man talking to a scuplture
Voice search platforms now engage with natural conversational phrases by better interpreting meaning and context. PHOTO: Peggy and Marco Lachmann-Anke

In the hurried, fast-paced world we live in, it seems only natural that hands-free voice search is fast becoming the next big technology sensation.

Apparently, it's not enough to have the World Wide Web at your fingertips or even at the push of a button. No, now we want to have it at the tip of our tongues — and ask what, where, how, why and when almost anything with voice command software.

New voice-enabled devices were a breakout hit with consumers in 2016 — and now a growing number of devices and technologies mean voice search will become even more entrenched in homes and businesses in 2017.

The Big 4 Voice Offerings

However with Amazon, Google, Windows and Apple all having voice search systems to their names, how will SEO fair in this dialogue revolution? Let's start with a look at the competition.

Cortana is an intelligent personal assistant created by Microsoft for Windows 10, Windows phone, Xbox One, iOS and Android.

Google Assistant is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Google for its Home device and Pixel smartphones. Just yesterday, Google announced plans to roll it out to non-Pixel devices running on Android 6.0 and up

Siri is an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator developed by Apple for use on Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. A report from Digitimes last month cites a source claiming Apple is working on an improved version of Siri.

Amazon Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant that can powers several smart devices, including the popular Echo, an internet-connected speaker that listens for your instructions.

Voice Search Evolves

Across platforms, a new era of voice search is evident.

Voice search platforms now engage with natural conversational phrases by better interpreting the meaning and context behind them. For example, here are a few of the perks from Google Assistant.

Search history: If you ask for a the specific height of something, say a giraffe and follow that up with the query ‘I want to see pictures of it’ Google is able to interpret what ‘it’ is, based on your initial search, delivering pictures of the giraffe and stats on how tall. Clever!

Alternatively, you can help Google narrow down an answer through context if it's struggling. Say you ask "Where are the Cairngorm mountains?" Voice search may not respond because you are asking about a lesser-known mountain range in Scotland. But if you ask, What are the mountains in Scotland’ first, and follow that up with the query ‘How high are the Cairngorm mountains’, Google will tell you that it’s ‘1,309 m in elevation’.

Location Context: For example, if you ask Google to show you the how far it is to the airport or to anywhere. It will take into account your current location and calculate the journey time from there, without having to specify where you are. It knows!

Context about you: If you ask Google, "What’s my address?" it can now interpret who "my" is and obtain the information you require, without you having contextualizing yourself.

How Voice Search Affects SEO

  • With technology changing and adapting to meet the needs and demands of consumers, it’s important that SEO changes with it.
  • With voice here to stay, incorporating voice command into our websites as well as increasing the amount of quality, conversational style content are imperatives.

So what optimization strategies can we use?

Long Tail Keywords

While it’s unlikely that one word, short tail keywords will ever vanish entirely, they don’t exactly fit with the natural, conversational tone used in voice searches. We don’t want to feel like we’re talking to machines anymore. We need to focus more attention than ever on personalized, long tail keywords.

Informal Content

Writing content in a natural, conversational tone — you’ll be speaking the consumer's language, the language they use in voice search. Since Google doesn’t penalize for voice search friendly, the websites that are seen to adapting to the voice search world are the ones incorporating (voice) search strategies for typers and talkers, alike.

Schema Markup

One of the latest evolutions in SEO, a new form of optimization, a semantic vocabulary code used on websites is here to help return more detailed, informative results for users.

For example is someone searches for a music venue, by applying Schema to the SERP, (Search Engine Results Page) you can instruct the results to show a list of upcoming dates beneath the original search. This helps to promote your own business but also giving the searcher what they want, without having to always ask for it.

FAQs

Voice searchers ask questions typically with Who, What, Where, When, Why and How — and they’re looking for quick fixes to their search problems. Have a page for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that begins with each of these adverbs. Then answer them conversationally and informally.