Post by Colin Mumma, Specialist
More and more people are now using voice search features on their smartphones and virtual assistants (i.e. Google Home, Amazon Echo) to browse the web. Two leading examples of voice search technology that smartphone users already have on their devices are Siri and Alexa. According to a report by Hitwise, 60% of searches are conducted on mobile devices. This means that onsite content needs to be even more mobile/voice-search friendly, and websites must make improvements to benefit from the growing voice search/mobile user base.
OPTIMIZING FOR VOICE SEARCH
Users search differently with voice search functions than they do via keyword queries. For one, voice search is, by nature, more conversational and natural in tone. Voice search is also more mobile and local-focused, meaning that when users are using voice search they are asking questions about what is nearby. Smart phone devices know what listed businesses are in the user’s area and will serve local results.
For example, when consumers ask their phone where the best headphones (“near me”) are, the full question will most likely be longer than the query.
Keyword query: “headphones” or “headphones downtown Chicago”
Voice search query: “Where can I find the best headphones store near me in north downtown Chicago?”
Note that the voice search query is much longer than the keyword query. Traditional site optimization and on-page content will not capture visitors in the same way as sites that have taken steps for voice search optimization. There are things you can do to optimize a site for these longer, conversational keywords that dominate voice search.
OPTIMIZE FOR LOCAL
Google My Business and Other Local Listings
Brands should ensure that their business locations have been claimed on Google My Business. Utilizing Google My Business is ideal for all local businesses because it provides Google with a business’ information (categories, industry, NAP, hours, etc.) If a user uses voice search to ask if a store is still open, Google My Business would be an ideal place to host that information and make it easier for Google to contextualize and serve. In short, brands should make sure that all local listings are updated and storefront information is current for each location.
It’s worth mentioning that voice search platforms recognize “near me” and use the mobile device’s physical location when retrieving results; those searches are not being correlated to on-page keywords. For the majority of that information, the search engine is going to refer to the Google My Business listing.
Conversational and Natural Keywords
The primary difference between traditional keywords and voice search queries is that voice search queries are longer. Voice search users use more complete sentences and questions than keyword searchers. On-page keyword strategy and body copy must be more “conversational”; this means writing content the way people talk to one another. Brands should begin by thinking about what questions people generally ask about their business and keep a log of those questions.
There are other great ways to naturally develop this type of content on your site via FAQ sections.
FAQ pages are great for writing out questions in text form, which is caters to voice search optimization. FAQ sections are typically filled with long-tail phrases that voice search users may be using. This helps bridge the connection between site content and the criteria search engines are looking to serve for voice search queries. For current FAQ pages, brands can go back and look for questions that are more SEO-keyword oriented and write them to sound natural. Grouping similar questions at the page level can be great for helping organize this information, making it more ideal for voice search results.
Brands should anticipate questions users may have about their business or all the different product offerings. Are there commonly asked questions about certain products? It’s important to alter page copy to provide natural answers to those questions.
STRUCTURED DATA MARKUP
What is Structured Data?
The purpose behind using the structured data markup is to provide definition to content blocks for search engines to categorize and display in their search engine results pages (SERPs) as rich media. Schema.org markup is technically HTML wrapping of predefined tagging with contextual associations.
Google and other search engines are going to become smarter with the ability to parse blocks of content out of a website for quick retrieval as they begin to interpret the meaning of search queries.
Structured Data for Voice Search
The use of structured data with the appropriate objects marked-up can help provide search engines with more useful information about site content. Structured data is important for websites as it helps Google contextualize on-page content and better parse and serve that data to users. In effect, this increases the likelihood of appearing in the Quick Answers/Featured Snippets section of the search engine results page, which succeeds position one. The Quick Answers and Featured Snippets section of the SERP can be served as a result in the voice search results on mobile devices.
Implementing QA Page and Question object mark-up types may increase the ability for search engines to better crawl and contextualize the FAQ data on the product pages across the site. Possible returns for taking these actions include being listed more often in Featured Snippet results and ranking for long tail keywords that brands may have not ranked for otherwise.
SIRI VS. ECHO
Apple vs. Amazon
Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Echo are both different despite seeming similar on the surface. Both Siri and Echo use advanced voice recognition, text to speech (TTS) systems and live internet connections to decode speech clips. The technology behind each platform differs in significant ways, but it is mainly about when and why these platforms are used.
Alexa is a stand-alone, Wi-Fi connected device with the primary device location being stationary – typically in the kitchen or living room.
Siri is a functionality present on iOS devices with the device location being the user’s location. Cases for each platform differ because their primary location is different for each. For example, Alexa is considered an “always on” device since the device is plugged in and not battery-powered. This lends an advantage to Alexa since the environment is static inside the home. The microphone for the Echo is also better at directional voice detection than Siri. However, Siri utilizes the integrated microphone in iOS devices which is optimized for speech closer to the device itself.
Neither Siri nor Echo are the definitive voice search device. Both devices have their advantages and disadvantages when compared to one another. There is no data to support the idea that a website should optimize for Siri over Echo or vice versa. For example, Echo is better at creating to-do lists while Siri is better for on-the-go search. One is stationary in nature and the other is mobile. Another example would be that Echo cannot convert shopping lists to instant buys and Siri cannot open applications or perform certain tasks.
Search engines want to provide the best answers for users, no matter the desired method of search. As voice search becomes increasingly popular, brands should take steps to ensure that on-page content is more mobile-focused and conversational in tone. Fleshing out local business listings is paramount for voice search optimization strategies and implementing additional structured data types may also provide useful. On-site body copy should be edited for natural sounding language in order to adapt to long tail queries typically detected in voice searches. While voice search platforms (Siri vs. Echo) are different in nature there is no action needed for optimizing for one platform over the other.
For more information about voice search and implementing strategies for optimizing for voice search, contact Performics.