5 Ways Voice UI Turns Your SEO on its Head
Once upon a time, the most Siri had to deal with was a few offensive remarks or sexually explicit requests. We probably all did it at least once. But in just a few short years, voice search has exploded to become a serious contender against traditional, text-based search. Microsoft’s Cortana has over 100 million monthly users, 40% of adults talk to their phones every day, and it’s predicted that half of all searches will be done vocally by 2020. If that sounds like it’s more than just a passing fad, that’s because it is. So if you want to make sure you and your website aren’t missing out, you need to start adapting your SEO strategies now. In most cases, it’s unlikely you’ll need a complete SEO overhaul. But there are still some significant changes you can start to make today to ensure that your site is optimised for voice search.
1. Target Longer-Tail Keywords
Most people feel more comfortable speaking than they do typing — especially when trying to type on a mobile device. That means that voice searches are going to be more verbose. And if you want your site to get found first, you’ll need to focus on longer keyword phrases. Plenty of searchers are either impatient, on the move, or multi-tasking. When they’re using a keyboard, they’ll be searching for the terms that use the fewest number of words to quickly get them fairly close to what they need — “Pizza New York”, or “Car Repairs”, for example. [pullquote]with voice searches, [users] can rattle off extensive and detailed requests without testing their thumbs, eyes or patience.[/pullquote] But with voice searches, they can rattle off extensive and detailed requests without testing their thumbs, eyes or patience. They might ask “Where can I get a late-night pizza with free delivery to Long Beach?” or “Where can I get my transmission checked in Chicago for under $50?”. These longer searches don’t just help visitors connect with websites that are the closest match to their specific needs. They also bring your website qualified prospects that are much closer to their buying decision — and that means you need to make sure the keywords you’re targeting match up to these highly valuable searches.
2. Use Conversational Language
Be honest: have you ever really searched for something like “automotive maintenance” on Google? Or was it something more like “auto repairs” or “car mechanic”? Speaking in the language of your customers has been good SEO practice for a long time. And with the rise of voice searches, it’s only going to become more important. Of course, “automotive maintenance” is a ludicrous example of an everyday search term. But there’s still a huge difference between the things people write and the things they say out loud. [pullquote]But there’s still a huge difference between the things people write and the things they say out loud.[/pullquote] If you’re looking for software that can help you manage your projects and stay on top of your deadlines, it’s plausible that you would type something like “organisation apps” into Google. And almost all of the search results look helpful and relevant: But the words that come out of our mouths aren’t always so precise and succinct. If you’re navigating the rush-hour freeway on an empty stomach before your morning coffee, your brain might not be able to do any better than “app that helps you do more stuff”. And those results look decidedly less helpful. The solution? Create content for your website that uses the same natural language that your target audience would say out loud. Don’t fill your web page with content that talks about “achieving higher levels of success” — tell them that it helps them to “do more stuff”, “get more done”, or “waste less time”.
3. Build Content Around Answering Questions
How do people in real-world situations get access to the information they need by using only their voices? With questions, of course. It’s likely that a huge number of voice searches are going to be in the format of a question — it’s just a natural fit for the medium. That means you need your website content to answer those questions directly, accurately and comprehensively. The simplest way to do this without affecting the experience of traditional searchers is to set up a dedicated FAQ page, posing the most likely questions and giving useful responses. And the simplest way to come up with the most likely questions is to use the questions that are already being asked. With tools like Answerthepublic or StoryBase, you can enter keywords relevant to your website and see the most common questions asked, broken down by the type of question (who, what, where) and the supporting prepositions (to, for, near, with). Armed with this data, you can build the kind of helpful FAQ that brings your website closer to the top of the search results when your potential visitors need information. [pullquote]an understanding of the types of questions being asked can help you to draw in the right people at the right time.[/pullquote] On top of that, an understanding of the types of questions being asked can help you to draw in the right people at the right time. According to Google, there are four key micro-moments in a consumer’s journey. The types of questions they’re asking at different times can help you to understand the stage that they’re at — and give you insights into how ought to be responding. People asking “What’s the difference between A and B?” are likely to be casual window-shoppers or curious researchers, and ought to be directed to your helpful informational and educational pages. But those asking questions like “What’s the cheapest A?” or “Where can I find the best B?” are much more likely to be on the brink of making a purchase — and those are the kinds of questions you want to target with your PPC adverts to lead them to a landing page to close the deal.
4. Make the Most of Your Local Listings
According to research, mobile voice searches are three times more likely to ask for local information than standard searches. People aren’t just making general enquiries when they use voice search. They’re asking for instant solutions to their pressing needs — and that means they’re ready to commit. To make the most of these quick-sale customers, you need a site that’s optimised for local searches. So make sure you:
- Register your website with the relevant directories (like Google My Business) and keep your details up to date. If you change your opening hours, prices, or phone number, go back to your older listings and correct them.
- Make your online reviews shine. Reviews are critical for local searches in Google — so encourage your customers to leave reviews and do your best to respond to any negative ones.
- Include Schema markup code to help search engines recognise your important local information, such as addresses or opening hours.
If you’re not sure where to begin, you can take a few local-friendly tips directly from Google, or try out their Structured Data Markup Helper.
5. Get your website mobile-ready
While there are plenty of desktop users who are searching vocally, you can expect a massive portion of your potential visitors to be using voice search through their mobile devices. And if your site can’t provide a good experience for those mobile users, you can expect a massive portion of your visitors to head straight back to Google to find one of your competitors. So how do make your site more friendly to mobile users? Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Analyse your site’s mobile usability with a tool like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Tester. It’ll give you a screenshot of how your site looks on a mobile device, as well as highlighting any usability problems — like small fonts or the use of Flash.
- Trim the fat for a faster user experience. More than half of mobile users will abandon their visit if your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load – so keep the number of images and their file sizes to a minimum.
- Keep your content brief to match mobile attention spans. Use the lowest number of words you need for an effective headline, and use the lowest number of paragraphs and sentences you need to get your message across.
- Use large icons, buttons and links. Don’t make your users zoom in for every click – and don’t punish a clumsy visitor who’s ready to convert.
To sum up…
Voice search is huge. And it’s only going to get bigger. Just like any other kind of SEO, you’ll need to keep up with the latest developments and updates released by the search engines, and continually test and tweak your site if you want to see it climb up the rankings. [pullquote]We don’t type how we talk, and you need your content to reflect that[/pullquote] But in the meantime, it’s worth starting to put the following into effect:
- Go for the longer-tail keywords. Vocal searchers are more likely to make detailed requests, and they’re more likely to be close to a sale.
- Speak in your customers’ language. We don’t type how we talk, and you need your content to reflect that.
- Focus on answering questions. If that’s the way people are going to search, that’s the best way to give them the information they need.
- Be there at a time of urgency. Voice searchers want quick answers and nearby solutions — so make sure you appear as a local answer to their problems.
- Give them the experience they want on the platform they choose. When so many people are searching by voice through their mobile devices, you need to be able to capture them with a painless journey — from the desire they express to the action that satisfies it.