Voice search is taking over how we use the internet. With applications like Google Assistant, Siri and Cortana and devices such as Alexa and Google Home, voice search has become easier, more accessible and more accurate. According to Branded 3, 40% of adults currently use voice search at least once a day and it is predicted that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be conducted in this way. This shift in how we use the internet will affect how your website appears in search results and will change the way you optimise your site for search engines.
How does voice search differ from typed search?
One of the ways to understand how your website may be affected by voice search is to understand how it differs from traditional typed searching. When we use traditional searching, we tend to use unnatural language, sometimes stripping things down to a couple of keywords, e.g. ‘supermarket Cambridge’. When we use voice search, we are more likely to use natural speech, e.g. ‘Find me a supermarket in Cambridge.’
With the typed query, a search engine will provide you with a list of supermarkets in Cambridge; a voice query, on the other hand, will use artificial intelligence to provide you with an answer to your specific question, e.g. ‘Your nearest supermarket is Tesco, 2.5 miles away.’
The answer provided is based on your query history, your current location and the context in which you provide the question.
The difference between the two types of search results is that the search engine will simply use your keywords to find relevant content, whereas the digital assistant tries to understand the meaning and intent of your query in order to provide the most appropriate results.
Are keywords still essential?
The answer here is that yes, keywords are still essential for helping your website rank on both traditional and voice searches, however, the way we use them needs to change.
The current thinking is that your site will rank better if it contains the exact phrase used during a typed search. This is one of the reasons why so many websites have badly written content that crams in as many exact search phrases as possible, e.g., ‘Welcome to your local builder Swansea. We provide Swansea builder services in your local area’. It sounds like gobbledegook but contains those essential keyword variants ‘builder Swansea’ and ‘Swansea builder’.
This SEO technique, however, is on the way out. Search engines and digital assistants are now using artificial intelligence based algorithms to better understand what we are actually searching for. When someone types in ‘builder Swansea’ they understand that you mean ‘Find me a builder in Swansea.’
The fact that search engines can better understand what users are searching for means you can use keywords in a much more natural way. It is more important to think of the specific information that searchers will be looking for and incorporate it into your content too. In other words, you should focus on long tail keywords.
Other implications of voice search
Imagine you’re in London and fancy a pizza. If you do a voice search asking where you can get a great Neapolitan, the results you are provided with will be more than just a list of London pizza restaurants. The AI algorithm will assume you want a local restaurant and will use GPS to find ones nearby. At the same time, it will try to give you the best results by providing restaurants that have good reviews and lots of social media check-ins. It may even check the time so that you are only given places which are open when you make the search.
How does this affect your website? It means that you have a better chance of being listed if all the relevant information can be found. You need to have reviews, enable social media check-ins, have your opening times and address on your website, and be listed on Google My Business so your business shows up on maps.
To make sure your site is fully optimised, you need to think of all the questions people may ask and provide all the answers in your content. For example, a person looking for a great pizza may ask the following:
- Where’s a great place to take kids for a pizza?
- Find me a pizza place near Covent Garden.
- Find me a cheap pizza restaurant.
- Where can I get a gluten free pizza?
There are numerous questions that searchers can ask. If you want to feature in the search results, provide the answers on your website.
Voice search optimisation tips
To help you make voice friendly changes to your website, here are some optimisation tips which can help you improve your ranking in voice search results.
- Have a responsive website
Many voice searches are carried out by people using smartphones who are out and about. If your website doesn’t display properly on a smartphone, you won’t be able to take advantage of voice search technology.
- Focus on long-tail keywords
As mentioned above, make sure the wording of your content is more natural and that your site contains long-tail search terms.
- Use schema mark-up
Schema mark-up is an additional layer of HTML tags that enables search engines to better understand your content and this, in turn, can make sure your website is included in relevant search results. For more information, check out this post from Search Engine Land.
- Add a FAQ section
Whilst we use keywords for typed searches, voice searches are usually spoken as questions. Search engines looking for the answers to those questions find FAQ pages especially helpful as they can read out your answer to the user. Finding out the questions people might want to know and then putting them together into a FAQ section on your website can help you rank better.
Voice search is going to become increasingly more common. Indeed, with artificial intelligence developing at the rate it is, it may not be too long before the keyboard as we know it becomes a thing of the past and text based searches get consigned to history. Consequently, webmasters need to think of how this shift in internet use will affect their search engine results. Hopefully, some of the ideas mentioned here will help you develop your site in the right direction.
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