The New SEO Part 2 – Voice Search and Question Format

Part 2 of our series on The New SEO | Part 1

Last week, we discussed the Google Answer Box, which overlaps significantly with today’s discussion about Voice search.

  • By January 2018, there was an average of one billion voice searches every month, proving that voice search is on the rise.
  • By 2020, 50% or more of all searches will be done by voice. And 30% of all website sessions will be conducted without a screen.
  • Local SEO already drives around 58% of voice searches. (Data from Forbes).

Most businesses aren’t prepared.

Voice search is used heavily when you consider Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google’s voice-activated options. I have Apple, some people from Microsoft and Jeff Bezos listening in on my office right this minute.

So how can you optimize your existing website content to be able to reach these searchers?

The two biggest takeaways I can provide you are to completely change your thinking around voice search:

  • Natural language and conversational search are critical.
  • Don’t think of voice as simply a “search” method, but as an overall marketing channel.

While you work on changing your outlook on voice search, let’s delve a bit into some of the more technical aspects of what you need to be considering where your website is concerned to optimize it for voice.

First is mobile site speed and individual page speed. While Google has taken this into consideration for a while, it’s even more important than ever. A few milliseconds doesn’t seem like very long for a web page to load if it’s a person sitting at a keyboard because we won’t notice such a small difference. Another algorithm, however, can notice and may pass you by if your site is too slow.

Use of structured data. For local businesses, don’t literally add “near me” to your search keywords. The search engines will use geolocation data from your business, such Google using your Google My Business address, and your structured data or schema markup, to feed results that are nearest to a customer when they search.

You also want to make sure that you have answers to questions used throughout your content, with the answers provided in about 30 words or less, so aim for including structured snippets throughout your content.

You can also look into developing skills and actions for specific voice-search platforms such as Alexa and Google. Then you can be teaching your website visitors to use that specific skill or action to engage with your content. Amazon uses Alexa Skills and Google developer accounts use Actions.

Long-tail keywords and questions. Long-tail keywords are what you will find more often in natural language – around five or more words including all of the filler words. Used to be that you were told to drop all of those filler words from your keyword list – is how that when where and the. Now you need to include those to flesh out a whole question using natural language. As an example, my kids don’t often say “mayonnaise location” as part of natural speech patterns but will say “mom where is the mayonnaise.”

Use the long-tail keyword and its response to answer visitor questions. Tip: long-form content with multiple questions and answers related to the same topic can greatly assist in your content being shared during a voice search. This automatically fills your article with voice search rich keywords.

Speaking of voice search … my son who is in his early 20’s was visiting the other day, and I was showing him my new Echo Dot. As most 20-something males do, he decided to be funny and said “Alexa, tell Siri she is a ho”. We immediately hear “That isn’t very nice” from his iPhone that was sitting next to him on the couch! Voice search 1 : Son 0.

We use a 5-Step Keyword Research Plan specifically for voice search:

  1. Search Google to find out what language customers are using to ask a question
  2. Check search results for your competitors and the words they’re using
  3. Develop content ideas with groups of related keywords
  4. Plan your content such as format and timing
  5. Optimize your content plan and find the gaps

One other tip I want to mention when I’m asking you to pivot your thinking about search in general … change how you are looking at your reporting and analytics. When people are searching for an answer to a particular question, your website bounce rate may end up higher. This used to be one of the primary metrics that we were all told to pay attention to. It’s not that you don’t need to now; you just need to understand that instead of having to search through several pages of your content – which would decrease the bounce rate – viewers may have been driven to the exact page that they need.

In Part 3 of this series I’m going to be discussing one of my favorite search topics – which is user intent. This is a piece of SEO that some of the traditional and more technically-focused SEO experts haven’t always focused on, since they were only looking at the back side of your website, but that we have always focused on heavily since we are coming from a marketing perspective. This whole topic of user intent will and should change the way you are thinking about content on your website, and why I don’t always recommend jumping directly into all of the keyword optimization first if you’re doing your website completely on your own and only have limited time available.

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