you wanted.
A Whole New World of Voice Searching
It was to be expected. After all, the technology was relatively new – there was no way that it could succeed overnight. Fortunately, in the meantime, there has been some serious progress made in the field of artificial intelligence.
Today’s virtual assistants are better able to think and learn. They possess advanced problem-solving skills and are better at understanding natural language. Which means that the accents that once managed to confuse them need no longer be a problem.
It also means that if they come across a word that they cannot comprehend, they will try to work out what it means by looking at the other words in the phrase. So in theory, you can ensure that your voice search results are more accurate by using longer sentences.
What Does This Mean for SEO?
“Prepare your website for voice search” – you’ve no doubt already heard this kind of advice multiple times if you do anything related to SEO. Pundits agree that voice search will start to play a much more critical role in the future. But, unfortunately, they are a little quieter on precisely what optimizing for voice means.
Well, fear not – with this post we will look at what you need to start doing to make sure that your page is optimized for voice search.
How Voice Searches are Changing Things
Most of us will remember a time before the Siri’s of the world came into our lives. A time when you had to type every single search term to find what you wanted. You had to be as specific as possible to avoid getting a ton of results that weren’t tied to what you were looking for.
You kept your searches short and sweet, mainly because it was a schlep to type things out. Say, for example, you wanted to know what the address of a Bakery was. You would type something like, “Bakery address, Riverdale.”
Now, imagine you are asking someone where the bakery is. You would say something like, “What is the address of the bakery in Riverdale, please?” Your query has gone from a simple three-word phrase to a ten-word sentence.
With voice search, you are more likely to phrase it as a question, the same way that you would when talking to a human. That’s why voice search ends up being so different from a written search term.
What Voice Search Means for the Consumer
Much more convenience. They don’t have to worry about typing in the right keyword or whether they spelled the search query correctly. They just have to ask their question, and the algorithm does the rest. In fact, even if they do use the wrong word here and there, it isn’t the end of the world because Google has become adept at interpreting the meaning, by looking at the context the word was used in.
What Voice Search Means for the SEO Professionals
Welcome to SEO 2.1, where things are getting a little more difficult, but by no means impossible. Sure, the rise of voice search does mean that the days of individual keywords might very well be numbered.
Keywords are still going to play a significant role whether it comes down to voice search or written searches, you just need to change things up a bit and use the keywords in a more natural context.
So, it is definitely a change, but it’s probably not as huge as you might think. Let’s look at this in more detail.
Natural Keywords as Opposed to Long-Tailed Keywords
How do we choose the keywords to target at the moment? We think about the ones that might relate to our particular industry. We brainstorm words that we believe people might use when searching. Then we run the numbers through a keyword tool.
This lets us know how many monthly searches there are for that phrase and what kind of competition we are up against if we want to rank for it. We come up with synonyms and long-tailed keywords to incorporate as well.
With voice search optimization (VSO), the process is similar. It’s just that, this time, we need to cast a wider net. Take the example of searching for the bakery address we just mentioned. In the traditional written search, figuring out the keywords was simple. There were only three words to contend with.
Now move on to the voice search and the ten words used. Ideally, if you wanted the top SERP rank for that search, you would have had to compete for that exact phrase. And that’s where things become more complicated. How do you optimize for all the potential keywords now?
That’s change number one – it has become a lot harder to predict exactly what keywords or phrases are to be used. The key to getting around this is to consider the kind of natural language that people would use, and try to integrate some of that into your content.
Your FAQ Will Become a Great SEO Tool
Incorporating the natural language phrases that people might use to ask about your company naturally into your page could be difficult. Imagine, for example, that bakery owner wanting to optimize their website using the question about the address. Imagine finding a natural way to incorporate that question three or four times.
A far more natural approach, and one that will be of value to visitors as well, is a detailed list of frequently asked questions. These allow you to use the exact type of phrasing that your visitors might without it looking out of place.
This will help you also improve the long-form content of your page – our next point.
Use Long-Form Content
Those quick, little 400 word posts that you used to type out in a few minutes are so last year. While the length of the page is not officially a criterion, the average voice search result is 2,312 words long. It makes sense when you think about how Google ranks web pages.
It considers how much time people spend on a page as one of the ways of judging how credible that page is. The more content you have, the longer people will stay, and this indicates higher credibility to Google.
Of course, you do still need to organize the website properly, ensuring that you use headers and that you break up the text into shorter sentences and paragraphs. The traditional rule of making pages easy to scan is more important than ever.
Consider Adding Voice Search Capability for Your Site
Now, this is not so much about improving your results in voice searches, yet. It does, however, make sense to offer people the option, especially if they found your site through voice search. The tech to do this has been around for a while, and it isn’t even that hard to enable on your site.
But think about the edge it might give you. Visitors can just ask for what they are looking for on your site as well. It is more convenient for them. But, why stop there, why not have them leave a voice note for you if they have any questions or suggestions?
We are not in a world that uses hands-free computing yet, but we are definitely on the path to one. Get in early on this and show that you are a trendsetter.
And, who knows, maybe Google will see that you have enabled this feature the next time it crawls your site – while they never mentioned that this feature might be a plus, it could very well earn you points when it comes to ranking.
Optimize Your Site for Mobile Screen Sizes
Technically, a laptop is a mobile device, but that really is not what we are talking about here. After Mobilegeddon, most companies know that they have to have a mobile-optimized site. The most expensive way forward here was to create a dynamic site that would adapt to the size of any screen it was displayed on.
The extra cost is worth it, especially when you consider the vast array of devices that we use to access the internet now. In our home, for example, we have a desktop, two different laptops, a tablet, an iPhone, a Samsung Galaxy and an Xbox.
The devices themselves are not the main point here – the different screen sizes, however, are. Every one of them has a different sized display, and we can use any to surf online. How will your site look on any of these devices?
Reduce Load Speed on Mobile
Finally, we come to one of the most important aspects. If you want to rank well in any voice search, you need to load fast on mobile. People are notoriously impatient, especially in this area so make sure your site loads as quickly as possible.
As you can see, VSO is not all that difficult. It mainly requires that we start to look at the way we approach optimization more carefully. Good luck.