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With products like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Microsoft Cortana becoming home staples, voice search is becoming increasingly important. So, what are some easy steps to optimize your website for this shift in user experience? We have 4 strategies that you can action today.
Before we dive into some action items, it’s worth reviewing when and how Google started making the move towards voice search and understanding user intent.
Back in 2013, Google released one of the largest changes to its algorithm, referred to as Hummingbird. The main element of change with this release was Google’s newfound emphasis on semantic search. This meant that Google could now better understand user intent and the contextual meanings of their search queries.
When this update released, it changed the way search engine optimizers were performing their strategies. What used to be focused on keyword stuffing and long, repetitive content, turned into a focus on quality content that answered searchers questions and addressed their needs – we sincerely thank you, Google. ????
Voice search is another tool that Google has developed to continue their effort for awesome user experience. One of Google’s earliest releases of voice search was in 2011.
Naturally, when we say something out loud, we’re more likely to sound more conversational and use longer words or phrases to ask our questions. With voice search, instead of searching things like “AC Repair Gainesville” you’re more likely to search “Which AC companies serve my area?” It’s also important to note that voice queries are more likely to ask a question, which can be interesting when we think about the digital sales funnel.
Questions such as “What’s the difference between a dental implant and a dental crown?” tell us that these searchers are normally in the research phase. Searches like “Where can I get a dental crown?” or “How much are dental crowns?” let us know these searchers are closer to the conversion stages.
It’s worth noting that optimizing for voice search shouldn’t be confused with optimizing for long-tail keywords. Rather, it should be optimizing content for questions. We’ll talk about that more when we get to blogging.
Many voice search queries are local by nature – “restaurants near me,” “directions to Ward’s Supermarket.” Furthermore, according to the KPCB Internet Trends Report, 22% of voice queries are for local content. For local businesses, this means it’s even more important to keep up local SEO tactics, one of the main ones being your Google My Business listing.
If you haven’t already, claim your Google My Business listing and make sure that your NAPW (Name, Address, Phone Number, and Website) is updated and correct. Even the slightest difference between what is listed on your Google My Business listing and what is on your website can prevent Google from showing your listing before your competitors. For many local businesses, it’s also very helpful to add your hours of operation and relevant business category.
It’s important to note that people using voice search are not normally interested in reading a full blog article or landing page. They are asking questions, normally on the go, when they don’t have free hands to type. So, do not expect them to visit your website. This feature is all about improving the user experience. So, when a user can find the answer to their questions without having to click a thing, that’s a good thing.
Because voice searches are more likely to be written as questions, we can leverage blogging to provide answers that are easy for Google to find and display in a featured snippet.
A typical search result for a search query is 29 words. Google prefers short answers for their users because users prefer immediate results. The better structured your blog is, the more likely it is for it to show up as a featured snippet. For example, clear H2s and H3s, and bullet points are typically better are getting highlighted in a featured snippet. Google will not read all of the text on your page, but it will use your H2s for orientations. Users also read this way, making it important on all levels to have easy to read, structured content on all of your pages.
Schema is a markup language that essentially tells Google, or other search engines” what information on the website is. Think of this data as metadata. It tells Google what the information on the website is about. The whole purpose of this strategy is to help Google understand what is on the website and therefore, use that data to provide more relevant results to searchers.
Because schema can seem daunting, complex, and requires a webmaster or web developer, this strategy is one of the most underutilized SEO tactics we can think of. So, if you can implement this strategy ASAP, you’re already ahead of most companies out there.
Like anything else in digital marketing, voice search is unpredictable. The only thing we know for sure is that this is just the beginning. Google’s voice search will become more intelligent, more responsive, and more accurate over time. And remember, these shifts from Google all have the same vision in mind – improving the user experience. Voice search is a huge move in that direction.
For those who choose to continue doing what they’ve always done, they’ll find themselves barely getting by next to their competition, drowning in an overly saturated digital space. For those who are committed to diversifying strategies and keeping up with changes, it’s a great time to be in digital marketing.