The SERP has long ruled the SEO roost. But for how much longer?
Companies have been fighting over Google’s search engine rankings for some time now. Attempting everything from keyword stuffing, to maniacally accruing backlinks to their website pages. But now there’s a new player in the SEO game – voice search. In which case, the question on everyone’s lips is… just how are these new voice assistants going to affect their SEO?
Ok, Google. For all you optimising, SEO nuts out there, let’s get stuck into it!
Voice search and the future of SEO
Truth be told, voice has been coming for a while now, slowly. For something that was once something small, fun, new and widely inaccurate, voice search has become a hot button topic in SEO circles.
Earlier this year, at Google’s 2018 I/O conference, voice search’s most jaw-dropping development took form. Well, that is, the voice, of a little helper by the name of Alexa. The conference audience looked on as Alexa phoned a hairdressing salon and seamlessly engaged with the receptionist to book a haircut.
Seamless as in the receptionist realising that they weren’t speaking to a human. Yes that’s right folks. Exciting AI times are upon us.
It’s pretty incredible and somewhat creep stuff. Let’s run through a few stats that might make you pause:
For a while now, Google’s search results have been leaning toward rich snippets that better address our query needs. From including recipe lists, to user reviews, the goal has been to capture the most relevant information in the smallest space possible – decreasing the need for searchers to click through to your site.
Now, let’s be honest, we internet users are not the most patient bunch. If we can’t get the answer immediately, as in right now, we’ll take our google investigations elsewhere. And voice search takes this to the next level. It eliminates all of the possible SERP snippets to just one singular answer.
In which case, the question on marketers lips becomes: How can I predict the questions that my customers are asking and provide concise responses?
Let’s get stuck into the good stuff.
How will voice search impact SEO
How much noise is the arrival of voice actually going to make?
Rather than completely overhauling of your SEO strategy, you should view the introduction as an opportunity for SEO adjustments. Being audience-centric should always be at the core of your operations. And so voice search just gives us an extra opportunity to keep in touch with audiences. Put yourself in their shoes as they go from desktop to mobile, mobile to screen, and screen to speakers. Make sure you make it an experience rather than a pain in the…
1. The key difference between speaking and writing
Now, unless you’re a robot, no one speaks in the same was as they write! So it follows that the way your customers phrase their voice searches a little something like:
“Hey Siri…he…hellooo, Siri? Siri! So, uh, would you be able to tell me where the closest petty…I mean petrol station is?”
Basically we all know people are going to faff around with their words. In which case, keyword phrases are going to favour (SEO wise) the longer end of the spectrum. Making sure you’ve got your bases covered beyond short tail is going to be crucial. So long keyword stuffing. You were great, really…
2. Location becomes more important
For local services and businesses, the majority of voice searches will happen on the go. This means your SEO strategy for voice search needs to think about: what kinds of localised offerings people will people be looking for? If you aren’t optimising for your location, it’s time to start. And make it snappy.
3. Declining website traffic and CTRs
You can expect to see changes to your website traffic and CTRs as voice becomes more and more prevalent. Like we just mentioned, most voice searches happen on the go, on the move, whilst walking, hopping, skipping…you get the picture. So Google will be looking for a condensed answer to give to the voice searcher. And while the dulcet tones of Siri or Alexa lift a section of your website to read, the rest of your site won’t get a look in.
4. Fewer screen interactions
Continuing on with the “search on the go” concept. Voice search signifies a social move away from screen use. The SERP is no longer the end game. Because now the whole search process can take place without users having to unlock their phone. They’ll just mutter those magical words ‘Ok, Google…’.
5. Rich snippets get richer
Rich snippets are the bee’s knees for Google. Anything that makes the experience easier and more relevant for searchers will get a big thumbs up. This trend towards rich snippets will likely become more valuable for voice search. Particularly in terms of using more information to answer direct voice searches.
6. Redefining results
But how do you measure success? With less clicks through to your site, where does the value come from with voice? Stop your stressing. When your content is read out by Google, they’ll preface the info with a little intro “According to [your brand name here] …”. Then again, the extent to which this can be counted as a hard ‘result’ is debatable.
As measuring success by hard results becomes murky, it’s pretty clear that voice search is going to be a game changer. Shifting the way that you produce your content and the ways in your audience engages with said content.
What does this mean for your SEO
Back to the drawing board, or another tool for your trade?
Now, the big question on your mind right now (presumably) goes a little something like: “cool, but how much does this affect me?”
Look, we are in no way advocating that should abandon the typed search engine ship. In one of their whiteboard sessions on the subject, Moz explained that voice search trends don’t necessarily detract from your search results.
There’s a big difference in the type of information that can be delivered (at ease) in text and voice search. So it pays to do an audit of the types of content that you are producing. This is how you can figure out just how much voice search will affect you.
If your content relies on data and statistics and can be presented as a short form answer, then the search engine will likely give the information itself. On the other hand, if users are looking for, say…a recipe, it’s impractical to list all ingredients and steps required. People already have enough trouble trying to remember to pick eggs up from the supermarket. In which case, directing searchers to a relevant page containing the information is more useful.
Voice Search and SEO
At the risk of sounding like the broken record of marketing mantras, figuring out voice search all comes down to: how well you know your audience. Your goal, first and foremost, should still focus on creating the most valuable and rewarding experience for your potential customers.
Voice search and the changes it brings doesn’t require you to overhaul your entire SEO strategy. All we’re saying is that on top of the old tricks of knowing how your audience enter search terms to find you, you’ve now got to also know how they speak. To throw down another well-worn marketing mantra, content is still king. In which case, the question is: how can your industry capitalise on the increase in voice content?
Being conversational and engaged with your customers across all of your digital touchpoints means anticipating what kinds of questions users are asking AND how they’re phrasing those questions.
With this info, you can pre-empt the questions that you’ll be asked and deliver concise responses to them. Including an FAQ section on your site can be a great way to include these in a format that is easy for your website visitors to digest. Another option could be to include answers to common problems throughout your site.
One thing that everyone who’s ever worked with SEO will know is… it doesn’t happen overnight!
But utilising the new opportunities voice has to offer (early!) means that you’ll beat your competitors and capitalise on the new wave of searchers.
A few extra SEO considerations:
SEO guru Neil Patel has also come up with 4 tips to optimise your website’s SEO for voice:
From the middle of 2018, Google has been marking websites still using http as ‘Not Secure’. This is just their first step toward encouraging universal https usage.
It’s Google, so of course page authority is going to feature. This means sites which have invested in backlinks, a good internal linking structure, and a good UX and social shareability, will be better placed to grab the search engine’s attention.
- Page Speed
Another key contributor for SEO, websites that take less than 4.6 seconds to load are more likely to be featured. How fast is your site? Find out here.
Pages with over 2,200 words have a better chance of getting ranked. But make sure that you include short answers as part of your content structure so the search engine to find the relevant information with ease.
And with those wise words from Neil, that just about covers it for today! Feeling ready to get out there and kick some voice search butt? You better be.
Did we miss anything? Drop us a line or comment below!
Or, read on to learn more about why content is essential for SEO.