As people are becoming more and more addicted to their smart phones, voice search is naturally becoming a stronger force. As SEOs, we’re closely watching to see how this impacts our current SEO strategies. The way people speak is not naturally the way they type. This poses a large shake up to the way our keywords are chosen and the content is written.
Many clients are starting to ask what we can do to start optimizing for voice search. While it’s still early and there haven’t been any official recommendations, here are our initial findings on how to think ahead and start preparing for a surge in voice search.
Understanding Semantic Search
First it’s important to understand the meaning of semantic search. Google released the Hummingbird algorithm update in 2013 that changed the way Google reads content and provide answers to people’s questions. Specifically, it wants to understand the meaning behind people’s searches.
In order to do that, we have to start thinking about content more holistically and begin writing more contextual content, rather than content that is narrowly focused on one question. This type of content caters to conversational searches as opposed to the traditional, short keyword searches. The type of content that the Hummingbird update demanded is what initially allowed Google to better understand the voice searches of the future.
Writing Contextual Content
So, now we know that we need to write more contextual content that answers a broader set of questions around a certain subject to help Google understand the intent of people’s searches. But how do you write this content? Most importantly, you need to figure out what questions people are asking about that topic and then structure the content to answer those questions.
There are many different ways to identify these questions. Forums are a great resource to start with. There are also a variety of tools that can help identify various subjects that are relevant to the topic you’re writing about. Answering these questions in your content will help Google identify the intent of your search.
Targeting “Wordier” Keywords & Phrases
Now that your content answers a variety of different questions around your topic of choice, you want to expand your traditional knowledge regarding including specific keywords. SEO is no longer about planting a few keywords in the copy.
One of the biggest differences with semantic search and its connection to voice search is that the keywords are oftentimes “wordier,” meaning they include certain filler words. The way someone searches for something on their desktop is much different than the way they would search verbally. The voice search “keywords” are more question based and conversational.
Related: Keyword Research Best Practices
For example, someone on desktop might search for “natural skincare benefits,” but someone using voice search might ask “what are the benefits of using natural skincare?” Including more of those “in-between” words can help you rank for voice search.
Schema is another tactic to optimize for voice search. This is because Schema, or structured data, breaks down content in a way that Google can better understand. If Google can understand the content better, it can also better understand the general context and serve better results that would cater to people’s intents behind their searches.
This is why Google has also used Schema to enable quick answer boxes so that they can identify people’s questions and quickly provide an answer. Not only that, but Schema will also help the CTR by displaying important information in the SERPs to encourage people to click on your listing.
This is also mirroring the mobile first update that is rolling out. Google is encouraging websites to use mobile responsive sites instead of using a separate mobile site. This is largely because of the discrepancies in the content between mobile and desktop sites. In theory, it sounds like it would be better to have shorter content on mobile since people are using smaller screens and have less focus.
But there are ways to make content more mobile friendly, like breaking it up into sections and using bullets points. This ensures that you don’t lose any of the semantic value of your content that you would potentially be risking by using a separate mobile site.
SEOs will be watching to see if the trend in voice search will continue to rise. Until then, we’ll be doing our best to stay ahead of the curve and use these tactics to be sure that we’re optimized for desktop, mobile, and voice search.