How is voice search changing your SEO strategy?

Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Siri – they may be fun things right now, but voice is fast becoming the future of search, and your current SEO tactics may not be enough to get your content to the top of the pile. With voice, the top of the pile is pretty much where you need to be.

Preparing for voice search

I am currently reading an ebook from Brian Dean called ” The Definitive Guide to SEO in 2018.” As a content marketer, SEO is still very much top of mind and while the tried and true tactics are still necessary for a strong website ranking, there’s something else that has caught my attention that may change the way I do some of my SEO – voice search and digital assistants.

A few stats that Dean offers in his ebook:

  • 40% of adults perform at least one voice search every day (source)
  • Voice searches performed in Google are up 35x since 2008 (source)
  • 20% of all searches on mobile are voice searches (source)

Dean doesn’t believe that voice search is the next big thing for SEO, but he does believe there are things you should do to optimize for voice because it is being used more frequently. The obvious thing is to make sure you rank on the first page of SERPs. You’ll also want to get your content shown in Google’s featured snippet, and you should be writing content around a specific question and its answer.

Dean isn’t the only one sharing these insights. I had a chance to speak with Carolyn Lyden, SEO Manager at CallRail and she provided me with some straightforward guidance on how you can optimize for voice search. Much of her guidance was in line with Dean’s points above.

Let’s start with Google’s mobile-first index

Google is in the process of creating a mobile-first index. What this means is that Google will crawl the web from the perspective of a mobile phone. Having a responsive website is now strongly advised said Lyden, so all your content is properly indexed and ranks well. If your website is not responsive, your ranking will likely fall. Not something you want to happen.

Lyden also recommended optimizing your site for speed.

Identify the questions your customers want answered

Lyden reminded me of the days when AskJeeves was popular. People would go to the site and type in a full question. Then Google arrived, and we were retrained to search a different way – with keywords and phrases. With voice search, Lyden said we are moving back to the AskJeeves era.

Think about that – when you want to know something, you ask Siri, or Alexa, or Google Home a real question and you get an answer.

So your task is to figure out the specific questions your customers are asking and develop content that answers those questions. We’re not talking about product content, but helpful, thought leadership content that people will want to read to get their question answered. Lyden said this requires a focus on long-tail queries, not keywords. She said if you work this way, you will be able to pull out the main keywords you need.

Get featured in the featured snippet

If you want your content to be the answer to a voice search with Google Home, then you need to have your content show up in that Featured Snippet because that is what Google uses as its answer. Lyden said a lot of people don’t like the Featured Snippet because you don’t get the click through to your website, but with voice search, this is where you need to be. Remember, when you do a voice search, only one answer is returned, not a list. Number two isn’t good enough.

To get your content in the featured snippet, you have to answer the question asked in the search. Google selects the top answer using a combination of relevance and popularity (and its top-secret algorithms). But sometimes there isn’t a good answer to show. In this case, Google might look for content that is closest and structured to show what content it offers clearly. So you might want to start looking at schema markup and structured content.

Don’t chase the algorithm

Probably Lyden’s best advice is to not chase the algorithm. Yes, you need to understand what Google is doing and how changes will affect your ranking, but as Lyden pointed out, SEO is always going to be a moving target, just with the same end goal – getting the right information to people.

If you focus on creating content that answers questions, you will do well. If you don’t already, set up a blog on your website, or create an FAQ section. Create non-promotional content that is written in a conversational tone that your customers and market want to read. Focus your content on key places in the funnel where questions get asked.

All of the above requires that you understand your customer and the purchase journey. We will always go back to those two critical things.

My take

Two things that will help with improving your ability to support voice search are reports in Google Analytics and the Search Console. Neither offer support yet, but it is coming. The ability to know what people are searching for on your website when they are using voice search can help you understand the type of questions your content needs to answer.

Voice search is not just a B2C SEO challenge, B2B companies will find it equally hard to rank well enough to get to the top of the pile.

It would be good to see tools that could tell you the most asked questions for a particular topic and who ranks best for those in terms of voice search. We may yet see SEO tools build that level of capability into their solutions, but we’re likely a ways away from seeing it.

Until then the focus will shift back to writing good content that answers questions people ask.

Image credit – 3d rendering pictogram voice recognition system of blue ground © folienfeuer –


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