6 SEO Hacks to Beat Your Competition on Voice Search in 2018 and Beyond
Google Assistant (Duplex) Announcement at Google IO and What It Means to Your Business
- Google announced the next generation of the Google Assistance in May 2018
- Google Assistant’s name is Google Duplex
- Google Duplex will be able to schedule appointments and carry on conversations
- Businesses will need to adjust their SEO strategy for voice search
- Create conversation and relevant content
- Ask & Answer questions your audience/clients will ask
- Add rich snippets to utilize microdata/schema
- Ensure your website is mobile friendly and fast
- Create long-form content that includes short, concise answers
- Answer your phone
During Google IO (May 8th -10th, 2018) Google announced the next phase of its Google Assistant development. It is well ahead of where most people anticipated it would be. Its name is now Google Duplex and let’s just say Skynet is real.
Google Duplex takes the digital assistant to a new level. Soon Google will be able to place calls, set appointments and carry a conversation with the person on the other end. Google Duplex will also be able to call businesses to confirm hours of operation on days where hours might be adjusted, such as holidays.
This is exciting and scary at the same time. This combined with a rapidly increasing focus on voice search (Gary Vaynerchuk’s VoiceCon is on May 22nd in New York City) should emphasize how voice search is becoming more of an integral part of our daily lives. Comscore estimates that by 2020 50% of all searches queries will be done through voice. Gartner estimates that by 2020 30% of voice search queries will be done using a device with no screen. https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2018/04/10/voice-search-statistics-2018
What does this mean for SEO and your business growth?
It means if you are not taking voice search seriously you better start. This is going to sneak up on everyone faster than mobile did. Not including this in your SEO and marketing plan could prove detrimental in the coming months and years.
Google, Amazon, and Apple are the primary players in voice search at the time of this writing. Google and Amazon are clearly the leaders in voice search. If you have used either of these services, then the potential is evident. If you pay attention while you or someone else uses Google or Alexa then it should also be clear there are subtle nuances between voice queries and text queries.
It’s also a safe bet that Facebook and other social platforms will add voice search features in the future. Whether your focus is social or search, the result is you will have to optimize for voice queries. Voice queries are not the same as type or text queries. The only real question is how soon you need to start considering voice search as part of your content marketing strategy. The answer is NOW.
Truth be told no-one can say for sure how voice search will impact SEO. Most SEO solutions providers have a good idea of what will happen. What is clear is how quickly voice search is evolving and the impact it is having on local search and SEO. Something else that’s clear is you will not be presented with 10 results on a page when you ask your virtual assistant a question. You will only get one result. You’re not competing for page one anymore. Now you will compete for number one.
6 SEO Hacks to Beat Your Competition on Voice Search
Adjust Content to Be More Conversational & Relevant
There is a difference between the way someone types in a search query and the way someone verbally asks a question. If you don’t know what I mean, then try it out yourself. Ask Google or Siri a question and then think about whether the way you asked is the same as you would type it in.
Case studies so far have shown that there are several factors that return results for a voice search query. One of those factors is the tone of the query response. Conversational pieces of content fared better on voice search.
It’s still early for the results to be concrete. Voice search is still evolving. Early case studies may not be relevant in a few months. That said the early case studies make sense. People would rather receive search query results in a conversational tone. Take a little time to think about the conversations you have with your peers, yourself and even your virtual assistant if you are already using one.
Ask & Answer Questions Your Audience Will Ask
When people use voice search they typically ask a question or issue a simple command. Questions require short and too the point answers. You’re already seeing this on the Google Search Results Page (SERP). Many times, if you ask a question it returns a result at the top with bulleted answers or a one-sentence answer. This is called the knowledge graph.
The knowledge graph results are often the result you get when using voice search. The knowledge graph began showing up on Google Search in 2016. It’s almost like Google has been planning this all along.
How do you get results in the knowledge graph? Answer questions. There are many ways to come up with questions and answers.
- What are some of the ways you can come up with questions to answer on your site?
- answerthepublic.com lets you ask a question and returns different variations of the question. This is sort of what Google does with RankBrain (Machine Learning). Google’s goal is to identify the searchers intent.
- Ask existing clients and/or audience for questions they may have and answer them.
- Use Quora to find questions related to your industry. Add them to your site and add answers.
- Use Google’s Question and Answer section on Google Business listings to create relevant questions and answers.
- You will also notice in my more recent blog posts I also include a bullet point summary near the top of my blog post. I am working my way backward on the rest of my blog posts to do the same. Either a 1-2 sentence summary or a few bullet points will be added.
You’ve probably heard about rich snippets. You may have even talked to a marketer about them. Are you using them? Statistics say you are not.
36.6% of Google Search results include at least one rich snippet, but only .3% of all websites use them. Search Engine Land April 22nd, 2014. While this has likely increased, I heard on a more recent podcast (within the last few months) that adoption of rich snippets is still very low.
