On the sixth day of Christmas iThinkMedia gave to me optimised voice search… Cameron Sykes, our SEO Executive, explores how voice search has is changing the playing field for SEO and how you can optimise your site accordingly.
Voice search has certainly been the buzz term of 2018 – and for a good reason. With the ever-growing popularity of voice assistants, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, more and more searches are being answered through these devices as voice search becomes a familiar part of our everyday lives.
What does this mean for SEO? As of right now, arguably not a lot. A recent post by Distilled CEO, Will Critchlow, estimated that 75-80% of voice searches can be categorised as ‘incremental’ and are focused on information retrieval or action-based, rather than transactional focused queries. However, don’t expect it to stay this way in the long term, as voice search is still very much in its infancy!
This is good news for those in the SEO industry who have been frantically worried about voice search negating their optimisation efforts!
Whilst voice search is not dominating the search industry as a whole just yet, there are industries that it will be affecting. If you operate a local business or have clients with a local SEO focus, then you should be adopting a voice search strategy. BrightLocal’s Voice Search for Local Business study found that 46% of voice search users look for a local business via voice search on a daily basis. This highlights a huge opportunity for those offering local oriented products/services to capitalise on.
Let’s look at how you can optimise for voice search:
Schema markup allows Google to better understand the context of elements on your website. This is likely to become an influential factor in whether or not your strategy maximises its potential as voice search continues to grow. By using Schema to highlight the key aspects of your page that are relevant to voice search, such as price, opening hours, upcoming events, etc. you can assist Google in extracting the key information that the user wants.
Strategic use of Schema markup also improves your chances of obtaining featured snippets.
As voice search currently has a primary focus on local queries it’s important to make sure that you have optimised your site for the local area. If a user searches ‘Italian restaurant in Hertfordshire’ and your company satisfies this search then you want to make sure that you’re prominently featured in the organic results, right?
Make sure that you have all of the basic on-page optimisations required for local searches, and that your Google My Business profile is complete with an enticing company description, plenty of positive reviews (if possible), and a complete profile with accurate opening times, high-quality images, and up-to-date contact information.
As we mentioned earlier, featured snippets are certainly a key factor to include within your voice search strategy. For informational voice search queries, such as “How to clean suede shoes”, Google will return a voice answer based upon the featured snippet available.
This drastically reduces the competitive ability for those currently ranking in the top positions for standard searches, as the user will not have the ability to select the answer that they think best satisfies their query.
A study by Moz on 1000 informational queries found that 87% of text-based featured snippets (like the one above) resulted in a voice answer, with this figure reducing to just under 50% for listed snippets, and 33% for tabular snippets.
It’s important to note that optimising for voice search is not guaranteed to increase your website traffic, as only 20-25% of all searches have a transactional intent. Currently, these are primarily focused on local results. Gaining the featured snippet can be a useful tactic for improving brand authority and increasing user confidence, but it is unlikely to increase traffic from a voice search perspective just yet.
When it comes to voice search, you need to consider the nature of the search and how the user is likely to pose their query. As of 2017, 70% of requests to Google Assistant are expressed in their natural language, and not in the standard search format. This means that as voice search queries with transactional intent grow throughout 2019 and beyond, it will be more important than ever to ensure that your content targets the tone of the user query.