How Is Voice Search Changing SEO?

As if Google doesn’t change its algorithms enough to keep search marketers on their toes already, the growing influence of voice search on search engine optimization (SEO) is also beginning to have a real impact. 

Recent studies by Adobe and Google have shown that only half of all consumers are utilizing voice search (think querying Google or ordering from Amazon via an Alexa device) because they don’t find it intuitive. But that means the other half has embraced voice search. In fact, 20% of all Google searches from mobile devices are voices searches, and the numbers are growing fast. So how is this trend affecting SEO?

How Voice Search Has Changed Search

Over the last few years, Google has nearly perfected an algorithm that allows people to find relevant and high-quality content in response to changing search parameters. We started with single keyword queries - i.e. “restaurants.” The spammier side of the search marketing world latched on this concept and started keyword stuffing content and websites to rank. 

But Google caught on and started adjusting content requirements to be more optimized for long-tail keywords and keyword phrases - i.e. “restaurants near me.” This has forced those scammy keyword stuffers back into their caves and has created a content revolution. Marketers are now optimizing their content to actually be relevant and helpful, using natural speech to trigger Google’s crawlers. Imagine that. 

But then there’s voice. We’ve all become more comfortable online but we still search by keyword, and we don’t talk the way we type (thank goodness.) A voice search query is going to be more conversation, and sound something more like: “What is the best Thai restaurant in Raleigh?”

What Does It Mean For SEO?

As search parameters become more conversational, optimization strategies must focus more on semantics or the meaning behind our words. The good news is all that high-quality content optimization you’ve been doing is not wasted. Far from it. The goal of content marketing is to match your content closely with the user experience, voice is just taking that one step further. We still want to continue using conversational language in our digital content, with an increasing emphasis on long-tail keywords.

How To Optimize Content for Voice

There are a few additional best practices to start to make your web content more voice-search friendly. 

  1. Create a Voice Search FAQ Page: The average voice search answer is 29 words. Think about the responses you get from Alexa when you ask her a question - they are optimized snippets, usually from an FAQ page. (Think Featured Snippets in online Google search results.) Creating an entire page dedicated to voice search-friendly content will help not only in your online SERPs, but also in providing Alexa devices all over the world with something short and sweet to read. 

  2. Keep Content Conversational but Concise: Putting the last two concepts together, Google is prioritizing content that is conversational and optimizing for long-tail keywords, while voice searches are selecting results that are 30 words or less. This gives you the recipe for how to craft FAQ pages for greater voice exposure. 

  3. Optimize for Local Search: 3x more users are turning to voice search for local information, than for broader information. Including local descriptions and phrases (in the vernacular of your area), adding “near me” in your tags and meta descriptions, and including landmarks and other local institutions in your content are all ways to help voice search recognize your content as the most relevant for local searches. This also includes claiming and optimizing your Google My Business listing

The most important thing to keep in mind when creating content for search engines is that you should never create content for search engines. Write for your audience - you know, real people. Keyword stuffing and spammy directory listings have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Your content marketing and SEO strategies should be focused on answering the questions your audience is asking in a helpful and relevant way. Not sure where to start? The DofM can help.

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