Over recent years, search-engine optimisation (SEO) experts have been emphasising that designing websites with mobile users in mind was no longer an option, but a necessity. In the future, it is very likely that the same will be said about optimising websites for voice search.
The forward march of voice search
Voice search systems were initially slow to start because of the difficulty of understanding regional accents and informal vocabulary. Major IT companies, however, realised that they were going to need to address this if they were to succeed in placing voice-activated smart technology at the core of our everyday lives.
Now, voice search has moved outside of the realm of mobile devices and into the home in the form of Amazon Echo, Google Home, the Invoke Smart Speaker (featuring Microsoft’s Cortana) and, of course, the Apple HomePod. Over time, it’s highly likely that these “digital PAs” will be regularly used for the sort of internet searches people currently undertake on desktops, laptops and mobile devices. This will mean that sites will need to be optimised for voice search in order to stand a chance of competing in voice search.
The three key features of voice search
- Voice searches are more natural than text searches
“Brand name +bag +leather” would be a fairly typical text query but most unusual for a voice search. In fact, a voice search of this nature would probably indicate a very IT-literate user who understood the mechanics of search queries. When speaking out loud, it would be far more usual for someone to say “Leather brand name bag” or even “Find me a leather brand name bag please.”.
In other words, users tend to speak to voice assistants in a similar way as they speak to people. But, as they become more comfortable interacting with these “digital people”, it is probable that voice searches will become even more relaxed and conversational in tone, even incorporating slang terms which people are much less likely to enter as text.
- Voice searches have typically been for services in the user’s local area
This is probably connected to the fact that voice searches have typically been associated with mobile devices. Especially with people who needed to keep their hands free because they were driving. As such, this trend may change as home-based voice-activated assistants become more mainstream, and people voice search in the home as well as on mobile.
Having said that, people often respond very favourably to discovering that a company has a connection with their local area, so look into this if you are a local service.
- Voice searches tend to relate to a need for assistance of some kind
People using voice search tend to be in “search mode” rather than “browse mode”- they have an issue which needs to be addressed, and use voice search instead of seeking out a blog post or searching for in-depth information like they might do when browsing on a laptop.
This is unlikely to change with the increased adoption of home-based voice-activated assistants if anything it may become even more important. So adapt your voice-optimised webpages to provide assistance and immediate information, where appropriate.
- How do I optimise content for voice search?
There are a number of things you can do to optimise your content for voice search:
- Cater to micro-moments.
- I-want-to-know moments, where users are researching something.
- I-want-to-go moments, where users are looking for shops or businesses nearby.
- I-want-to-do moments, where users want to know how to do something.
- I-want-to-buy moments, where users are searching for a product from a physical or online store.
- Include question words in your copy such as “what,” “where,” “when,” “why” and “how.” Research variations of these questions words to discover a range of queries most relevant to your content.
- Use natural-sounding language. Google reports that 70% of Google Assistant queries contain natural language, rather than the typical keywords people type in a web search. Adapt your content to be more conversational, and use the lingo that your customers use.
So why not try getting ahead of the game and optimise for voice search, whether you own a local service or an eCommerce website, grabbing those extra voice searches could be a great opportunity.
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