Tweaking Your Content to Play Nice with Voice Search
It’s time to have a conversation about your approach to SEO
Some consumers are just fine with “Big Brother” in their living rooms, as long as he can find a nearby plumber or settle an argument about who sang lead vocals for their favorite 80s band. OC&C Strategy Consultants predicts that 55% of American households will own a smart speaker by 2022, and Forbes reports a comScore prediction that half of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.
Gazing further into the smart speaker crystal ball (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?) Gartner calculates that about a third of all web browsing sessions will happen without a screen using what it calls “audio-centric technologies,” such as Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. Gartner points out something that we as marketers should take to heart: This move away from the screen makes dialog-based information king of the mountain. Is your content ready to be accessed that way?
Focus on what matters to users
Google, the “Big Brother” of search, has already been herding businesses in a direction that makes content most useful to users with its mobile first index program. Google explains it’s to help people receive a better user experience. The reason is easy to understand. We’re using our mobile devices more than desktops.
Soon we might not be using any kind of screen at all when we make searches. In that case, your SEO strategy must morph to accommodate voice searches instead of text searches.
It means moving past the idea of keywords as the “Holy Grail” of SEO. Voice search uses conversational language. People could – but don’t say, “Alexa, plumber.” No need to be rude to Alexa. Instead, they use complete long-tail queries, such as, “Alexa, find a plumber that offers 24-hour services.” Or, “Hey, Siri, how do I get rid of muscle soreness without taking a pill?”
Take a close look at those two voice search questions. Now take a look at the meta descriptions for your content. Are they mashed up with keywords, or do they feature a conversational question with a succinct answer?
For some marketers – especially those who enjoy creativity – this is a bit of a bummer. It means those witty and entertaining headlines should be converted into no-nonsense descriptions of what’s to be found by reading the content. Turn your headers into conversational questions, then use the next paragraph to nail an answer. That is, if you want to be found by people using voice searches.
What does the user want?
Get comfortable with the idea of “user intent.” As digital marketers, we’ve spent years following the spiral thought processes associated with the sales funnel. Optimizing SEO for voice search pokes holes in your funnel, or the process might even eject your funnel from the ballgame.
Voice searches, according to Google, are 30x more likely to be action queries. There’s no need to accompany these users on a buyer’s journey – they’re running towards home base and they’re ready to spend. When someone uses their mobile device to make a voice search for “stores that sell birthday cards,” they’re most likely ready to drive there and buy a birthday card from you. Meanwhile, how do you have your SEO strategy set up for voice search? Is it attempting to educate them about a future purchase instead of incenting them with a reason to buy right now?
Google ranks content based on:
- Dominant interpretation
- Common interpretations
- Minor interpretations
Dominant interpretation is what Google has found to be the action most users want to take when they say or type this query. This often is the interpretation that they want to buy the keyword or phrase used in their search.
Intent to buy in most cases, means that we want providers of that product or service to be nearby. Google tell us that it ranks local listings by how accurate the local listing is in relation to the search (relevance), how popular the listing is in searches (prominence), and how close the listing is to the user (distance).
What do voice search users look like?
Look in the mirror. Digital marketing analytics company Stone Temple’s current survey provides a snapshot that basically reflects growth in the use of voice search for all demographics. The survey shows that we’re growing more comfortable in using voice commands in public places.
The jokes about Siri’s inability to understand or help you are fading. Stone Temple’s survey shows that 75% of the survey-takers say that their personal assistants do a good job of understanding them.
Everyday people are using voice search to ask common and conversational everyday questions. Your SEO might be doing a bang-up job for keywords and text-based searches – but fewer people are looking for you this way. It’s a dated strategy.
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