By Mark Harrison
Voice searching has become more popular alongside exciting advances in the capabilities of speech-to-text technology. Programs are now able to recognise spoken search queries and return search results accordingly. It’s estimated that by 2020, half of all searches will be voice searches. It’s time to prepare for the next leap forward in SEO by creating content that is optimised for people who search using Alexa, Siri, or their digital personal assistant of choice.
Most mobile technology comes with personal assistant software installed, but in recent years, smart speakers and other home devices have become bestsellers too. A recent YouGov study showed that more than 11% of UK households owned smart speakers, double the figure from the previous poll six months prior.
Additionally, more than half of all respondents said that they mostly used their device for search queries. As this technology continues to grow beyond the early adoption phase, these users have enormous lead generation and conversion potential.
Vocal searches are direct, convenient, and totally hands-free. This represents the most advanced search input method possible right now. Anything else is just science fiction! So, until people manage to carry out searches telepathically, you need to learn how to optimise your content for voice searches.
In order to achieve voice search optimisation, (VSO) your content should be designed with three questions in mind:
- What Do Your Customers Want?
- How Does Your Site Provide It?
- Is It Available Right Now?
If you are able to answer all of these questions with your content, while observing best practice for voice search users, you will significantly boost lead generation and conversions for your business.
What Do Your Customers Want?
Although voice search is still a relatively new technology, there is already a wealth of research into users’ intent available for analysis. Moreover, the intent behind any search query, whether typed or spoken, still comes from the desire to find out about something.
Whether we’re using our phones on the move or checking something in the comfort of our own home, we usually perform a search because we want to Know Something, Go Somewhere, Do Something, and/or Buy Something.
Catering to these four key sources of intent with your content provides boundless opportunities for lead generation, attracting users who want immediate, relevant results. Let’s take a closer look at each key aspect and how to address it…
When people are looking for information, you have the opportunity to provide valuable content while also establishing your authority in your field. This kind of content can range from a page that answers frequently asked questions to a service page that provides background knowledge for context.
Whether we’re looking for a bite to eat or somewhere to buy something nice, we’re looking for something nearby. That’s why “near me” continues to grow in popularity as a search term. Optimise your business for local searches by claiming your Google My Business listing and ensuring your address is listed clearly on all your online platforms.
With a global information resource at our fingertips, we may often turn to the internet for tips and guidance about how to complete a certain task.
This is where a blog or video channel comes in handy, especially if you have a wide variety of relevant “how to” guides that tell the user, straightforwardly, how to do something while also demonstrating your openness and expertise.
If a lead finds you while looking for something in particular, you need to ensure your products and services are represented in an appealing and informative manner, in order to parlay the intent to buy into a full conversion.
Even while browsing in a physical shop, many of us consult our phones in order to decide what to buy. That’s why making sure your content is ready and optimised for these queries is a vital part of your VSO strategy.
How Does Your Site Provide It?
Like any kind of SEO, keywords are the way to get your content noticed by voice search users. When considering VSO, you should do your usual keyword research, but you watch your phrasing most of all.
When we type our search queries, we commonly focus on keywords first. Unnatural constructions like “tree surgeon Swansea” are quite common, as browsers have learned that these short phrases will yield results.
For spoken search queries, the tone tends to be more conversational. This is not just a quirk of us being polite to inanimate objects, as the marketing campaigns for software and smart speakers have suggested. It’s also an aid to accuracy in your software’s speech recognition capabilities.
This behaviour means that voice searches usually favour long-tail keywords. In terms of written content, there is usually less competition for longer, more specific keywords, but we expect to see that change in the future as more sites undergo VSO.
For now, you can get ahead of this by finding your keywords and then expressing them as questions. You need to adopt a more conversational tone in order to incorporate these naturally into your content. Alternatively, you could also embed them into the headline or headings of your copy.
Levels of Commitment
Queries are also affected by the level of the user’s commitment to their intent. Let’s take tree surgery as an example and show what questions your customers might be asking…
- What does a tree surgeon do?
- How do I book a tree surgeon?
- When can a tree surgeon help me?
- Where is the nearest tree surgeon?
These examples show, in ascending order, the different levels of commitment that a customer may express at the time of their query.
Questions that start with What or Who show curiosity about the subject – they don’t necessarily know what they want yet.
