The web bends to the will of the consumer.
Search engines sprouted out from nowhere when web directories were not providing the satisfaction that users demand from their information. Sites like Altavista and Dogpile at the time made it easier for people to find the information they’re looking for by typing the keyword phrase. The search engines will then return hundreds and thousands of results of web pages that are most relevant to the keyword the users entered.
As time went by, Google has perfected the craft of providing users with pages that contain the closest match to their search query. The search engine giant continues to revolutionize the search experience by making features like the autocomplete, related search, and local search available.
However, there will come a time when our current understanding of online search gets turned upside down. In fact, voice search seems to be leading the paradigm shift right now.
What is Google Voice Search?
Google Voice Search helps users acquire the most relevant web pages to their search by way of speech. Instead of typing out the keyword phrase on the search bar, you as a user can speak out your search from your smartphones, and it will list down the web pages with the closest match to the information you’re looking for.
This innovation in web search marks the changing of the guard. The increase of smartphone usage is responsible for transforming the online consumption habits of its owners.
Instead of relying on their native browsers to access websites from their phones, users can just download the app of a site to access information from its database much quicker and more efficiently.
The same changes apply to web search. Entering your search query on the touchscreen can be cumbersome and annoying as it is easy to misspell the words because of the space in between the keys. Therefore, instead of typing them, you can say it, and your smartphone will accurately pick up the voice and process the results for you.
Google Voice Search/Now is one of the many voice recognition applications that takes voice commands instead of the written word. There are other applications for different platforms (Siri for Apple, Alexa for Amazon), but we will focus on Google Voice Search for this article.
How Google Voice Search came to be
Advancements in Google Voice Search also run in parallel with the advancements in technology. There was already a voice search function years ago. Unfortunately, technology back then has poor speech and voice recognition, so it doesn’t capture the exact command you say. Now that speech recognition has dramatically improved, it has become more practical for people to adjust their online habits to something that takes less effort to do – instead of typing their search query, they can just say it!
Google Voice Search did not come into prominence until the Hummingbird Update when it changed the way how the algorithm handles semantic search.
Instead of just returning thousands of pages off the bat, it handpicks a content that answers the question posed by the keyword to be prominently featured on top of search results. This placement, also known as position 0 or Featured Snippet, changes the way how people approach question-based keywords, which is mostly what most users ask on voice search (more on this later).
While Google search continues to prevail regarding usage, Google voice search is gaining steam. According to Sundar Pichai in his Google I/O keynote last year that 20% of mobile queries are voice searches. comscore predicts that 50% of all search queries will be done through voice. As voice search grows, so does the voice recognition industry with an estimated $601 million market by 2019 as reported by Technavio.
As an SEO, why should I care about Google voice search?
You’re probably not yet feeling the effects of voice search assuming that you’re doing pretty well as an SEO specialist. However, expect voice search to disrupt your industry once it kicks into full gear and the voice recognition market offers products and services that will phase out the old search practices.
As a common practice, SEO people optimize for keywords with the highest monthly search volume, regardless of how the keywords are constructed as a whole. There is also a healthy obsession for link building, which is considered by many as the most crucial ranking factor in today’s SEO.
As Google voice search looms closer to fulfilling its destiny, these practices probably won’t be as effective as before. Below are points that you need to keep an eye on as SEO practitioners regarding Google voice search.
The rise of conversational keywords
As mentioned earlier, SEO experts focus on looking for keywords with the most searches every month. It doesn’t matter if the keyword phrase makes little sense when used in a sentence. All that matters is getting the exact keyword phrase prominently featured within the page.
However, that’s not how it works for Google voice search. For example, for the phrase “content marketing examples,” it’s hard to imagine for someone to say “content marketing examples” to a voice recognition tool. Since the term in itself is not composed conversationally, there are fewer chances that users will say the exact phrase to search for the people.
Therefore, instead of “content marketing examples,” they would probably search for the keyword phrase in sentence form:
- what are good examples of content marketing
- where can I find content marketing examples
- what content marketing examples should I follow
Not only are these search queries more specific, which turns the initial keyword into a long-tail search query, but the construction of the sentence is also something that people would usually ask. By focusing more on how people will ask the search query on voice recognition tools instead of referring to keyword data from usual SEO tools, you can optimize your content for voice search as early as now.
