By Google's estimations, half of queries will be voice search by 2020. People are getting used to this new way of interacting with their devices, particularly teenagers, and the accuracy of the answers keeps improving! Right now, the word error rate of Google's voice search is only 8%. The future of search seems to be in voice searching.
Understanding what voice search can do now
Google's ultimate goal is to become an on-the-go mobile assistant, capable of delivering quick answers and helping with daily tasks. According to Behshad Behzadi, this requires a concept that goes beyond voice recognition: voice understanding. Artificial intelligence capable of interpreting queries' true meaning and context.
But before getting there, here is a list of the things voice search can use as context in order to provide more relevant results and understand what a user really means when asking for something using vague words.
For example, "Show me restaurants nearby." "Which ones have delivery service?"
- Previous queries.
- Currently active apps and opened websites.
- Current location.
- Personal information made available to the searcher, such as your home address.
This is information that was already being used, regardless of voice recognition, but it's even more important now because people simply don't speak the way they type, and context is vital.
Related article: Can Voice Recognition and AI replace keyboards?
The best 6 tips on how to add voice search to your SEO plan
There are two key ideas to keep in mind: voice search means mobile and conversational tone.
1. Focus on mobile.
There are two users: Typers and Talkers. Typers are ok with spending a little more time and doing research. Talkers want a quick answer, they are on the go and they need it fast. Their context is their mobile devices.
Since we are focusing on Talkers, there are a few things that you need to do as soon as possible if you haven't yet:
- Use Google's mobile-friendly test.
- Improve the speed of your site. Another Google tool that can help you with this is PageSpeed Insights.
The design of your website should be responsive, and the whole site should be optimized for people who will be scrolling and using their thumb for everything. Try it yourself using MobileTest.me or from your own phone.
The content on your website should be easy to read on a small device as well, and scannable. This means informative headers, simple sentences, short paragraphs, clean and simple fonts in a reasonably big size, and images for both context and additional information.
There are two good reasons for this:
- People looking for answers on their phones generally don't have so much time to spare reading long content.
- Smaller screens make reading even more difficult than regular screens.
2. Focus on conversational long tail keywords
The same group of people we're focusing on, Talkers, use different words when searching than Typers. This fact and the mobile context impact all of your voice search optimization efforts.
Short tail keywords shouldn't disappear completely from your SEO strategy, but they are not so useful when you want to optimize for voice search, where queries are full sentences, phrased in a conversational tone. It's a different sort of long tail keyword.
Don't focus so much on keyword variations and synonyms: focus on how people really talk, the terms that come more natural.
Natural language should be at the core of keyword research for voice search. Voice search answers the "who, what, where, why and how" questions.
A useful tool for this is "Answer the Public". It is actually a tool meant to prompt content ideas based on short tail keywords, by making them part of questions and sentences, and it's very helpful to better understand searchers' intent.
Other tools to do your research are Rank Tracker and Analytics. Google' Search Console reports tell you the real queries that bring people to your site.
Right now you can't tell "if query came from voice search or regular search, but Google is hinting that might change"
Brainstorm long-tail keywords.
Rank Tracker lets you "autocomplete queries using a keyword as a wildcard". "Base the questions on the FAQs described above and look for commonly searched long tail keywords to figure out what questions you should be answering."
3. Provide context with schema markup.
Schema is a specific vocabulary for HTML tags, which you can add to your code to help search engines understand the context of your website's content. It provides more meaning and better structure for bots, and it has a direct impact in how your website appears on search engines' result pages (SERPs).
- You can test if your rich snippets are properly configured using Google's Structured Data Testing Tool.
Here is an example of how it works: Let's say you have a cooking blog, and you want search engines to understand this, so they can show your recipes directly on the SERP whenever someone is looking for a recipe you have posted about. You can tell the search engine which parts of the post's text are ingredients, where you are indicating the duration of the recipe, or where there is information about if the recipe is suitable for specific diets.
And those are just a few examples of a very long list only for cooking recipes. You can add detailed information about almost anything using this type of microdata.
Here is the full list of tags you can use, at Schema.org. These tags are recognized by all the major search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Yandex.
- If you need help creating your first Schema tags, try Google's Structured Data Markup Helper.
- Here is a very good article on how to get started using Schema, at Kissmetrics' blog.
Using this, you'll rank better in normal queries and also be more relevant in specific queries via voice search, because the search engine understands exactly what your page is talking about and therefore it can give that information to the right person when they need it.
4. Optimize the microdata of your site.
There are a few things that are prioritary and that search engines should be able to identify very quickly on your site, such as:
- Your store's physical address.
- Your phone number.
- Store opening hours.
- Prices of products and services.
And any other relevant information that your customers may want to know quickly. Googlebot should understand what everything on your site is about so you can rank better, so don't forget to add tags at least for this kind of information.
Another recommended practice is to create an XML sitemap of your site, making it readable to visitors and search enignes alike, and submit your sitemap to search engines. It basically helps them crawl your website better.
- If you're not sure how to create a sitemap, check the Sitemap Generator at XML-Sitemaps.com.
5. Create content in the style of FAQs and Q&As
Ask yourself the "what, where, when, why, how and who"s of your business and answer them.
Part of your page's content should contain phrases that start using these same words, and the following answer should be clear and sound natural.
You can both create new content and repurpose old content in this Q&A format, creating pages and articles that answer specific questions. Questions are not only good for FAQs, they can also be used as the titles of blog posts, or on product and service pages, without overusing it.
6. Think local
The most common voice search queries are from people trying to find out stuff about physical places. For example: "Find pizza takeout in Austin". "Near me". Luckily, the actual keywords users are saying don't need to correlate with the actual keywords on your page, That doesn't need to correlate with your actual keywords on your page. When the intent of the search is clearly to find a local business, the search engine will go to Google My Business listings.
So, your business information should be featured in it, and be as accurate as possible. Remember to keep it updated.
When you add your business to the listings on Google, you can specify what type of business it is by selecting among different categories. Being as specific as possible there will improve your relevance on queries.
It is also recommended to add your business's address, phone number and name on other online listings, not just Google's. Search engines uses this information too to rank pages in local searches, and it can help increase their trust in your business's page.
Monitor your performance
As always, it's recommended to track your performance to see if your efforts are paying off, and to check your Analytics dashboards at least once a week to make adjustments.
Tip: Install a custom dashboard to quickly compare your desktop and mobile results. The real numbers will help.
Related article: 12 time-saving custom Analytics dashboards for ecommerce.
Voice search, artificial intelligence, chatbots... The future is conversational. That's why we would like to remind you that we can help you automate your Facebook page's Messenger with Ebba, our AI shop assistant.
Send us a message if you have any further questions, we're here to help!