SEO has always been a changing landscape. While the fundamentals of performing well in search remain the same, how we go about each of them changes dramatically on a regular basis. Voice search doesn’t change people’s need to search, but what does change is our need to pay attention to our audience’s requirements and adapt our strategies to account for more than just ‘money keywords’.
The challenge that voice search throws at us is the advent of the single default answer. It’s ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ but on a wide, landscape-changing scale.
We also know people’s behavior changes as soon as they expect something to fulfill their needs. Searches including ‘near me’ didn’t grow as much in 2017 as those local searches without this qualifier and, in the United States, searches including zip codes actually declined by 30% (ThinkwithGoogle).
We expect local to work now, so we’ve stopped qualifying searches. And this is happening to head term searches, too. In 2017, almost 70% of requests to the Google Assistant were expressed in natural language, not using the same keywords people might type in a web search (ThinkwithGoogle).
All that is speculation, but what do brands need to do now in order to remain relevant and visible for customers in the way they search changes?
1. Keep complying with Google’s best practice guidelines
It almost goes without saying, but websites that are speedy and built well for people and crawlers, with content that properly answers users’ needs, backed up by authoritative links and mentions, will always be favored in search. The advent of voice search doesn’t change this, it makes it more important than ever, as this is simply the basic requirement to be considered for being the correct answer.
2. Understand your audience and what they actually need from you
Every website should consider what problem they’re solving for their users and how they are doing so. Once you’ve confirmed you are the best choice – and this is an important step – you need to identify how people are finding you. The highest search volume keywords in your industry are only a starting point.
If you’ve identified the problems that your customers or clients have, you have an excellent springboard for looking at common, natural language queries and creating content to fit those. Use common question keywords and tools like ‘Answer the Public’ to research queries combined with Search Console to see where you might already be ranking and just need to tweak.
3. Use that knowledge to power voice search
Featured snippets are the best current way to gain success in voice search. Identifying queries that trigger a featured snippet and working to optimize your site for them is a strategy that has worked very well for our clients. In brief, the main way to gain them is as follows:
Identify the terms you’d like to perform for and their most appropriate pages
Place a heading tag on the question you’re answering
If you are using a list, make sure
- tags are used
Ensure your answer is the best option
You can use search modifiers to change what Google shows to help you ensure your snippet is the ‘best’ option. Try removing the current featured snippet domain from search results using “-“ and see what comes up next.
4. What about the world outside of traditional search?
Virtual assistants and their ‘skills’ have the power to change the way we find products that are relevant to us. Skills are very much in their infancy, however; some of the most popular skills remain asking Alexa to bark or meow.
While most skills are poorly-rated and not thought through, this represents a first mover advantage, but I’d strongly recommend considering the audience research you’ve done to find whether you can genuinely offer added value via a skill. Otherwise, there is more long-term value in simply improving your website to better capture relevant search queries via mobile and voice.
There are huge opportunities to capitalize on voice search, particularly via audience research, natural language content, and featured snippet optimization. Incorporate these requirements into your current audience research and keyword plans to create a strategy that works seamlessly across all platforms.
Meghan Burton, director of SEO, Epiphany
Tel: 0800 019 9727