Marketing specialist, Maggie Robinson, Director of Marlborough-based Smart Thinking Consultancy, discusses the power of voice search.
The rules around how to get your website on the first page of the search engine results is always changing, but new technology has prompted the biggest change we’ve seen in a while.
Voice search is the latest shift which is already having an impact on the results the search engines are displaying, and with 1.6 billion of us expected to be using voice searches by the end of 2021, that impact is only going to increase.
Lots of us have Alexa or Google in our homes or on our phones already, and both Amazon and Google are working on their own versions of smart glasses (Echo Frames and Google Glass respectively) so we can wear our voice activated assistants all the time.
The speedy rise in home assistance devices show how quickly something like smart glasses could take off, and, in turn, how much we’ll all turn to voice activation to help us with our day to day tasks and searches.
What difference do voice searches make?
We’ve all got into the habit of searching using the main keywords we’re looking for, such as ‘slow cooker recipes.’ However, when we ask our devices for inspiration, we use full sentences like ‘Hey Google, what’s a good slow cooker recipe?’ or even ‘Alexa, what can I make with my slow cooker tonight?’
It’s forced the brains behind the search engines to interpret our questions in order to answer us properly. The ‘People Also Ask’ box that has appeared on the Google results page has been designed because of this. It displays other, similar searches that others have asked and shows what it believes to be the best answer in a drop-down box – all the information is right in front of you on a single results page.
We’re also searching for different things. With a smart phone in our pocket, we’re more likely to be interested in things nearby and that are available at this moment, and this is only going to increase if we’re all wearing the technology, not just carrying it.
In order to keep up with our changing use of internet searching, search engines are looking for a different kind of answer to our questions. Websites written in a more conversational and friendly tone reflect the language voice searchers use, and so rank more highly in the search results.
Machine learning is also getting more advanced and knows that if we’re asking for something ‘quick’ or ‘fast’, we’re probably looking for the same thing – so the answer to your query may not even mention the words in your search. It’s a big shift in SEO.
Aiming for the top spot in searches
Virtual assistants have created another change in the SEO game. We’re now much more likely to listen to the results of our query rather than read them. The search engines choose what they believe is the most relevant result, so if you’re not top, you won’t be mentioned.
To increase the chances of getting that coveted number one spot in Google search results, you need to directly answer the questions your customers will be asking. This means that loading a page with the phrase ‘slow cooker recipes’ might not be enough to convince the search engines that your information is the most useful.
Instead, natural phrasing seems to be coming out on top, so longer keyword phrases may be needed. Therefore, you might want to include phrases like ‘simple slow cooker meals’ or ‘healthy meals made with a slow cooker’ throughout your content, as well as those short keywords for those using traditional search.
What questions are people asking search engines?
It’s those same questions you were taught at school: who, what, why, where and when. This means it’s important to think about the questions in each of these categories that people might be asking about your product or service – if you answer the question directly, you’re more likely to be that single answer the virtual assistants choose to share.
You can get an idea as to the answers currently ranking highest by checking the ‘Featured Snippet’ that appears on the search results page now. Not only does Google display this information on it’s own results page, so the user doesn’t even have to click through, it’s this snippet that people will hear when they ask their phone or home hub.
But don’t be tempted to write an essay – the average length of the information in a Featured Snippet is just 29 words. Google now looks at the whole of your page content in order to find the relevant information, not just the tags and metadata SEO experts have traditionally used, so the trick is to make sure your information is informative, easy to read and not hidden behind jargon.
Creating useful content which addresses the needs of your customers makes it much more likely that your content will be selected by the search engines.
Of course, many website and marketing experts have been advising people to create good content and not just SEO fodder for a while, because if you write content which is clear and informative, your customers are going to want to visit your website, which will improve your ranking in itself. However, with the increase in voice searches, providing relevant, concise information is going to become increasingly important.
Businesses who make it easy for the search engines to return fast, relevant results which are easy to read (or listen to) will be the ones who find themselves in that top spot in the search engine rankings.
For help and advice to get your website content in the best ready for this new phase of search engine optimisation, contact Smart Thinking Consultancy on 07920 143172 or email: Maggie@Smartthinkingconsultancy.co.uk