Is your content ready for voice search?





Blog Date

June 6, 2024


UK, Manchester

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Is your content ready for voice search?

Siri, Alexa, and the Rise of Voice Search

If only you could ask Alexa how to get ahead in voice search. Ah, if only it were that simple! The truth is, the rise of voice search has completely transformed the digital landscape, and marketers around the globe are scrambling to keep up.

The statistics about voice search are everywhere. In 2017, nearly 24.5 million voice search devices, like Amazon’s famous “Alexa” and Google’s Google Home voice assistant, were shipped across the United States according to Search Engine Watch. And that was just the beginning. Now, in 2024, voice search is continually on the rise, with Comscore predicting that 50% of all searches will be voice-based.

Smartphones have also gotten in on the action, with their own vocal options, such as Apple’s “Siri.” And according to a 2016 voice assist report by MindMeld, nearly 60 percent of voice searchers relied on voice search for its convenient hands-free option that makes it ideal for when a user’s vision and hands are preoccupied, like while driving.

As more consumers continue to invite these robotic family members into their homes and pockets, us marketers have no choice but to adapt. We must consider how this shift in user behavior impacts the conversion of bringing users to our websites and delivering what they’re seeking.

Decoding the Voice Search Landscape

Before we start theorizing the return of keyword stuffing or other long-gone SEO tactics, it’s important to understand what sources these new voice assistants are using to return results.

According to a Content Marketing Institute article by Brittany Muller, each device uses different data for delivering results:

  • Google Assistant: Uses Google’s search index and knowledge graph
  • Alexa: Utilizes Bing’s search index and AWS artificial intelligence
  • Siri: Depends on a combination of Bing, Wikipedia, and Apple’s own databases

So while keyword stuffing is still a thing of the past (seriously, don’t do this), keyword research still has a place in the voice search world, according to Muller. Because Google provides its users answers in the form of featured “snippets,” it behooves us marketers to invest in keyword research to learn more about how to compete for that prime real estate in search results.

“Marketers can do strategic keyword research to discover which keywords in their space result in a featured snippet,” Muller writes, “then they can try to provide a better answer that’s marked up accordingly to grab that featured spot. ‘What’ and ‘how’ questions result in the most featured snippets.”

However, it’s important to remember that entity authority also holds some weight in the voice search results field, and the more well-known and successful your domain is, the better chance you’ll have at real competition opportunities in snippets and voice results.

Optimizing Content for the Age of Voice Search

As Google, Bing, and other search engines continue to evolve their respective algorithms to better respond to more human-like content (and not keyword stuffing), writing unique, benefit-rich, user-focused content is more important than ever before. This is especially vital in the world of voice search because voice searches tend to be longer phrases than the typical keyboard search.

But even if the queries are longer, the results returning to users are still conversational — meaning they’re fairly short and sweet, answering the heart of what the user is searching for. Conversational keywords and phrases should mimic how users talk, and content silos should anticipate how users research.

Consider your approach to subheadings on your content — are there questions that users frequently pose to find answers related to your industry, and are those questions woven into your content? According to a Moz study of more than 1,000 voice searches, questions with “how” and “how-to,” as well as “what, when, and where” top the queries on voice assistants. And, the majority of results are text- or list-based.

With this in mind, some experts, like Sherri Bonelli at Search Engine Land, recommend building FAQ pages. Before you do, consider how to build healthy, user-friendly FAQ pages that deliver what your visitors need.

According to a 2016 Internet Trends Report, 22 percent of searches are for local information, but that’s just one piece of the pie. General information, entertainment, and personal assistant usage (such as calendar scheduling) are also some of the more common search queries for voice search.

Because local listings are such an important cornerstone to voice search experience, it’s wise to claim your Google My Business or Bing for Business listings as soon as you can, and keep your content updated. Reviewing and responding to local reviews, too, can be essential to the value of your business listing. And it’ll likely be what local searchers are trying to pull up when inquiring about local businesses, services, and products.

Aside from local listings, Aaina Bajaj, Digital Marketing Specialist at Signity Solutions, tells us that it’s helpful to employ structured markup, such as practices, to your site. Schema tells search engines what your site is about, not just what’s on it. And this kind of information – including the different content types you have (from profiles to blogs), as well as the primary language of the content, can be essential to voice assistants returning the right results.

Mapping the Customer Journey for Voice Search

No matter who your target audience might be, thinking about the stages of their buying or searching process can help you better plan the architecture of your site and its content. In the age of Artificial Intelligence – or AI – which relies heavily on a user or customer journey to appropriately route the next response or action, voice search results can do the same.

In Moz’s Voice Playbook, a conversation map — even if it’s not available in reality — can help your company map possible outcomes for voice search. “…You’ll see that there are huge swathes of the conversation that lend themselves to opportunity, either through content creation or some other kind of optimization,” writes Simon Penson, who uses a lawnmower conversation in his Moz article to demonstrate the types of content that could return on a voice search.

And as we’ve advised before, building empathy maps can result in similar goals. Not only can you build a more precise persona for your target audience — allowing you to understand their pains, gains, goals, and concerns — but you can find gaps in content, navigation, design, and other experiences that may be lacking. Kill two birds with one stone: Prep yourself for voice search results, and make your website experience even better.

Ready, Set, Voice Search!

At the end of the day, search engines and voice assistants return content that’s unique, written well for an end-user, and meets the needs of a user’s query. Well-written, quality content (that also plays well on mobile devices) should follow some standard architecture recommendations such as:

  • Optimizing for featured snippets
  • Incorporating natural language and conversational keywords
  • Providing concise, direct answers to common questions
  • Claiming and optimizing local business listings
  • Employing structured data and schema markup

Writing for an end-user will result in better user engagement and conversion opportunities, regardless of the search path a user relies on to reach your brand. And when you’re trying to tap into voice, consider using these same best practices to invest in content marketing, which can help capture even more specific search topics and long-tail keyword phrases to connect with voice audiences.

So, are you ready to take on the voice search revolution? Let’s get your content in tip-top shape for the future. After all, with the MCR SEO team on your side, you’ll be dominating the voice search results in no time.

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