Society Claims “We Aren’t Talking Anymore.”
While that might be true from a social psychology perspective, that’s definitely not true when it comes to voice search. In fact, we are talking to our devices all the time.
“Siri, how much does a hippo weigh?”
“Okay, Google. What is the temperature outside?”
“Alexa. What movies are playing at the theater tonight?”
Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are all investing heavily into voice search and virtual assistants. Is voice search changing the way we look up information in general? Let’s explore how SEO and PPC play into the way we’re searching for knowledge through voice.
Just How Popular is Voice Search?
When I talk about voice search I mean talking to your device, whether it’s a desktop, tablet or mobile phone in order to search something or achieve something.
When we think of voice talk, we primarily think about talking to Siri through our iPhone. In 2015, more searches were done on phones and tablets than on a desktop, so being mobile-friendly and adjusting your keywords are an absolute necessity. Google itself has started primarily indexing for mobile ranking opposed to desktop ranking.
What does this mean for voice search? According to Google, roughly 20 percent of all mobile queries use voice search. In fact, a recent study says that over half of teens and 41 percent of adults use voice search on a daily basis. And this means a lot of potential changes for SEO and ad buys.
Why Are People Using Voice Search?
This probably won’t take anyone by surprise, but most people use voice search for directions. Google also found that teens and adults are using voice search for text messages, calling contacts and businesses, checking the time and playing music. As a company who may want to strategize for the future of voice, it’s important to realize how these virtual assistants are being used and just how frequently.
How do Voice Search and Text Search Differ?
There are a few obvious differences between how we verbally ask a question versus how we type a question out. The main difference is that we use longer phrases to ask a question.
We aren’t going to say “Siri, weather, Paris.” We’re going to say “Siri, what is the weather like in Paris today?” Knowing these main differences can impact your SEO strategy as voice search gets more popular. If you look at your insights, you’ll find the following are the key indicators of voice search queries.
Length: Voice search queries are typically longer than typed search queries. More specifically, voice search queries are 4.2 words longer than the average text query.
Question phrases: Voice searches use more question words and phrases. For example, a study from Microsoft’s Cortana found that people type “Microsoft CEO” and people voice search “Who is Microsoft’s CEO?”
Question words can tell marketers a user’s intent: Voice search has the power to let marketers know the intent behind a question. The image below shows exactly how certain question words can tell a marketer the intent and context behind a question.
Voice search has high local value: People typically use voice search to find businesses near them they want to visit. According to Google, “near me” searches doubled in 2015 alone. These voice search users might ask something like, “Where’s the best coffee in NYC?” In these extremely common cases, you’ll definitely want to optimize your site to include things like, “best coffee” and maybe even include landmarks you’re near.
Also, add a conversational tone to your website and answer questions as if you’re being asked face-to-face. A great way to tie in a conversational tone and question phrases is to have a Q&A page. You want those bots to be able to easily crawl your site and rank you higher.
How to Optimize Your Content for Voice Search
Virtual assistants, voice search, and AI technology are all evolving. The goal is to make this technology so intuitive and advanced that it knows the intention of the user’s question opposed to providing just a straight answer.
What does this mean for keywords and SEO? This means long-tail keywords and questions will become more valuable than just targeting short keywords. A writer, marketer, and SEO strategist will need to tailor content to answer an audience’s question as opposed to writing content to rank for a few specific keywords.
Here are some basic voice search SEO practices.
Be direct with your content: A user should never have to hunt to understand your business’s mission, location, hours of operation and contact information. These should all be readily available so crawlers can rank your site higher and Siri can answer a user’s question right away.
Utilize structured content: Once again, incorporate conversational content into your website. We discussed that a Q&A page is great for this already, but also update and optimize your Google My Business. Submit your sitemap to Google and Bing, and start incorporating schema, and microdata to give the search engines more information on your business.
How to Use Voice Search and PPC
One of the best strategies for optimizing for voice search is to target long-tail keywords. You’ll have a much better chance of matching queries if you target phrases that are conversational and mimic the way we speak in daily life. Long-tail keywords are usually cheaper to buy anyway and have a higher click-through rate compared to shorter queries. So, if you use this strategy, you could be getting ahead of your competitors.
Gather insights from existing search term data.
Dive into your search terms report and scan through the long-tail queries triggering your ads. In order to assess how your ads are performing for voice search, you’ll want to consider the user’s intent behind the various searches. Are they looking to learn or looking to buy? You should bid up on keywords generating conversions and bid down or exclude keywords generating a lot of clicks or impressions but no conversions.
Tailor your ad and landing page copy specifically to long-tail question/intent phrases.
Before you tailor your content, bid on specific AdWords and effectively use voice search queries to your advantage, you’ll need to know a few things; like how exactly your audience is using voice search to interact/find you. Moz calls these “assumed voice queries.”
Search engines don’t currently provide separate reports on voice search queries. The subtle difference between typed search and voice search is whom people think they are interacting with.
When people type into a search box, they know they’re typing into a machine. They aren’t using filler words or conversational questions. They are very logical and short. When people are using voice search to find answers, it’s like they are talking to a person. They’re conversational. When diving into your insights and keywords, know that “assumed voice queries” are longer and mirror natural language.
Moz recommends bidding on filler words so your ads will show up more for voice search results.
Voice Search Wrap Up:
We’ve covered a lot of ground in an emerging field that SEOs, content strategists, and SEMs need to have on their radar. Here are the main points to take away about the future of voice search.
- Voice search is on the rise. Roughly 20 percent of all searches are done through voice search or using a “virtual assistant.”
- People use voice search primarily for getting directions, dictating text messages, calling businesses, checking the time and playing music.
- Voice search queries are roughly 4.2 words longer than the average search and use more conversational language.
- When optimizing content for voice search, use more conversational language and gather insights to see which words have the highest value and bid on those.
- Experiment with a PPC by purchasing long-tail keywords and “filler” words.
Voice search is coming folks. We’re not quite like the movie, Her, but we’re growing, changing and evolving. Get ready for marketing efforts to do the same.
** To answer your questions above
- A male hippo weighs between 3,300-4,000 lbs
- A female hippo weighs between 2,900-3,300 lbs
- This is obviously a location-based question, but it’s 78 degrees in NYC right now.
- This question is also location based but everyone should probably see Beauty and the Beast… it was really good.
- The weather in Paris is partly cloudy and 50 degrees.
- Satya Nadella has been Microsoft’s CEO since 2014.