Time changes the value of business tactics, and search engine optimization is not exempt. But while most changes in SEO have seemed as quick as a jack rabbit, voice search has had influence at a relatively tortoise-like pace, evolving as consumer rely on smartphones to conduct search while on-the-go. But now the changes have reached a level where marketers must upgrade their SEO strategy to better respond to customer activity.
Since the early days of paid search, digital marketers have focused primarily on keywords placement within a website page. Keywords that created website traffic represented the topics and products customer searched for online. Thus marketers had a proxy for matching website content to search patterns, making their website discoverable to customers.
Voice search on smartphones and home devices have gradually extended the quantity and quality of the words marketers should need to identity and respond to. Voice searches produce phrases that indicate interest, expressed as part of a natural conversation. So a search for the Greek baked good “baklava” becomes “find bakeries with baklava” or “find bakeries with baklava near Grant Street”.
The nuances of voice
Voice search, along with virtual assistants, reflect a significant shift in search behavior. Voice search more vividly represents customer sentiment than keywords, because it introduces an order and context to keyword selection. The word “baklava“ will list choices in the search engine results page, but what choices match the intent of the query – to learn how to make baklava, or go to a restaurant that offers baklava on its menu? While typing more keywords is the straight-forward and traditional way to build context, the convenience of voice search queries draws out an audience’s interests and needs in a way that should allow marketers to better meet them. Thus, voice search should increase the precision with which words and phrases correlate to a sale.
Moreover, these influences infuse other tangential considerations for SEO strategy, such as demographics, income, and interests. These properties impact word choice used in searching for a product or service. An enthusiast for sports may use different phrases or ask different questions than a casual follower of sports. Understanding such nuances may be key in maintaining a website or app to appeal to the segment that generates highest leads and conversions.
So what should marketers do to incorporate voice search effectively in their SEO strategy? Here are a few thoughts.
- Use SEO tools to discover the current web or app traffic generated by keywords. Marketers should also ask customers which questions they typically use to research products, services, and brands. Once this information is assessed, consider the frequency of the questions asked. Prioritize the discovered long-tail keywords, and regular queries, which match the natural speech used in voice search queries. Use a mobile SEO audit to reveal simple opportunities for designing the web or app elements to enhance the content for voice search requests
- Evaluate the navigation structure for website or app to vet how elements aid the customer journey when customers use a site or app for a purchase. For example, navigation elements on an eCommerce site should aim to match common query strings. Address FAQs through the use of comprehensive FAQ pages. or dedicated landing pages that appeal to semantic search. Also, take time to evaluate how site navigation impacts accessibility – improvements meant for patrons who are sight or hearing impaired are also opportunities to incorporate voice search activity
- Leverage structured data markup (Schema, XML) to give virtual assistants more information about your site. Schema markup dictates website structure to search engines, alerting them to site elements that relate the logic of events, prices, and people to the queries. When a search engine is trying to locate a response to a voice search, this extra information can guide the search engine to rank how well the content aids in answering a query.
Demonstrating that your content matches consumer intention is key to driving meaningful sales activity from a website. Keywords won’t totally lose their value – they’re essential in labeling metadata and image files. But people seeking specific answers are more accustomed to using phrases as part of a “conversational search journey.” Thus marketers must get accustomed to how smartphones, virtual assistants, and other voice-activated devices, ultimately drive sales.