Voice search changes SEO focus

Monday August 22, 2016

By: James Shea

The world of search engines is always changing. Google constantly updates its search algorithms — much to the chagrin of many SEO professionals — and Bing is slowly becoming more popular with many searchers.  As a result, marketing experts must stay on top of the ever-changing world of search engines so they can maxim the advantages of organic searches.

Something that is gaining importance in the search engine world is voice search. Traditionally, marketers have used titles tags and other parts of the HTML as well as short keywords in landing pages and blog posts to maximize SEO. SEO experts searched keywords in Google or used a tool like SEMrush to identify keywords and incorporated that material into a website’s content. This was conducted with the written word in mind.

Siri on the iPhone, Google’s Voice Search for Android, Amazon’s new Echo personal assistant and voice recognition in newer vehicles are changing the nature of searches. People can conduct a search without touching a keyboard. The searcher simply speaks the inquiry into a device, and the search is conducted.

Google conducted a study in 2014 and found that 55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults use one or more voice searches on a daily basis. A 2015 study by MindMeld showed that number had increased to as much as 60% when respondents are asked whether they had done a voice search within the last six months.

So marketers must ask themselves — how will this change the nature of search engines and search engine optimization? Below are a few tips to help marketers.

Focus on broader ideas

SEO, in general, and voice recognition software are moving search engine optimization away from specific keywords and toward more general topics and themes. With voice searches, people speak in broader phrases rather than with specific keywords. That needs to be reflected in the SEO effort.

Voice searches are usually answers to particular questions. People might search for “Best brewery in Richmond?” as a keyboard search. The keywords Best Brewery and Richmond are easy to incorporate into an SEO effort. However, a voice search might be “What’s the name of that new brewery in Scott’s Addition?” That is a much more complicated question and can be a challenge for marketers.

To improve voice search results, SEO efforts need to focus on general themes. This can be done by adding properly labeled photos and links as well as product reviews. The process is called schema and is incorporated right into the code. A 2014 study by Searchmetrics showed that 36.6% of Google search results incorporate schema markup but only 0.3% of websites incorporate schema markup into the code. There is a huge opportunity for marketers and web developers to better optimize their websites with schema.

Voice queries are often mobile and local

Most of the time voice searches are conducted from a mobile device and are aimed toward local inquiries. So, if marketers work for a restaurant or bar, they are more likely to need to think about voice searches. The general rule is that voice search optimization must answer the following questions — who, what, where, why, and how.

Focus on quality, not quantity

Even with the increased influence of voice searches, marketers must still focus on quality over quantity with content creation. One piece of original content that is grammatically correct and well researched holds more value within search engines than a dozen mediocre pieces. It’s worth a marketer’s time to properly research a topic and write something that adds value to the website.

FAQ content can be helpful

Voice searchers are often looking to have a trivia or factual question answered. To help with that, a marketer might consider an FAQ landing page. This is a page that answers basic questions about the business and can help the searcher answer a question. However, the marketer must be careful and make sure the FAQ page is not full of useless information. Organization is the key.

Focus on the long-tail search

The natural phrasing of a long-tail search is more relevant in a voice search. Marketers can still incorporate shorter phrases in keyword optimization, but it pays to spend the extra time to incorporate long-tail research into the keyword search process.

Only one answer given

A key difference between keyword searches and voice searches is the number of answers generated. A keyboard search can yield hundreds, if not thousands, of results. With a voice search, the voice recognition software will only respond with the best answer. Marketers have a much lower margin for error in this environment.

James Shea is an award-winning writer and journalist. He is the founder of C3 Media Lab, a web marketing and content writing company.