Voice Search—It’s Not All Just Buzz.
Remember when mobile search first appeared and there was lots of hype that search was going to be revolutionized? It wasn’t though. It turned out that people mainly searched on their mobile the same way they searched on their desktop, by keywords. Mobile did, however, make more use of local search. The same is not going to be true for voice search. And here’s the fundamental reason why.
People Will Search Like They’re Asking a Person
We can’t help it. We’re just not going to speak keyword when we want to know something. We won’t say, “Pizza Restaurant Ottawa.” Instead, we’ll say, “What are the best pizza restaurants in Ottawa?”. In Part 1 of this blog post, we mentioned the following statistic: in 2016, there was a 61% growth in consumers making longer queries starting with “Who,” “What,” Where,” and “How.” And this statistic is a reflection of how people are now searching by voice. Thus, as part of your SEO and Paid Search strategy, you’ll need to focus on sentences and questions in which your product is relevant and/or the answer. This may not sound as bad as it seems. The difference between a bunch of keywords and those same words within the context of a sentence is that now marketers can understand the intent of the searcher. And that is completely new. Previously, the words Pizza Restaurant Ottawa, could have been typed in for many reasons, people looking for the best, people looking for one close by and so on. But with voice search people can be clearer and their queries will be better served with the answers they’re looking for. This will keep people engaging with search via voice. On the other hand, Marketers will gain much more knowledge and can focus on the sentences and questions that truly matter to selling their product or service. Perhaps competition for keywords will go down, rather than competing with everyone, you only will compete with your true competitors. Thus, to implement a strategy for voice search, you need to optimize for questions people will really ask and focus your efforts on understanding the longtail key words applicable to your business. Marketers will need to forget about keyword stuffing and meta tags and think more about full sentences and conversational copy.
You Can’t Hide From Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Many of us are still picturing human robots chasing people down the street whenever we hear the words “Artificial Intelligence.” But it might not be all that bad. In fact, it will likely do more to propel Voice Search into the number one way to search for information because Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can help search engines (and already are: RankBrain has been Processing Google Search results since 2015) become better and more specific when answering user queries. Say you take a trip to Paris and you ask your personal assistant for directions to the car rental place and directions for your hotel. Then you start to get hungry, so you ask your personal assistant where’s the best burger place that’s close by. With Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, your personal assistant will know that you are now in Paris and what area, based on the queries you just asked, and will just be able to give you an answer or a list of options for best burger joints for the area in Paris you’re staying in. Each search query doesn’t start from a blank slate. This is the future of Voice Search.
Becoming a Featured Snippet
Featured snippets are extremely important for SEO (they show up for 30% of searches according to a StoneTemple study), giving visibility and traffic to companies that can succinctly answer the users question, but with voice search this importance will undoubtedly grow because Google-enabled voice search will only deliver a single answer. So, what are featured snippets? Featured snippets are selected search results that are featured on top of Google’s organic results below the ads in a box. Featured snippets aim at answering the user’s question right away (hence their other well-known name, answer boxes).
Below is an example of a featured snippet as well as a few PAA (People Also Ask) boxes, both of which are underneath a traditional ad.
Sometimes, people are confused between featured snippets and rich snippets, so I’ll take a second and define rich snippets for you. Rich snippets is the term used to describe structured data markup that site operators can add to their existing HTML, which in turn allow search engines to better understand what information is contained on each web page.
Below is an example of a rich snippet.
In traditional search, since single-answer featured snippets and PAA boxes will continue to take up a lot of real estate, there will be less space for all the results on the SERP. Although being on that first page of SERP results is still good, you really want to try to be the featured snippet answer for applicable search terms and questions.
Pages that make the featured snippets usually have HTML mark up with table tags <table> and unordered lists <ul>, which you can do on your regular web pages or with an FAQ page. How do you figure out what questions are applicable? Ask your sales and customer service teams for a list of questions that are asked from both potential and current customers. AnswerThePublic.com is a free tool that might help you understand what questions people are asking about your product or service. Or, you can also just use Google. Ever notice that when you type in keywords a drop box comes down with suggestions of trending questions? Start analyzing those. Or simply, brainstorm questions you think your customers might ask and then type them into google to see what comes up. And I want to also let you know that the process isn’t instant, and in some cases, it’s taken us a year to get someone into the answerbox. It may feel like you’re starting over, but you need to put the effort in now because search is changing with the new voice-activated technologies. The voice revolution is here, the only question is what are you going to do about it.We understand this isn’t easy. Before you had to just know what keywords, now you need to know precisely the types of questions that your target audience uses. Want some help? Reach out and leverage our expertise at firstname.lastname@example.org