Google Voice Search: How to Master the New SEO Challenge
In 2016, already 20 percent of all Google search queries in the USA were of a verbal nature. In the meantime the number has probably risen significantly, and not just in the USA. This presents new challenges to website operators. Spoken search queries are namely distinctly different than written ones, and Google reacts differently to them. Which SEO demands speech search involves and how you can react to them, we’ll reveal to you here.
Voice Search is a Matter of Course for Internet Users
- In the “eco Trend Report 2020” 83 percent of the surveyed IT branch experts agreed with the statement that by 2020 it will be an everyday occurrence to direct questions to search engines in colloquial language, just like you would to a friend.
- In 2016 at their developer conference in San Francisco, Google pointed out that every fifth search query is posed via voice input.
- Speech assistants like Siri (Apple), Cortana (Windows) or Bixby (Samsung) are becoming more and more popular. It has long been a matter of course for many smartphone users to give their device spoken instructions, instead of typing them in.
- Google introduced “Google Now” in June 2012 and since then has made it possible for every user to make verbal search requests.
- In 2014, Amazon came out with Alexa, the speech-based assistant for their smart loudspeaker Amazon Echo. These have been available in Germany since 2016.
- With Google Home the search engine giant is marching forward into the domestic arena.
In a nutshell: voice search has become commonplace for many internet users.
The SEO Difficulty with Voice Search is:
1. The searcher only hears one result
When a searcher asks a question, as a rule Google reads out the answer directly from the “featured snippet.” For this it uses the most relevant organic result. The user then receives only one search hit presented to them, instead of the usual ten. He can of course still see these if he looks at the screen. If the device doesn’t have a screen (Amazon Echo, Google Home) however, then this option does not exist.
Problem: Your website has to deliver the answer that is most relevant to Google. From which search results Google determines the “featured snippet” is unfortunately unclear. In any case it is not necessarily obtained from the number one spot on the search results list.
Question: If Google only reads out the answer anyway, how does my website benefit from that?
Answer: Google always recites the source along with the answer. If your website is mentioned, you receive no-charge advertising from the speech assistant. In addition, websites from which Google draws snippets receive 10 to 15 percent more traffic.
2. Search queries are mainly action-related
Verbal search queries are not comprised of one or two words. The searcher asks Google a question, such as “Where is the closest gas station?” In this example, Google has to not only know about the gas station, but also its location, and the position of the searcher. Only then can a satisfactory answer be determined.
Problem: Action-related queries are very complex. Google therefore factors in broader parameters to deliver relevant results.
3. The search queries are not known
Until now webmasters and website operators have not been able to find out which speech-based search queries are received by Google. However, the search engine promises improvement. Soon Voice Search queries are supposed to be listed separately in the Google Search Console.
Problem: How can a website be optimized when it’s not known what users are searching for?
Who is Affected by Voice Search?
Voice search is used predominantly in the B2C arena. End users find out product information, contact information, store locations, and the like in this manner. If your website is active in this area, then there’s no avoiding a corresponding optimization in favor of voice search.
In the B2B sector on the other hand, it is less important. Speech assistants available in the office, like Cortana on a Windows PC, however are seldom used there. Here the classic search via text input remains the favorite.
What Can You Do to Aid Being Found by Google Voice Search?
1. Google must make your page the “featured snippet”
That is easier said than done. SEO experts are namely divided over the issue of when Google builds a snippet from a page and when it doesn’t. And so the related structuring of data with markups from Schema.org is supposed to help, but you can easily test it yourself. Ask Google a couple of questions. In most cases the snippets do not include any markups. So that is not necessarily the solution, even though it can be helpful.
What SEO experts do agree on is that webpages should have the following structure:
- Keywords that are relevant to the question should be in your page’s header, but NOT the question itself.
- The search query should show up as a heading (H1, H2, H3, H4) on your page.
- The answer to the search query should be placed in a tag (i.e. <p>Answer</p>) and be located directly under the heading.
- An answer length of 40 to 58 words is ideal for a snippet.
