The 5 tricks you need for voice search SEO in 2018
Talking to robots … what is this, the future or something?
Well, yeah. And in fact, talking to robots (i.e. voice searching) now accounts for 20 per cent of Google search queries, according to Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends report. Industry leaders predict this number will only grow.
So it’s 2018. People are talking to their phones and you’re hoping that your content will be Google’s answer to them. What’s a modern content marketer to do in the pursuit of voice search SEO perfection?
Here are our 5 optimisation tips.
Tip 1: Figure out what people are talking about
As with all things content marketing, voice search optimisation in 2018 hinges on understanding your audience. If you know what they’re searching for, you can identify where your content can answer their queries.
So how do you know if content will answer audience questions? Start here:
- Gather a list of common FAQs from your sales team, to figure out what customers are asking at this stage.
- Use tools like Answer the Public, BuzzSumo and Google suggested terms to identify queries related to your target keywords.
- Memorise (or create, then memorise) user personas to understand customer values, wants and needs.
- Understand the customer journey, so you know which different questions are likely to occur at each stage of the sales funnel (so you can target content appropriately).
– Are voice search queries different to normal searches?
While there’s a lot of crossover, data suggests that users do turn to voice search for different styles of query.
Predominantly, voice queries are conversational, highly niche questions. That is, people ask questions of Google in the same way they’d ask a human, and they generally need a very specific answer. Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report showed that “Local Information” (e.g. “pizza near me”) is particularly common – if there’s pizza nearby, the people need to know.
If your business is specific to an area, you’ll need to make sure Google knows it
– What does this mean for your business?
If your business depends on getting customers through your bricks-and-mortar door, you’ll need to make sure Google knows it (see “Tip 2” below). Additionally, your voice search content should specifically target long-tail, question-based keywords (see “Tip 4”) and provide the answers in a way that a real human might actually speak.
Also, because Google’s voice results often verbally dictate the answer from the featured snippet, we recommend you follow all the best practices for winning position zero.
– What if your business isn’t specific to an area?
Skip Tip 2 and jump straight to Tip 3.
Tip 2: Claim your My Business listing
We know that local listings rank highly in voice search, which means if your business is specific to an area, it’s recommended that you claim so in Google. Local results show up in Google search pages and Google Maps, and give customers vital details about a company such as location, hours and so on.
– How to claim your My Business listing
Pop on over to the Google My Business support page to find helpful information on claiming your business. This is a largely step-by-step process and shouldn’t be too difficult.
You’re going to need to include a lot of details about your company, and the more the merrier. Make sure you update your listing to include all of the following (where relevant):
- Contact information
- Opening hours
- Parking availability
- Imagery (which appears in Google Maps, and is especially relevant for hospitality and tourism/entertainment companies)
- Categories (choose only the categories that are accurate. For example, if an eatery has no sit-in tables, it would choose “Takeout” rather than “Restaurant”)
– Secure your local listing with AdWords
Running an AdWords campaign? Make sure you use the AdWords Location Extension to add a geotag to your advertisements. These will appear beneath your ad on a search results page, showing where your business is located.
You can also start campaigns within Google Maps itself, using Local Search Ads.
Tip 3: Use schema markup and submit a sitemap
OK, this one is a little bit more complicated, but tap your IT people on the shoulder and make sure they help you out – it’s vitally important, but few people do this (which means it could be the differentiating factor between you and your competitors).
“Schema” is a standardised coding language that speaks to Google’s crawlers and helps them figure out what your page is about. It’s more accurate than plain HTML, and makes Google more confident in showing a schema-marked page as a top result (in certain instances).
– How does schema work?
To use an example from schema.org (the community body behind this language, founded by Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex), if you were creating a page about the movie “Avatar”, your competitors would have HTML info that gives the director’s name, a cast list, and whatever else is relevant, but that leaves the crawlers to figure out what these actually mean.
With a schema markup, you could tell Google, “This page is about a science-fiction movie”, that “James Cameron is the director of this movie”, and the web page is “specifically the trailer for said movie.”
When someone speaks “Who directed Avatar?” into their phone, your schema markup will tell Google the answer.
Don’t rely on the crawlers understanding your website - point and scream at the information they need to know.
– What does this mean for your business?
Don’t just rely on the crawlers understanding your website naturally – point and scream at the information they need to know.
If you’re our aforementioned pizza restaurant, tell Google “this is a food establishment”, “these are our delivery charges”, “we are a local business” and anything else you can think of that’s relevant to your customers’ queries.
– You said something about submitting a sitemap?
Yeah, we did. Let’s do it next!
Submit a sitemap of your website through Search Console in either XML, RSS or TXT format. This will help the crawlers find all of your pages faster, especially if your site is large, new, or has an extensive archive.
It can also establish you as the content’s original publisher (if it’s ever copied), showcase how frequently content is updated, and tell Google how important a page is, relative to the rest of the site. All of these details are taken into consideration by Google’s ranking factors.
Tip 4: Optimise content for long-tail questions
As we discussed in Tip 1, people are asking Google Voice Search niche questions, and expecting human answers. So, any voice search SEO content you’re going to produce should accommodate:
- Long-tail, question-based keywords
- Q&A-style formatting
– What are long-tail keywords?
A long-tail keyword is a phrase entered into Google that contains a significant amount of detail. Think “where can I find a vegetarian pizza restaurant near me?” versus “pizza restaurant”.
– How do I find and use long-tail keywords?
Pull up your existing keyword strategy and carefully consider it in comparison with your FAQs, user personas and customer journey from Tip 1. All you need to do is figure out which specific questions real people are asking that are relevant to your target keywords.
When you have a list of viable long-tail questions, turn them into articles that specifically answer those questions. Go into detail, provide examples and key takeaways, and above all, ensure that your content is more valuable than your competitors. You can use our 2X tactics to this end.
– Important final point about the featured snippet
Remember what we said about Google dictating the answer to users. Voice search is designed for the device to provide an answer, not you as the content provider. More often than not, users will only listen to the featured snippet’s answer, then move on.
Because of this, it’s vitally important that you target all content to position zero, and work hard to earn these coveted results.
Tip 5: Optimise your site for mobile
Last but certainly not least, your site must must must be optimised for mobile, as this is where the majority of voice search queries will come from.
– How to optimise your site for mobile
The first step in good mobile optimisation – and this includes for voice search SEO, too – is to ensure that your website meets general best-practice SEO standards. Good foundational SEO is important no matter what strategy you are attempting.
Next, run through this checklist and tick off each item to keep your website easy-to-use even on a small screen:
- Reduce page load times as much as possible, in case mobile users have a less-powerful device or a slower connection.
- Don’t use Flash, as many users don’t have it installed.
- Kill pop-ups – these will be extra intrusive on a mobile screen.
- Remember that some users have large fingers, and can’t operate teensy little buttons.
- Use a responsive design, instead of a separate mobile site. Google prefers this.
If you aren’t sure about any of the finicky web stuff, talk to your IT people or an SEO professional for help.
Voice search SEO in 2018 doesn’t have to be complicated. While there are a few steps to getting it right, if you really think about it, it isn’t that far departed from a typical organic SEO strategy – all the same foundations are there.
Just remember your user questions, optimise all content to suit Google crawlers and user’s devices, and nab that My Business listing!