How To Optimize Content For Voice Searches

Ingeborg van Beusekom

Voice searches have finally started to mature in recent years. Applications such as Google Voice Search, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Echo are steadily becoming better at understanding what we are looking for. This has significant consequences for content makers and marketers.

But how do you optimize your content for this purpose?

Speaking takes less effort than manually entering a search request, so it is logical that voice searches are increasing in popularity. According to comScore, this trend will continue. The market research expects that by 2020, voice will be used for almost 50 percent of all search requests.

Complete questions

Different search approaches go beyond just the input method. Where earlier users mainly searched for terms and phrases, the voice search allows them to ask complete questions. Instead of “recipe pizza pepperoni”, for example, personal assistants and search algorithms ask questions such as “What is the best recipe for an Italian pepperoni pizza?” This explains this year’s 61 percent increase in search requests starting with “who”, “what”, “where”, or “how”.

It is also important for content to answer questions when people ask them in a natural, conversational way. The value of keywords and metatags, which were once very important factors for search engine optimization (SEO), has decreased a lot in recent years. Voice searches are thus gaining a lead by allowing users to ask complete questions.

SEO done differently

Voice searches are rapidly turning the SEO world around. This is a generally positive development, as it contributes to content that people can really use.

But how does you create such content? The following steps will help you achieve this goal.

Step 1: Select the questions that your target group will ask

There are various ways to find out what your potential clients are looking for. For example, you could look at the questions being asked on the website, social media, and Internet forums. You can also find out from sales and customer service reps what questions clients frequently ask. You can even listen in to conversations to adopt their exact wording, which allows you to get closer to the language your customers actually use. Another option is to seek out the most frequently occurring search terms on a specific subject.

A useful suggestion is to apply the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” questions to your subject, product, or service. This will result in a related questions that are probably also regularly asked.

Step 2: Use a voice search to ask the questions yourself

Use a number of different voice search tools to gain an overview of the pages with the highest ranking. The Google app for Android and iOS would be an excellent starting point. This will allow you to get to know the competition and to better understand what your content should look like. Pay particular attention to the questions that are not being answered. First focus on these loopholes in the information supply, and then try to improve the existing pages. This last step will take a lot more effort.

Step 3: Create content that answers the questions

Enter your responses in the same text you would use in a conversation. When optimizing for voice search content, it is crucial to formulate brief, clear answers that do not cause any confusion. Avoid formal or excessively commercial language and use colloquial terms as much as possible. You can then enrich the answers to your questions with related and equally useful information.

Also take into account variations on the same questions so that you do not miss users who might word things differently. For example, “what do I need when going on holiday?”, “what do I take along on holiday?” and “what has to come along on holiday?” should all result in approximately the same answer.

Step 4: Work with structured data

For voice searches, it is very important that Google understands exactly what your content is all about. This will ensure that your content appears in response to all questions that pertain to your organization. Because questions are becoming increasingly detailed as a result of voice searches, Google must understand the intention of your content as accurately as possible.

One way of achieving this is via structured data. You do this by providing your web page with code that can be understood by the search engines. You can include quite detailed information about the content of the text in this code, as well as how this is related to the remainder of your website and thus to your service provision. The correct implementation of structured data is a highly technical task, which should therefore also be left to an SEO specialist or website builder who understands it.

Step 5: Increase your authority

One thing has clearly not changed: The authority of your website is still an important factor. For natural search requests (which are applicable to speech by definition), Google still usually displays the answer directly in a so-called “answer box.” The idea is to provide a brief answer in a large font that is easily visible on a smartphone screen. For direct answers, Google uses authoritative sites that frequently appear near the top of search results.

If Google consistently uses your website as a source for direct answers, this can result in a great deal of additional traffic, especially if Google’s direct answer is not very detailed. To increase the chance of Google using your content in a direct answer, you must ensure that the specific question is answered as quickly as possible and in clear (colloquial) language.

Positive side effects

A successful SEO strategy must be consistently used in all your communications. One benefit is that this allows you easy access to relevant content for social media — after all, you know what the target group is asking. The answers to their questions will definitely result in a lot of likes. Perhaps you might even get an idea for a new product.

For many organizations, the new SEO reality means they need to get to work. It is likely that their existing texts no longer meet the requirements, but that does not mean that they should be binned straight away! It is very useful just to give the old content a new cover, with more natural language use and a little additional information.

Voice search is here to stay. This provides opportunities for marketing managers because this new reality is not yet common knowledge. So stop focusing entirely on keywords and rather have a thorough discussion with your smartphone. If people think that you are mad, you will know better.

For more insight on voice recognition, see “Speak” And Thou Shall Find: The Future Of Voice Recognition.


Ingeborg van Beusekom

About Ingeborg van Beusekom

Ingeborg van Beusekom is a Senior Marketing Communications Manager at SAP. She is responsible for the overall External Communications of SAP which include Branding and Identity, PR, Account Based Marketing, Developing Global Employer Branding strategy, Internal Communications, Corporate Communications, Developing Creative Concepts, Social Community management, Platform Experience and Social Media Marketing for external Brand Awareness.