New waves of technological advances make earlier ones obsolete. The latest trend on the block is voice search, which has the potential to make conventional text based search obsolete. Google estimates 55% of teenagers and 41% of adults use voice search every day, and 56% of adults using voice search feel they are “tech savvy.”
For the end user, voice search improves ease and convenience, and facilitates a more accurate search. Speaking is a lot easier than typing. From the marketer’s perspective, voice search has great implications for SEO. If optimisation for the mobile was the big thing in 2015, optimising for Siri, Cortana, Google Now, and other voice based applications is all set to become the prime focus in 2016.
The challenge for marketers comes from the way people search. When typing in a search query, users tend to favour brevity. They tend to type in the shortest possible query, to get the desired results. Voice offers no such limitations. For instance, a user tying “best restaurants central London,” may say, “Which are the top five restaurants within two kilometres of Charing Cross”.
Marketers hitherto focused on keywords to match what users typed in their query box. Keywords are not a big consideration in conversational voice search queries. Websites that focus on providing the real “who, what, when where, why and how” answers would outrank sites that focus exclusively on keywords.
The challenge for marketers is multiplied by “Google answers,” which provide direct results on the search page. If a smartphone user can ask a question, and get the answer generated on the search page itself, why would they bother to search further down the list and enter another website? Google now provides direct answers on about 19.5% of total search engine queries, up from 4% in 2014-15. Google does so by searching for “authority” websites that offer direct answers to the query, in natural, free flowing language.
The obvious solution for marketers is to optimise their websites for conversational search queries. Time honoured SEO practises such as keyword stuffing and writing for robots are now well and truly obsolete. The new mantra is natural language, or writing in a natural flow.
Marketers should ideally:
- Revamp their content, infusing it with natural voice, in a free flowing conversational style, and discard conventional SEO practises, such as keyword stuffing. The content writer should think like a user, and write like a user, not as an algorithm crunching machine!
- Implement long-tail keywords to factor in natural flow conversations originating from voice search. They could still include specific terms commonly used by target market, but success depends on using keyword variations, or all possible ways users may “talk” when referring to the subject or topic.
- Implement an FAQ strategy, offering specific and clear cut answers to the who, what, when where, why and how questions, making it easy for search engines to identify natural search answers.
- Localise the content, and provide explicit information on the location address, working hours, and other specifics. A good proportion of voice searches are local in nature.
The “authority” of a website has always been crucial for SEO, and voice search makes it even more important.
Voice searches have the potential to humanise an increasingly cold world wide web, and make things easy and seamless for the users. Web marketers have to step up, and cater to the new rules of the game, if they are to remain in business.