Increasingly, it’s not what people type into search engines that matters – it’s what people say. Thanks to the rise of smartphones and rapid improvements in how virtual assistants interpret human speech, voice-enabled searching has exploded. This has huge implications for SEO marketing or Voice Engine Optimisation (VEO) as some people prefer to call it.
According to Adobe Analytics, a third of American homes include smart speakers like Amazon Echo, and 47 per cent of activity involving those devices takes the form of online searches. Google report that between 20-25 per cent of Android searches are now voice-enabled, and some experts predict that by 2020, 50 per cent of all searches will involve speaking, not typing.
If your business relies on SEO to improve its search engine rankings, the techniques you’ve used in an era of text-based searches won’t necessarily apply when voice searching becomes mainstream. If you want to remain competitive and maximise your web traffic, there’s no better time to optimise your content for voice-enabled search queries.
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For starters, text queries are generally shorter than voice-enabled ones. For example, if you want to find a dog walker in London, you might put “dog walker London” into Google. However, you wouldn’t say that to a digital assistant. Instead, you might say something like “find me a dog walker in London for this afternoon”.
Voice queries are also more likely to reference common question forms beginning with words such as who, when, where and why (although the exact type of questions will vary depending on the industry), and they also tend more often to be location-based queries.
The insights we are gaining into how voice queries work are already feeding into smart SEO tactics that are changing the way we produce content. So let’s look at those strategies in a bit more detail.
The most obvious way that voice search results are changing SEO copywriting is how they’re encouraging the rise of question-based content. Because users are much more likely to ask questions of services like Alexa, Siri or Cortana, content has to be tailored towards the kind of questions they are likely to use.
Marketers are now finding that terms like “how”, “what” and “where” are more important than ever. While it’s always been good SEO practice to provide useful content, voice searching is making this even more vital. A good tip is to focus on FAQ sections wherever possible, answering as many relevant questions as possible.
At the same time, Google has upgraded the importance of “snippets” – the quick answers to questions which appear above your search results. Being featured in these snippets is a huge advantage for any site, and it also boosts the chances of delivering a high page ranking for voice searches.
These snippets are generally selected on the basis of specificity. If they provide a clear answer to a user’s question, they have a good chance of ranking highly. So create as much high-quality answer-based content as possible and you should do fine.
Another trend is using relevant long-tail keywords which might appear in voice queries. These tend to be on the longer side, so working them into blogs or your FAQs is always advisable. That’s also an area where high-quality copywriters can be invaluable.
These SEO tactics are becoming mainstream in the digital marketing profession, and when added together, they could constitute a radical change in the way we create content.
Alongside traditional methods like backlinking and keyword optimisation, a smart SEO strategy for the future will have problem-solving at its core. The idea is to maintain a laser-like focus on the needs of web browsers or mobile phone users by thinking like customers, not just like marketing professionals.
A word of caution though: the hype over voice-enabled SEO doesn’t mean that older SEO strategies are becoming irrelevant, it’s just that different kinds of long-tail keywords and content themes are coming to the fore.
For instance, the smart money suggests that voice commands are most likely to be used by mobile users when they cannot access their keyboard conveniently. So using keywords based on mobility and location can have impressive results.
If you want to optimise your content for voice searches, it is essential to use web copywriting services professionals who know the technology thoroughly. That’s not the same as choosing fluent writers who are skilled at research and clear communication. Instead, those traditional skills need to be fused with a high degree of technological awareness. Not all copywriting services can deliver that blend.
It’s also essential to analyse your current SEO content strategy to understand what needs to be changed. A thorough SEO audit will deliver competitive SEO insights, helping you plot the transition from text to voice-based searching.
The results could be a revelation. For many businesses, voice-enabled search will be vital to their future prospects, and it makes sense to adapt your marketing ideas to deliver results as the technology matures.
Text: Sam Urquhart