Rich Snippets are derived from Structured Data added to website code. This structured data makes it easier for Search Engines like Google and Bing to understand what a web page is about. Structured Data also helps search engines extract important information from a web page. That information might include things such as:
- Hours of Operation
- Blog Author
- Type of Content
- Local Business Info
- And a lot more.
Structured Data uses specific language. The structured data the major search engines use comes from Schema.org. It is important to note that Rich Snippets or Structured Data is not exclusive to Google. In fact, Google, Bing, Yahoo all use it as well as Twitter, Facebook, and other social platforms.
Structured Data is going to play a big part in voice search results as this information is easier for search engines to decipher. It’s also easier for mobile search results to be returned based on structured data. Many voice searches are performed on mobile.
Let me get on my soapbox for a sentence or two. If your site is not optimized for mobile, rich snippets, and voice search, you are going to miss out on a huge chunk of search results. This will cost your business a lot of money.
Mobile Friendly and Fast
Alright, I mentioned it already. I have mentioned it in other blog posts and podcasts. I will continue to mention it until most businesses are taking it seriously. Mobile search represents more than half of all search queries. Many of those searches are done using a virtual assistant.
What do you do when you try to load a website on your phone and it takes more than a few seconds? Most of us will close it or go back to the search results to load another page. We will do the same thing if we load a web page on mobile and cannot view it or navigate it properly.
This impacts your search results because your bounce rate increases. Bounce rate is a user engagement factor. A high bounce rate and low time spent on a web page tell Google your web page is not relevant for the search query it is being returned for. It will not be found via voice search if it is not mobile and fast. Google wants FAST.
Google has already started rolling out mobile first indexing. Google says that this only impacts sites that are mobile friendly but sites who are not have also received notification from the Google Search Console. Page speed has also continued to gain importance, especially on mobile.
Long Form Content
Google almost anything and you will see that most of the responses are long form. Of course, it depends on the industry and your competition but the longer and more diversified your content the more likely it is to rank high in the search results.
The average word count of a voice search result page is 2,312 words. Therefore, Google tends to source voice search answers from long-form content. ~Backlinko Voice Search Analysis 2018
While word count helps the content rank higher on Google, short concise answers help your content be the query result on voice search. When creating your content, you will have to provide short answers (the above study suggests that results were 29 words or less on voice search) while creating long-form content, at least 2000 words, that is engaging.
I mentioned industry and competition. It is important to keep an eye on what your industry is doing as a whole and what your local competition is doing. It’s even more important to stay one step ahead. Don’t create content just a little better than what your competition is creating. Create content that crushes their Google rankings. This might seem harsh but at some point, a current, or new competitor will figure out that they need to put more focus into search results. When they do you don’t want to make it easy for them to take what you worked so hard for.
Creating long-form content is one way to ensure it will not be easy for your competition to take your search rankings. Creating long-form content that invites engagement is also a way to make you the authority in the eyes of your ideal audience and in turn Google. Becoming the authority means you have a better chance of getting in the knowledge graph and being found for voice search queries.
Answer Your Phone
This should seem like a no-brainer but unfortunately, it’s not. Answer your phone. Google is calling. One thing that is clear from the samples of Google Duplex (and they were real samples) is that Google will place calls to set appointments. If you are in a business that takes reservations or appointments it will be even more important to answer your phone.
Imagine if 50% of search queries were now voice. Now imagine if that search is for an Italian restaurant or a hair salon. Who will Google find? When they do will the phone number be correct, and will someone be available to answer the phone?
As mentioned earlier Google will call businesses on holidays to check what their hours are. I know of an Italian Pastry shop that lost a lot of business because Google showed them as closed on Christmas Eve. They were indeed open, but this is another example of why your Google Business listing is critical, and why it will be important to answer your phone.
You’re probably scratching your head trying to figure out why businesses must be told this. I was once hired to handle SEO for a local locksmith. I set expectations and clearly explained what would happen during our time working together. For 5 weeks the locksmith complained because he could not be found for New Haven Locksmith. He was two towns above New Haven and was number 11 in the search results. He was abusive and liked to insult people. After 5 weeks I had enough and fired my client. It was the first time I had ever fired a client but in retrospect I should have never taken this client on.
During this 5-week engagement, the locksmith was ignoring phone calls and email requests for service calls. He was only focused on getting to page one with New Haven Locksmith (which happened 5 days after I fired him). He was turning away business in a highly competitive industry. Traffic and results were being driven to his web properties but this locksmith was not focused on delivering a positive customer experience, or any customer experience. He wasn’t focused at all.
There are a lot of businesses, especially smaller businesses, that do not answer the phone on a regular basis. Don’t be that business.
Final Thoughts: Voice search continues to evolve and become more and more a part of our daily work and personal lives. It’s clear that voice search and virtual assistance will be a big part of how Google and other search engines return results. While these 6 Ways to Improve Your Search Results in Voice Search may further evolve it’s safe to say that these are areas that will need your SEOs attention in the coming months and years.
If voice search will account for 50% of all search queries in 2020 and 30% of those will be on a device without a screen what will you be leaving on the table by not adding voice search to your strategy?