Siri, Cortana, Google Now. These are all “digital assistant” voice search platforms that are changing the way we search for content.
To prove this point, over the course of 2015, “search on virtual assistants jumped from statistical zero to 10 percent of overall search volume globally.”
If this pattern persists like I believe it will, this is only the beginning, and voice search may even surpass traditional keyboard search in time.
I know that I find myself using voice search more and more these days. I find that it’s quicker, easier and simply more fun than manually typing in a search term.
56 percent of adults have even stated that they use it for the simple fact that it makes them feel more ‘tech-savvy.’
I’ve also found that voice search is pretty darn accurate and right on the money in terms of retrieving the information I’m looking for.
A study from Statista even found that 28 percent of users find this medium as a more accurate way of searching than using a keyboard.
But what does this phenomenon mean from an SEO standpoint, and how can we ensure that our content is fully optimized for voice search?
Think Like a Human
That should be easy enough, right?
Gone are the days of simply trying to appease some lifeless algorithmic bot by picking a couple of keywords and making them the focal point of your content.
Rather than focusing on disjointed keywords, it’s usually better to use a longer sequence of words for voice search.
Concentrating on a phrase that a person would naturally use in speech is one of the first steps to take.
A post from Moz provides some excellent examples:
Most likely you’re already targeting 1 – 2 keywords, such as
- Bahamas air fare
- Bahamas vacation
Pro Tip: Test out adding longer, more voice-friendly keywords such as:
- Cost for air fare to Bahamas
- Bahamas vacation info
- Best Bahamas vacation package
In other words, I’ve found that “humanizing” content and selecting keyword structures based on a natural conversational tone is ideal.
Use Question Phrases
Think about when you use voice search. How do you typically phrase your query?
For me, I usually start with adverbs like who, how, where and why. I might say something like “Where is the closest pizza place.”
A study from Search Engine Land even found that there’s been a massive spike in question phrases — “a 61 percent growth year-over-year in fact.”
More specifically, “‘Who’ phrases were up 134 percent and ‘How” phrases were up 81 percent.”
The most widespread question word is who.
When deciding which keywords to target, try putting yourself in the shoes of your average consumer.
What questions might they ask regarding your product/service?
How might they phrase it?
It’s Just a Matter of Semantics
In 2013, Google launched its algorithm update Hummingbird, which used Latent Semantic Indexing to better understand the underlying meaning behind search terms.
This was evidence that it was taking measures to focus more on semantic language and determining user intent.
Voice search is just another step in this direction and shows us that it’s more important than ever to be conscious of “the why” behind what users are searching for.
Again, this proves that trying to simply rank for a keyword or two just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
Rather than writing keyword-rich content, you should put users first by creating content that’s inherently valuable and addressing any questions or concerns your audience may have.
By doing this, voice search will figure out what the best and most relevant results are in an extremely organic way.
Use Plenty of Microdata
When performing a voice search, users will often reference microdata such as a business’s location, phone number, price and so on.
You can do yourself a favor by making this information easily retrievable for digital assistants by creating a comprehensive sitemap for your site, including your address, pertinent contact information, directions from main highways and interstates, etc.
In other words, it’s wise to revamp your local SEO campaign.
Be Even More Mobile-Friendly
Mobile-friendliness is kind of a big deal these days.
When you think about it, mobile and voice search go together like peanut butter and jelly.
A study even found that 40 percent smartphone owners starting using voice in the latter half of 2015.
With smartphones being the primary device that people use to perform voice searches, it’s never been more important be a little obsessive about making your content as mobile-friendly as possible.
If you haven’t done so already, I’d recommend using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see exactly how your site fares.
If it’s less than ideal, Google will fill you in on some specific measures you can take to get your site to where it needs to be from a mobile-friendly standpoint.
You’ll also want to ensure that you understand the principles of creating mobile-friendly content.
The bottom line is that people read mobile content differently than they do with desktop content. It’s important to understand that this is true, and figure out why it’s true, too.
When you can intuit a user’s rationale for choosing their mobile device as a reading portal, you’ll gain more insight into how to optimize their experience.
The biggest reason? Convenience.
I recommend checking out this post I wrote because it sheds light on the topic, too.
For example, I talk about “chunking” your content by using short paragraphs, plenty of white space, subheads and bullet points.
Although it’s a bit premature to claim “death of the keyboard,” it’s clear that using voice search and Siri is a growing trend and one that’s likely to increase exponentially over the next five years or so.
The good thing is that voice search optimization is fairly straightforward and intuitive. I find it to be much less robotic than the more antiquated SEO techniques like traditional keyword research.
Most of the principles of this form of SEO involve basing your campaign to accommodate a very natural way of searching.
By getting on board right now and making it as easy as possible for digital assistants to understand your content, you’ll be in a position to thrive for the foreseeable future.
How big of a role do you think that voice search will play in overall SERPs over the next few years?
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