The plethora of voice assistant enabled products and the number of people querying them is enormous. ~8 million US homes have Amazon Echo/Alexa devices alone with 30 million total voice assistants anticipated by the end of 2017.
Voice queries are doubling year on year say Google and voice commerce (v-commerce) is exploding. Reportedly 57% of smart speaker owners have bought something with their voice.
But how can we optimise our websites for this phenomenon? How do we go about optimising our content to answer the action based questions people are asking on voice search devices such as “what is the best Italian restaurant near me?”.
Since the initial release of Siri and Google Assistant in 2011, voice search has become a huge part of our lives; so much so that many of us now have virtual assistants living at home with us. In fact, – even before 2011 – voice search had increased over 35 times the amount it was used back in 2008. According to Search Engine Watch, the two top trends for voice search have been ‘call mom’ and ‘navigate home’.
What a way we have come since then! Campaign Live writes that by 2020, around 50% of all searches carried out will be done by voice. This means if you have not yet optimised your website for voice search, you really need to consider doing so.
A great way to start optimising your pages is to make sure you are answering questions that your users may be asking about your product or service. According to Bruceclay.com, there has been a 61% growth in users searching long-tailed queries starting with ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘how’, so this is a great place to start.
One thing to keep in mind is that mobile voice searches are 3x more likely to have local-based intent in the query, so to first optimise your site, particularly as a small business, you need to make sure you have a ‘Google My Business’ page set up and fill-in every detail that you possibly can. For other sites the answer might be localised landing pages across services and/or products.
Why is basing our keyword research around questions so important?
As there has been such an enormous increase in question queries we really need to understand how we can become the featured snippet for virtual assistants; since, unlike desktop or mobile-based search results, the user is unable to choose which result they receive.
So we already know a user is more likely to ask a question to a virtual assistant rather than search for one or two keywords, but how do we know what they’re going to ask about us that will make us feature?
Here is a quick guide to help you get started with finding the right questions:
- Have you come up with questions you think your content can answer straight away?
- Without editing or creating any content, is there hidden question-based terms behind it, how do you think users would find your content if they searched a who, what, where, how query?
- Are your users searching for a specific product or service?
- Are they searching terms such as ‘how do you use…’, ‘how to set up…’?
- Is your content/information structured on your site?
Structuring information in forms of tables is a great way to earn yourself a featured snippet on Google desktop searches, and may help you to become the featured answer on a virtual assistant. Though directly asking and answering the direct or likely stemmed query research works very well. Simply Business does a great job of answering many stemming queries such as ‘What is public liability insurance’ with this page?
We don’t want to give users false data, which believe it or not, occurs frequently and needs to be improved. Some sites deliver inaccurate information but still become the featured answer. This is a quality improvement that needs to be implemented in the voice search results.
Earlier this year, many SEO’s and people in the industry found that some questions you asked in Google brought back false articles. You could ask your Google Home questions such as, “Is Donald Trump always right?”, “Are Dolphins aliens?” and “Is the Earth flat?” and you’ll hear snippets of content from unreliable sites with their false news read back to you.
This shows that the voice search results are not yet perfect, however it gives us an opportunity to optimise our sites to become the reliable source when a user asks a question.
How to refocus your SEO efforts:
As mentioned above, with more voice search, a greater focus will need to be on optimising for long-tail queries rather than high volume head terms.
One of the easiest ways to start doing this is to add FAQ pages to your site or by answering the W,W,W,W,W & H of your existing content. Start by building these to answer multiple questions and answers based on the search volume data you discover.
You should also get as much as you can out of Schema markup. Schema also helps the search engine to understand the whole context of your site, meaning you’ll be more relevant in specific search queries.
Additionally, carry out keyword research for websites that already trigger featured snippets (using a tool such as SEMRush) so that you can optimise your website for these. Start by taking a look at your competitors to see where they have achieved featured snippets and you haven’t, and come up with a process to optimise your pages towards these questions.