Tech enthusiasts and the digitally illiterate alike are no longer afraid to raise their voices: voice-enabled services are officially a thing.
According to Google in 2016, 20% of all mobile queries were voice searches. In 2018, that figure is nearing 35%. And although there’s residual reluctance in some consumers to speak to their devices, that hesitancy has been fading fast over the last five years. The number of virtual assistants in households is steadily climbing, and with many services surpassing an accuracy rate of 98%, it’s no wonder that tens of millions of voice-enabled home devices are believed to be in use across the US alone.
In fact, the popularity of home-based products is a useful chapter in a crucial and developing narrative: voice, as a primary interface is a solidly established reality well beyond mobile phones.
Inevitably, changing trends of this kind present a challenge for digital marketers, who find themselves needing to develop their strategies in order to take advantage of (or at least accommodate) the mounting enthusiasm for voice search technology.
The road to voice engine glory can seem like a long and winding road for SEO professionals, not least because most voice-enabled devices are pulling information from a range of sources: Google, Bing, Amazon and so on. Plus, although the market currently appears to be dominated by the usual suspects (Google Home, Cortana by Microsoft, Amazon’s Alexa, Siri by Apple), things are heating up in China, and it’s likely we’ll see a host of new smart speaker devices on the scene by next year, pushing up prices and adoption.
So what does this mean for content and its reign over the SEO kingdom? The fundamental shift acknowledged by most marketers is from content to context. When it comes to voice search, understanding intent becomes all the more important. Conversational search is rising: consumers are accustomed to structuring their questions to devices in a more human way, and voice search is the most natural environment for posing those sorts of queries, so popularity is climbing accordingly.
The questions are “who”, “what”, “when”, “where” and “why” based. As such, content should be structured and written so as to provide traditional SEO value and ensure that a voice engine recognises and understands the content’s context and meaning. If anything, then, content retains its supreme significance: in order to prioritise context, you need a solid and comprehensive foundation of high-quality content.
But what kind of tricks can we pull out of the SEO hat to get better results in this brave new world of voice search?
- Use Schema to mark up your content where appropriate
- Make sure your content is all-encompassing and in-depth – you want to provide detailed answers for all possible questions related to your product or service, even the questions that seem to be rarely asked
- Optimise your site for mobiles (which sort of goes without saying these days)
- Take a long tail/conversational phrase approach to deciding what sub-topics to produce content around
- Ensure crawlers can find your content.
With such rapid change afoot, SEOs might benefit from introducing a Digital Knowledge Manager to their teams, who can help keep everyone across the company up to date on emerging technologies and work with the existing digital marketers on how to jump at opportunities.
Don’t get too comfortable, though. The next challenge comes in the form of visual search, and those visually enabled voice devices are already on the horizon. It’ll soon be time for SEOs to suit up again – and don’t forget your thinking caps.
If you think it’s time to prepare your content for voice search, get in touch – we’d be happy to lend a helping hand.