It started in 2013 with a hummingbird. That year, Google released its Hummingbird algorithm update, which noted a move toward conversational search. What this meant, is that the search engine was moving toward a better understanding of text-based searches that were more colloquial in nature. In other words, results based on less formal Google search entries. We saw the mighty hummingbird in action over the past few years begin to answer searchers’ questions with the Knowledge Graph and carousel results. This formed the foundation of semantic search as we know it.
Today, artificial intelligence gals like Alexa and Siri have continued to transform the search landscape. Due, in part, to the A.I. capabilities of voice-activated devices, we are seeing a rise in conversational and voice search. According to Google, 70% of Google Assistant requests are in natural, conversational language. This means the search engines are no longer simply analyzing individual keywords, but rather the entire string of words, in order to return human-like responses within search results. That’s why when we ask a voice-activated device or search online for information, we receive a response that mimics human syntax. Below are a few tips to get your website in tip-top, conversational shape.
Tip #1: Speak Naturally, Y’all
Currently, the majority of websites are optimized for the way searchers type, not how they speak. Incorporating natural, conversational language within content is the first step in optimizing for voice search. Where conversational speech consists of phrases, questions and sentences, conversational search is no different. A voice query may include one or some of the five W’s: who, what, where, when, why or how. This type of optimization means we should build robust content that answers frequently asked questions around your brand in their words. You can mine email data, live chat and call center inquiries—if applicable—to find out what questions are most commonly asked. Voice searches take out a lot of ambiguity, and are performed with clear and specific intent in mind.
Tip #2: Embrace the Longtail+
When approaching the new type of keyword demand for voice search, it’s important to think from the user perspective. For example, instead of a text-based search of “hairdressers Atlanta,” a voice search may be, “where should I get my haircut?” As a good rule of thumb: Voice search queries are typically five to nine words long. When conducting keyword research, this is what is referred to as longtail+ keywords. Longtail queries in general have less competition and higher (more specific) intent, making them a powerful tool for your website. Longtail+ keywords are those that take the conversational and question-specific phrases into account.
Tip #3: Get Local
The hairdo example above also showcases the importance of local SEO as it relates to voice search. The majority of searches will be personalized to the searcher’s location. This means local SEO and basic local search hygiene are key. When optimizing for local search, three main factors are at play: proximity to user, brand engagement, and the quality of your business. You can optimize for these factors by updating your listings in local directories, including Google Maps, Google My Business and Yelp. These listings should be consistent across the board, as well as on your website, including your business’s location, hours and contact information. Reviews and star ratings play a key role with local SEO as well. Be sure you are responding to reviews, and actively engaged with your followers as a best practice.
Tip #4: Structured Data is Your Friend
Schema Markup—or structured data—is the code or metadata added to your website that tells search engines what the page is about. Schema Markup is important in making your website’s content more crawlable by allowing the search engines to classify and organize your site data. When adding the Schema Markup, Google will make sure the markup is searchable by voice-activated devices. Search engines look at a number of factors besides on-page content to determine the page’s relevance. Adding structured data to your site is one factor that can enable a competitive edge.
In addition to optimizing these top four tips, below is a list of voice search best practices:
- Page speed optimization
- Mobile responsiveness
- Domain authority
- XML sitemap submitted to Google
- Ensure content is well-structured
- Optimize site hierarchy
- Knowledge Graph
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