Is Voice Search Optimization Part of Your SEO Strategy?
The increasing ability of A.I. devices to handle voice commands has begun to change how users browse the Internet and how businesses shape SEO strategy. Make sure your business is ready for this shift by following a few critical voice search optimization tips.
Voice-commanded computers have been a science-fiction staple for decades. A.I. personalities, such as the omniscient and malevolent Hal 9000 of 2001: A Space Odyssey, have long enticed viewers with glimpses into future technologies. Although still lacking consciousness – and perhaps thankfully so – Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana are the modern realizations of artificial intelligence. Smartphones and smart speakers have brought these A.I. assistants to the hands and homes of millions, with 85% of adults using an A.I. capable device.
The overarching aim for these voice assistants is to become more and more conversational in their interactions with users. Since the early days of search engines, users have been conditioned to phrase Internet searches in short-tail queries. This is often done by breaking up questions into a series of crucial keywords with little to no accompanying grammar.
Ex: “2001 space odyssey robot name”
If you were to walk up to a stranger on the street and repeat the phrase above, you would likely get a confused stare rather than the answer to your question. However, this structure has historically shaped SEO strategy as it works well with how search engines comb the copy of the Internet and attempt to match the words of your query to what appears on web pages. When typing out a search, brevity and focus have been the name of the game. As artificial intelligence tools have improved their understanding of casual language, users have begun to shift to a more natural search process through long-tail questions.
Ex: “what is the name of the robot from 2001 a space odyssey”
When speaking a search query, rather than typing one, users are far more likely to phrase their search in a more conversational manner. After all, it can feel a bit silly to shout out a few disconnected words rather than simply asking your question. In the above example, there are a total of seven additional words added to the search query. While none of these words are necessarily critical to the search, they transform the query from an input of data to an expression of language. Voice search optimization aims to keep up with this shift in user behavior.
“So what does this mean for my SEO strategy?”
Well, as is the case with all of life’s greatest questions, the answer is the vague and a bit frustrating, “it depends!”
The impact of this new search language will greatly depend on the industry of your business and the way in which you interact with your customers. Voice search users are looking to have questions answered and to have basic actions fulfilled. While actions or skills (think of them like apps you develop for the A.I. device) can be created to help teach a device to connect to your site for things like purchasing products, the majority of voice searches will be looking for information. If your business offers a product with a very spur-of-the-moment sales cycle, building one of these actions or skills could be a smart idea. However, every business should implement the following SEO strategies to optimize their site for voice search:
Claim Google My Business Listing
Claiming your Google My Business listing is the easiest and most important step toward voice search optimization. A unique listing can be claimed for each location of your business, and provides Google with quick access to important information, including phone numbers, addresses, hours of operation, and more. Most requests made through a personal assistant will likely be answered through consultation of this listing, so ensuring that you keep your listing up-to-date is critical.
Optimize for Featured Snippets
A personal assistant’s goal is to return the most relevant answer in the quickest, most concise way possible. It does so by referencing what search engines have already declared as the best answer to a given question. For the SEO crowd, featured snippets are the holy grail of search results, allowing a site to exist in the #0 spot above all competitors. This is exacerbated with voice search, the #0 answer is often the only delivered to the user. Moz has a helpful guide for how to best identify and optimize for these featured snippet opportunities.
Simplify Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Pages
Remember, about a fourth of voice queries are requests for general, local information. Think about what questions consumers typically have about your products, services, or industry. Hopefully you already have answers to these questions in the FAQ section of your site. If not, it’s time to invest in building one as part of your SEO strategy.
Revisit your FAQ pages with the consumer in mind. Do your frequently asked questions line up with what customers typically ask you in person and over the phone? Use the long-tail question phrase as the headline and follow it up with a concise answer. Keep in mind that personal assistants will be reading this information back to the user, so emphasizing brevity and clear language will make the spoken answer more valuable. Lastly, group similar topics together and don’t be afraid to offer answers for highly specific questions. If a customer might ask it, you should have an answer for it.
Use Structured Data
The final voice search optimization you can make is to use structured data (or schemas) to your site. While this won’t impact personal assistants directly, it helps to provide search engines with greater context to the content on your site. This added context grants search engines greater understanding when crawling your site, thus increasing their ability to comprehend the role of your content and provide the optimal answers to A.I. queries.
With estimates that 50% of Internet searches will be done through voice command by 2020, the need to include voice search in your SEO strategy is increasingly vital. Optimizing for voice search can keep your business from falling behind, and prevent your customers from encountering those “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I can’t do that” responses to their voice queries.