There may be fear on your end that conversational keywords may disrupt your SEO campaign of your initial target keyword. This shouldn’t be a problem because you are using latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords. As long as your LSI keywords are related to your target keyword, then you are killing two birds with one stone by optimizing for organic search and voice search.
About finding conversation keywords for your site, you need to use a tool like Keyword Tool and find keywords using the 4 Ws (what, where, when, why) and 1 H (how). Doing so on the tool will help you unearth the most searched long tail keyword phrases to optimize for.
Frequently asked question (FAQ) pages
Since conversational keywords tend to be more specific and targeted, you may find yourself creating content for each potential keyword phrases that users will ask using Google voice search. Doing so will be impossible due to the endless possibilities of conversational keywords people will be asking.
Therefore, instead of creating individual pages for each keyword, you can group similar conversational keywords and create a FAQ page for them. A FAQ page provides short, but straightforward answers to the most commonly asked questions that your visitors and audience have about your site. You can leverage this page to optimize for voice search and link to internal pages about the questions asked by users.
Also, you can use your FAQ page to optimize it for Featured Snippets. These appear on the top portion of search results just below the search bar to provide users with the exact answer to their question. The snippets are part of the Hummingbird Updated discussed earlier and is the manifestation of Google’s algorithm intelligence and its ability to discern search queries.
There are no exact steps on how to get your page to be shown in the Featured Snippets for a search phrase. However, there are case studies that show the methods to increase your chances of getting featured here.
Local SEO just got even more important
Brick-and-mortar shops who want to build an online presence will benefit from running a sustainable local SEO campaign for their business. By observing the best practices for local search, they can encourage more online customers to visit their stores.
Local businesses are the priority when it comes to location-dependent keywords. There is a special section that appears on top of search results that indicates the nearest and highest-rated businesses relevant to your search.
This section known as the local pack helps put local stores over users who follow the best local SEO practices to a tee.
So, what does this have to do with Google voice search?
Since more people will be adapting to voice search for information on the go, expect even more to find the nearest establishment where they can get their quick fix, whether it’s a restaurant, beauty salon, or others.
By anticipating the rise of voice search in local SEO, you can position yourself to appear on top of the local pack, if not on top of organic voice search!
Regarding local SEO, below are factors that you need to boost to optimize your site for local SEO and voice search:
Sign up to Google My Business
Setting up a page using this Google service lets you establish your business details as it appears on the local pack. Entering the correct NAP (name, address, and phone number) will help make it easier for your audience to reach out to you and visit your place. Google My Business also lets you upload images of your store so Google can show them when people search for keywords related to your business. Using the tool, you can also gain valuable insights about your visitors such as how they were able to find you online.
Acquire user-generated content
People trust reviews written by other people because it comes from their genuine experience with a local business. This reason explains why 71% of consumers refer to user-generated content before making an informed decision about a product or service. The power of UGC is undeniable which is why you need to make an effort to get reviews from your customers. Simply asking your customers to review your services online or set up a profile on popular business listings like Yelp, and making it easy for people to leave reviews about your business should do the trick, among other methods.
Use schema markup
Schema.org collaborates with the most popular search engines to provide organized data so search spiders can easily identify the most important information about your site. However, this practice will probably fly over business owner’s heads because it’ll require them technical SEO knowledge to pull schema markup off.
For starters, they can refer to this local business schema markup tool by Supple to generate the code that will be copied and pasted into the footer section of all your pages(ideally). You can then verify if the code is embedded correctly on your site by using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool. The process won’t take too long to figure out, but you should refer to a developer to help you embed the code if you’re not confident with editing your site.
Wrapping it up
SEO is all about change. Google updates its search algorithm more often than not to provide people with the most relevant results for their keyword search. Ultimately, Google is in the business of providing the best experience to its users for them to continue using the search engine for as long as possible.
The same concept should apply for SEO specialists who would want to maintain a steady stream of traffic coming from Google. They need to adapt to the changes in the industry and be as fluid as possible, so their sites don’t get stagnant from the same outdated tactics.
While Google Voice Search is still in its relative infancy, it’s better to prepare for the incoming storm so to speak. Adjusting to the possible changes that Google Voice Search will bring as early as today will allow you to rank on top of your search queries and deliver your content at the forefront of voice search. Following the tips mentioned in this post should help you get to that stage.