Voice Search & SEO: Answering Voiced Questions with Your Content

People are using their mobile devices to conduct voice searches, according to Search Engine Land’s report, and, at the same time, they’re increasingly using voice assistants such as Google Home and Alexa.  Since these devices are involved in conducting searches at Google and Bing 58%*of the time, and already 20% of those searches are by voice, it’s time to reconsider your keyword and content development strategy.  Why? Studies show that people using voice search often frame their search differently, presenting their requests as complete questions whereas, when they key in words to a search box, the requests were most often in 2 – 4 words.

SEO copywriters have long known that it’s our job to provide helpful information that will move the website visitor to undertake the action we desire.  That helpful information would include some of the search terms, called keywords, that people use when searching for that type of information online at Google, Bing or other engines.  So, your site’s current content likely is informational, but is it written in a way that tells the search engines it provides answers to the voiced questions the engines are now fielding?

Let me tell you why I’m excited about Voice Search.  When I co-authored one of the first how-to books about SEO in 1998, the topic was deeply interesting to me as a writer who loves language.  From the beginning, the search engine algorithms worked to discern how people used language when faced with the blank search box of Alta Vista, the Google of its day, to try to meet their needs and wants. The search was often typed in single words, such as “golf” or a couple of words like “senior golfers.”  I helped one of my first clients, Senior Golfers of America, rise from oblivion to Position 1 in Alta Vista in 24 hours just by making changes to the title and Meta of its website pages.  It felt like magic.

As more and more websites came online and search engines got better at being the Internet librarians, people had to change their one or two-word search habits to get good search results.  So, the search habits of humans, like search algorithms, evolved over time.  Now, apparently, we are continuing to evolve and are finding that having conversations with our voice devices is becoming quite satisfactory.

With voice search, technical algorithms are still involved and, yes, customization based on your searching and browsing history will still alter search returns, but your wants and needs are indeed finding voice; it’s quicker than typing, it’s hands-free and perhaps more closely to the crux of your search.  Think about it; when you ask someone a question, you generally try to give that person enough information to know what you’re really requesting.  You wouldn’t grunt “rain bad umbrella” but, rather, say something like, “Do you have an umbrella I can borrow in case of rain?”

How does this impact SEO and Voice Search?  In very interesting ways.

Unlike traditional search from your keyboard, voice searches are conducted using more “question words.”  When we converse with our voice device, our tone and word choices are more conversational,  and we expect the results given us to be more conversational, too and an answer specific to our question.  Question words are those we use in conversation with people to signal that we’ll be wanting an answer – How, What, Where, When, Why are among the most common.    Moz graphed out the findings on which question words tend to indicate interest versus those that indicate intent:

The most often used question words in voice search are Who and What, according to Moz, and it’s great to get into the top of the funnel by creating content that includes those words and the appropriate content to answer the question.  But, if someone’s ready to buy, why not give them content that poses the “Where” question right along with the right answer – your place of business!

More conversational language that includes but is not limited to questions and answers is important not only for voice search but to improve your site’s chances of being a featured “snippet” at the top of search engines.  This is also a good time to remember the value of your long tail keywords, as there is definitely room for them in a Voice Search & Snippet Strategy.

To get started down this conversational path in keyword strategy and content development, review the emails your Customer Service (CS) department receives.  What are people asking about and how?  Get ahold of some CS transcripts from phone interactions with prospective customers.  What are the more common questions being fielded by CS?  Those are what you should be asking and answering within your website.

Create more FAQ pages or incorporate FAQs as frequently as makes sense for your particular business.  For example, if you sell products, create a mini-FAQ somewhere within each product page.  It can be a scroll down from the key descriptive content on each page because many serious shoppers will consume most or all of the content about a product before clicking the Buy button – and the search engines will get the helpful information, too.  Don’t be afraid of adding more details to your web pages.  The visitor will buy when he or she is ready; just ensure you’re offering the Buy button and/or links throughout the page to make it easy to click to the cart at any time.

Ask the right questions on your website and the answer will be an increase in visitors who are looking for exactly what you have to sell.

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