Written by: Maggie Robinson, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
You’ve sorted out your website, filled it with SEO keywords, tagged all your photos and followed all the other ‘rules’ – so why aren’t you getting the results you expected?
The answer could be a voice search. As more of us use virtual assistants such as Alexa or Google, either through devices in our homes or on our phones, the way we’re searching for information is changing. Google estimates that 1.6 billion people will be using voice searches by the end of 2021.
Google continues to work on Google Glass and Amazon is introducing Echo Frames, both pieces of technology which look like normal glasses, but include the latest voice-activated assistance. While they’re not mainstream yet, it’s likely that this will increase the number of us using and wearing this technology and increase the amount of time we use it as we ask it to complete tasks and answer questions wherever we go.
What’s different about voice searches?
Traditionally, when we type into a search engine, we tend to use short search terms such as ‘best office desk’, whereas when we speak our queries, we use sentences – for example: ‘Alexa, what is the best office desk?’ or ‘Hey Google, what’s the best desk for my office?’
It’s already changing the way that Google displays its results. You may have noticed the ‘People Also Ask’ box on the first results page. This shows you actual, full-sentence questions that other people have searched for and displays the highest-ranking information for that search – you don’t even have to click on the link to the website. It’s all held within the search results page.
It also influences when we search and where we are when we do it. With voice search available on our phones, we ask questions when we’re out and about and are more likely to be interested in the things geographically close to us – something that is likely to increase even more as wearable technology becomes more affordable and more widely available.
This change in the language we use when we’re searching for information means that search engines are looking for different answers. As people talk in a more conversational manner, search engines believe that the most relevant results for the query are those which reflect that tone.
Combine that with machine learning, which is getting better at learning how we speak, such as interpreting synonyms and understanding colloquialisms, and you can see why the SEO game is changing.
If someone searches using a virtual assistant device, they may not even see the results. They’ll simply hear them – if your product or business isn’t top of the list, it won’t be heard at all.
How do I rank highly in voice search results?
The information on your website needs to directly answer the questions that your customers are asking. So, going back to our desk example, simply having the words ‘office desk’ on a webpage isn’t going to be enough to answer the question about the best office desk. You need to have a human response.
This might mean that you find your keywords growing too, to include those common phrases. You might discover that a good keyword phrase is now ‘best desk for a home office,’ for example, and that long keyword phrases like this need to be woven through your content as well as the more traditional, typed search terms.
What questions do people ask when they search?
We’re using the ‘Five W’s’ more often – who, what, why, where and when, so making sure your website directly answers the questions your customers are likely to ask will increase your chance of being that magic answer selected by the search engines.
And while the questions might be getting longer, the answers need to be brief. The average length of answer in response to a voice query is just 29 words on Google, so keep those key points short and sharp to increase the chances of coming top of the list.
Putting all of this in place is more likely to get your information into the elusive ‘Featured Snippet’, another relatively new feature of Google’s search pages, which displays some text which directly answers the question you have asked without you having to leave the search results page. It’s also the piece of information Alexa or Google Home will read aloud in response to a question.
Google finds these snippets by looking at the content of your website pages, not just the behind-the-scenes tags and URLs which boosted content previously. This makes it even more important to make sure your content is relevant to the search terms and helpful to the searcher.
By including lots of relevant, succinct information that answers the questions your customers are asking, you’ll stand the best chance of ranking highly when it comes to voice searches.
It’s always been the case that if your website has well-written, relevant content that your customers want to read, your website is more likely to rank highly – if you know what you’re talking about, your website content is going to be relevant and interesting to your customers. As search engines are continuing to develop their technology to help their users get the most relevant results in the fastest possible time, imparting useful information in an easy to read (or hear) manner is going to be even more critical for those businesses who want to claim the top spot in search engine results.
Maggie Robinson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Maggie Robinson is the founder of Smart Thinking Consultancy and works with businesses across the UK, supporting their digital and traditional marketing needs.
Maggie’s all-round approach allows businesses to benefit from her knowledge and experience of all aspects of marketing, rather than being tied to just one activity.
From website health checks to Google ads, brand awareness to marketing campaigns, Smart Thinking Consultancy can help your business achieve its goals. Whether you need one-off assistance with a single aspect of your marketing or a full, cohesive strategy, Maggie has the knowledge and experience you need.
Maggie is a former South West board member and current Fellow at the Chartered Institute of Marketing. She has worked with well-known household brands as well as many small to medium-sized companies.