- Google prefers logical and well-structured answers. Where suitable, these can be lists, step by step instructions, or the like.
Question to Google: How do I bake bread?
Keywords in header on your page: bread, baking, recipe, ingredients
Heading on your page: How do I bake bread?
Answer under the heading:
- You need 500 g flour, 1 tsp salt, 350 ml water, a packet of dry yeast, and a little oil.
- Mix all the ingredients well and pour into a greased load pan.
- Allow the dough to rise for 20 minutes.
- Bake the bread for 40 minutes at 220 degrees C.
Note: Even when all these conditions are met, it’s still not a guarantee of snippet creation by Google. How exactly the search engine proceeds to make the selections is unknown. However what is known is that the user’s region and previous search behavior both play an important role. Google draws conclusions from that about the context of the search query. Unfortunately you cannot influence parameters like location and search history with your webpage.
2. You have to ascertain your target group’s possible questions
To find out what kind of search requests users direct to Google, you will hopefully soon be able to use the Google Search Console. Currently (as of May 2017) that is not possible. Therefore you can simply search “Google query tools” on Google, and be provided with all sorts of aids. With these you can then determine the most popular queries.
In addition to that, put some thought into how you would ask about your own services, products, contact details etc. Your friends and acquaintances can also be of help. You should definitely consult people who have no idea about your business. In doing so, you avoid questions that are too technical, and that hardly anyone would actually ask.
3. Incorporate the established questions into your webpage
Once you have come up with the questions, integrate them into your site. And don’t forget the appropriate answers! The FAQ section is of course ideal for accommodating all the questions and answers.
In addition, be sure to incorporate all the possible information into logical locations.
You run the XYZ bar. The address then belongs under the heading of “Location” or “Contact” or “How to Find Us.” You can of course also formulate a question (“Where do I find XYZ bar?”) and answer it on your site. In this case it is ideal to incorporate Google Maps into your webpage. And don’t forget to include the hours of operation. The time of day can absolutely be relevant to Google. The user shouldn’t be sent to a closed establishment.
4. Use Longtail Keywords
Because voice search is action-oriented, longer keywords are becoming more and more important. So use them increasingly in your text content.
Text search: SEO strategy
(Keywords: SEO, strategy)
Voice Search: How can I develop a good SEO strategy?
(Keyword: develop SEO strategy)
You can find detailed information about the topic “keyword search” in our blog post”Keyword search: The most important tips and tricks in ten minutes“.
5. Filler words acquire SEO meaning
Filler words like “from,” “to,” etc. which were unimportant for text searches, have meaning for voice searches. Thanks to semantic algorithm adaptations, like Google Hummingbird, the search engine actually understands their meaning. So be aware of using the correct filler words when formulating your text passages.
A user is looking for a bus connection from Berlin to Paris.
When doing a text search, the following search words would likely be entered: “Bus Berlin Paris.” If he speaks the question to Google, then it would sound something like: “Which bus do I take from Berlin to Paris?”
6. Strive for positive ratings
Even if you don’t have much interest in what kind of ratings your business has on Yelp and other ranking platforms, it does interest the speech assistants. Via Alexa even Amazon recommends stores in the area with good ratings, although they actually compete with the e-commerce giant. And so a positive rating is important especially for businesses that operate regionally, so that they’ll be recommended by Siri, Google, Cortana etc.
Your Site will be Found by Voice Search Too
There’s no need to be afraid of speech-based searches and the accompanying search engine optimization. If you have run a well-structured website up to this point, and offered your users relevant content, then only small changes are required.
Maybe you expand your FAQ section, and reformulate a few headings. In addition, assess how many of the keywords you use are question-based and change them if necessary. And when doing so don’t forget the longtail keywords.
If your website has offered users a good surfing experience until now, voice search will appreciate that and list your page.
Tip: Clickworker can help to quickly optimize even extensive amounts of text for voice search.
Surveys on the subject of voice search, for example to find typical search queries, can also be effectively performed by the clickworker community.