How questions show more commitment – the customer knows what they need, but they want more information before they come close to buying your products or enlisting your services.
When and Where questions are much more specific and direct – these users are ready to act on their intent, just as soon as they’re able to find what they’re looking for. They’re ready to become customers.
If you’re using long-tail keywords, it’s advisable to make sure you target customers according to their level of commitment. This ensures that you provide what they’re looking for and keeps you from being seen as a timewaster.
For instance, if you have an online appointment booking system or any other kind of eCommerce function on your site, the way is clear to target “When” and “Where” customers who are ready to act.
If your website is designed to generate leads and increase footfall, you’re more interested in “Who”, “What” and “How” customers. A frequently asked questions page will allow you to not only include these questions in your headings but also answer them and prove your authority in your field in a way that’s useful to searchers.
But in the main, voice searchers are looking for something directly, and a large part of VSO is ensuring that your content provides direct answers.
Is It Available Right Now?
Immediacy is a key motivator for voice searches. As mentioned, your customers are looking for what they can get right now. That means you want your nearby customers to be able to find you quickly and easily.
Where Are You?
In the VSO era, this isn’t simply going to be a matter of using place names as geo-targeted keywords. By using location data to pinpoint our position, our devices return location-sensitive search results, returning pages which are relevant to the local area first.
The importance of location data explains the rising popularity of “near me” as a search keyword. As we’ve seen in the previous section, “Where” questions show the greatest level of commitment to buy, so it’s crucial that you’re visible to those searchers.
The simplest way to achieve this is to claim your Google My Business listing, thereby ensuring that your business name is linked to your address and postcode. Additionally, you should ensure that these details are formatted the same way across all of your online platforms, from your site to your social media accounts.
But to ensure you’re visible to as many searchers as possible, you should also look beyond Google and ensure your map listings are optimised for several other most-used platforms, including:
- Apple Maps
Moreover, you can improve your content’s visibility by providing orientation. Include a section with directions or “where to find us” in a prominent spot on your site, including local landmarks and roads.
This will attract searchers who are on the move or planning a trip in your service area, rather than only those who happen to live nearby.
Your site absolutely has to be mobile-friendly. Nowadays, most searches are conducted on mobile devices. Making sure your site displays correctly on these smaller screens is more than a matter of good design – it’s vital to keep users engaged.
The convenience of voice search means that many of us search while multi-tasking or on the move. If someone’s looking for your site while jogging, eating out with friends, or watching television, you need to make sure your site can be viewed and used easily on a mobile screen.
Furthermore, the easier your website is to view, the more inclined users will be to share it with others. When you try to produce shareable content for your business, it’s just common sense to ensure that users can actually share it as well.
Speedy load times are massively important for turning leads who visit your site into customers. Ideally, you want every page on your site to load in 3 seconds or less.
The longer your website takes to load, the more visitors will leave before it’s fully loaded. If it doesn’t load before they leave, you’ve lost a potential customer. Because of how we browse the internet nowadays, that average 3-second window is crucial.
If users leave your page before it’s fully loaded, this will gradually have an effect on your visibility, as it begins to appear that your page is unhelpful in relation to particular keywords. The lower you appear in SERP rankings, the less likely you are to be found in voice searches.
Take the time to find out how quickly your site loads using free load time checkers for insights. If your page takes a long time to finish loading, these tools offer insight into what elements, be they images or other design aspects, are delaying your load time.
This allows you to fix any problems with slow pages by rethinking the more sluggish aspects. The quicker your site loads and the more useful it is, the better your site’s voice search ranking will become.
Conclusion: Be Present and Correct
Keeping all of this in mind, the best way to optimise your content for voice search is to give your customers what they want. Whatever their intent, they’re looking for results that provide context, and they’re looking for them immediately.
Granted, as you adapt, it may take time for you to figure out what that is. Luckily for you, by starting VSO now, you’ve still got time to experiment so make sure that you make the most of your head-start!
Don’t be afraid to test your mettle with voice searches. Use relevant long-tail keywords and localised content and see what difference they make. And more importantly, use what you learn to refine your approach, so you’re prepared for an ever more popular trend in browsing.
Your willingness to make your content accessible to your customers will speak volumes about your reliability as a business, generating more leads and driving more conversions as you take full advantage of your ability to provide for more immediate needs.