Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Siri — these might be fun things right now, but voice is quickly becoming the future of search, and your current SEO tactics may not be enough to get your content to the top of the list. battery. With voice, the top of the stack is pretty much where you need to be.
Preparing for voice search
I am currently reading an ebook by Brian Dean titled “The Definitive Guide to SEO in 2018.” As a content marketer, SEO is always a priority and while proven tactics are always necessary for strong website rankings, there is something else that caught my attention that could change the way I do some of my SEO – voice search and digital assistants.
Some statistics that Dean offers in his ebook:
- 40% of adults perform at least one voice search every day (The source)
- Google voice searches have increased 35 times since 2008 (The source)
- 20% of all mobile searches are voice searches (The source)
Dean doesn’t think voice search is the next big thing for SEO, but he does think there are things you should be doing to optimize for voice as it’s used more frequently. The obvious thing is to make sure you rank on the first page of the SERPs. You’ll also want your content to show up in the Google snippet, and you should write content around a specific question and its answer.
Dean is not the only one to share these ideas. I had the chance to speak with Caroline Lyden, SEO Manager at CallRail and she gave me simple tips on how you can optimize for voice search. Much of his advice was consistent with Dean’s points above.
Let’s start with Google’s mobile-first index
Google is creating a mobile-first index. This means that Google will crawl the web from a mobile phone’s perspective. Having a responsive website is now highly recommended, Lyden said, so that all your content is properly indexed and ranked well. If your website is not responsive, your rankings will likely drop. 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 when AskJeeves was popular. People would go to the site and type in a full question. Then Google came along, and we were retrained to search in a different way – with keywords and phrases. With voice search, Lyden said, we are returning to the AskJeeves era.
Think about it – when you want to know something, you ask Siri, Alexa or Google Home a real question and you get an answer.
Your job, then, 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 useful content and thought leadership that people will want to read to get their question answered. Lyden said this requires focusing on long-tail queries, not keywords. She said if you work this way, you will be able to extract the main keywords you need.
Be featured in the featured snippet
If you want your content to be the answer to a voice search with Google Home, you need to have your content appear in this featured snippet because that’s what Google uses as the answer. Lyden said a lot of people don’t like the featured snippet because you’re not getting the click to your website, but with voice search, that’s where you need to be. Remember that when you perform a voice search, only one answer is returned, not a list. Number two is not good enough.
To get your content into the featured snippet, you need to answer the question posed in the search. Google selects the best answer using a combination of relevance and popularity (and its top-secret algorithms). But sometimes there is no right answer to show. In this case, Google can search for the closest and structured content to clearly show the content it offers. You might want to start looking at schema markup and structured content.
Don’t chase the algorithm
Lyden’s best advice is probably not to chase the algorithm. Yes, you need to understand what Google is doing and how changes will affect your rankings, but as Lyden pointed out, SEO will always be a moving target, with the same end goal: getting people the right information.
If you focus on creating content that answers questions, you will do well. If you don’t already, create a blog on your website or create an FAQ section. Create non-promotional content written in a conversational tone that your customers and market want to read. Focus your content on key places in the funnel where questions are asked.
All of the above requires you to understand your customer and the buying journey. We will always come back to these two critical things.
Two things that will help improve your ability to support voice search are reports from Google Analytics and Search Console. Neither offer support at the moment, but that’s coming. The ability to know what people are searching for on your website when they use 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 also struggle to rank high enough to reach the top of the pile.
It would be nice to see tools that could tell you the most asked questions for a particular topic and which ranks best for those in terms of voice search. We can still see SEO tools building this level of capability into their solutions, but we’re probably a long way from seeing it.
Until then, the focus will be on writing good content that answers the questions people are asking.