Once upon a time, the idea of having a robot answer questions for us seemed like a science fiction fantasy. The idea that you could just ask a question out loud and receive an immediate and accurate response, seemed light years away.
But in the 21st century, voice search is very much a reality, thanks to tools like Alexa and Google Voice. The “ask and ye shall receive” wave of technology is here! Surely you’ve considered your SEO with Google and YouTube and more in mind, but what about voice search?
Have you considered how the differences between searching the web and asking Google or Alexa to provide an answer may impact your website’s ranking and searchability? While asking questions to our devices out loud is still a developing technology, it’s important that your business doesn’t get left behind!
What Are the Differences between Traditional Web Searches and Voice Search?
On first consideration, it may seem like there can’t possibly be much of a difference between a traditional web search and voice search. You’re looking for the same thing, right? That may be true, but the way you go about it is entirely different.
Let’s look at a few examples to demonstrate how a traditional text search provides a different type of response than a voice search.
Say you’re listening to a song, and you can’t remember who sings it, or even what the title is. If you’re sitting at your laptop, you might type in a snippet of the lyrics to jog your memory. In return, you’ll receive a YouTube video, lyrics, album details, services that allow you to access or purchase the track, and alternate recording information.
If you have a Google device, you might simply yell, “Hey Google, who sings I’m never gonna dance again the way I dance with you?” Google will promptly respond “Careless Whisper was written and performed by George Michael”. There’s a very clear difference in the amount of information at input and output, as well as the way in which the information is requested.
So let’s say you sell athletic wear. What would the web search look like, versus what the voice search would sound like? Someone might type in “black leggings with pockets”, while another person might simply state, “Alexa, where can I buy black leggings with pockets?”.
The advantage for local business owners
Better yet, if you have a brick-and-mortar store that sells athletic wear, the web search might include words like “near me”, while the Alexa inquiry would assume that only local shops would be included… and they’d be right. Voice searches will pull up local retailers, sizes, prices, links to the website, and directions to stores in the vicinity.
The format of each search dictates the format of the response. In the first scenario, a vague internet search provided a plethora of information, while a direct verbal question received a direct answer.
Questions like “where” receive more robust answers, because a greater number of options are involved.
Even though voice search is still using the same search engines we’ve always used, users form conversational questions, instead of entering keywords, which means those keywords you’ve been relying upon to gain traffic can’t always help you when your customers are searching for you out loud.
Trick and Tips for Optimising Content for Voice Search
Stop thinking about marketing, and start thinking about talking. How would you talk about your product or service? Instead of thinking in terms of short keywords, think of the who, what, where, when, and how of what you are selling.
In the example, asking “Where” was the trigger that provided options, and as a business owner, you want your website to be listed as one of those options.
One thing to consider is long-tail and contextual keywords. These are more specific keywords that typically get less search traffic, but greater conversions.
While text searches are typically three to five words in length, voice searches ask full questions. In the athletic wear example, you might choose “black leggings with pockets in (Town)” as a long-tail keyword, or even “black leggings with pockets for sale in (Town)”, because this reflects the request in the voice search.
As an added bonus, since many businesses try not to use too many long-tail keywords, this gives your business the advantage in search results.
Another place to focus content for voice search is the FAQ section. This is the area where those specific questions mentioned earlier are asked and answered. If your FAQ literally states “Customers can purchase dozens of black leggings with pockets at our retail store in Town”, then this is a pretty good indicator for search engines.
Your FAQ might start looking like a mini-blog, and that’s ok. You are providing valuable answers to questions that your potential customers are asking!
What About the Content Itself?
Content, as always, is king. And in order for search engines to find your content in response to a question asked out loud, you have to have content that talks back.
Listen to how your customers talk about your product in emails and on the phone. Really pay attention to what their problem is, and how your product solves it. “I kept forgetting to bring in cash to pay for my yoga class, but having pockets in my favorite black leggings means I never forget”.
What kind of blog post or product description can you formulate around this? People ask questions to solve problems, and writing content that addresses those questions and provides solutions will be prime for voice search results.
The voice and tone of your content are also important. Depending on your product or service, it may be very tempting to launch into buzzwords and jargon on your website.
For text search keywords, this is fine. But consider how a voice search would be worded. Is a customer likely to ask for 30” inseam, gusseted, flex-flow leggings with zipper pocket? While these are important descriptors to include in the product information, these are not the questions that will be at the forefront of a search.
Make content rich in the details that are more likely to come up in a natural question or conversation, rather than the industry specs that are important when a customer is trying to choose between options. Get them to your site first and foremost.
The process of conducting a voice search is entirely different from the web searches of yore. In order to maintain high rankings and attract customers, we must adapt to be just as savvy as the technology our customers use.
By asking and answering the same questions your prospective customers ask their devices, and by enriching content in key areas such as FAQs with these questions and long-tail keywords, you’ll have the advantage in optimising web content for the new wave of voice search technology.