How does… voice SEO work?

Each week, we ask some of the industry's most knowledgable boffins to break down industry jargon to help you through those confusing meetings and indecipherable conferences. This week, GMG Digital's John Vlasakakis explains how voice search for SEO works.

Voice search is changing the face of search engine optimisation. In 2012, Google processed 1.2 trillion searches, and that number is thought be somewhere around 2 trillion in 2018.

Increasingly, those searches are been made with voice. It’s estimated by 2020, fifty percent of all Google searches will be by voice.

The majority of voice searches are made on mobile devices: phones, tablets and home assistants. Apple users employ Siri, Android users have Google voice search and Cortana navigates Microsoft’s products, like the Xbox One.

The increase in voice searches, especially those made on mobile devices, will present new challenges for marketing professionals in understanding and improving their SEO.

Voice searching is different

Generally, people speak differently to how they write, and this is evident in the way people voice search. When typing a query into Google, our searches tend to be incredibly brief and focus on keywords.

When using our voice, however, searches tend to more conversational, phrased as questions and contain more long-tail keywords. For example, if you were to search Queen Elizabeth’s age, you may type “Queen Elizabeth age” into Google to find your answer. If you were to use Siri, you’re more likely to ask something like “how old is Queen Elizabeth?”

Additionally, voice searches tend to have more context attached to them. Specifically, voice searches are much more likely to be location-based, especially when they’re made on a mobile device. That is to say, you’re more like to ask your phone where the nearest supermarket is, rather than a purely informational search, like the population of Australia.

With these differences in mind, there are a number of ways in which you can alter your content to optimise it for voice search.

Tailor your content to reflect voice searching

Knowing voice searches are more conversational, you should write your content to be closer to natural speech patterns. Consider what sort of questions your site’s visitors may be asking and how they may vocalise them. The closer your content reflects their way of speaking, the more likely you are to appear in their searches. Understanding long tail key words – three or four word searches which are highly specific – is essential.

Keep your content clean and easy to read

With the majority of searches being made via mobile devices, it’s important your content is easy to read. Make sure your pages are uncluttered, your articles are structured with short sentences and paragraphs and broken up with bold headers.

Take advantage of featured snippets

Google is increasingly providing featured snippets – selected search results which appear as a short paragraph above the organic results – for their users. With people using their mobile devices for the majority of voice searches, featured snippets are an essential way of providing direct answers to specific questions for those on the go. To maximise your chance of appearing in the featured snippet, you should research the specific questions which lead people to your content, and seek to provide clear and relevant answers to those queries. An easy way of doing this is to establish and maintain an orderly and comprehensive FAQ page.

Structured data

According to Google, structured data is “a standardised format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on”.

Providing Google with as much information about your content as possible, as well as presenting it in a clear format, increases your chances of appearing at the top of search results.

Keep up

There is no doubt voice searches are on the increase and it is essential marketers keep up with its rapidly evolving nature, to ensure their SEO is constantly relevant and improving.

John Vlasakakis is head of search and digital media at digital marketing agency GMG Digital.


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