The tremendous growth of mobile devices has brought with it significant changes in how we use the internet. It’s also meant huge changes in the way we develop and serve content online. Most of us are now aware of the importance of using a mobile-first strategy to produce responsive content. The combination of newer hardware with recent advances in natural language processing and artificial intelligence mean that the next big evolution is already well underway—voice search.
These days people are in a hurry. Why type a clumsy search query when you can simply ask your phone directly? Not surprisingly, most of the major platforms have developed voice assistants to make our lives easier—you can use Google Voice, Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana. They’re easy to use and very accurate.
Let’s look at how we can take advantage of this new technology to help promote our own products and services.
1. Responsive Design
The first step is to ensure you are embracing a mobile-first strategy. Sometimes this requires rebuilding content so that it is suitable for mobile devices. Content is generally shorter since the viewable screen on mobile devices is limited. That means a lot of emphasis on quality over quantity. Your content must be responsive so that it adapts to whatever screen size it is being viewed on— whether smartphones, tablets, laptops, or desktop monitors.
In addition to being responsive, you need to consider page loading times too. Google’s next big update is all about speed. Avoid using plugins and uncompressed media because they have a big impact on loading time. This update is due to rollout mid-2018 but you can prepare for it now. Check out Google’s Page Speed Insights.
2. The Format
The first step is to understand that voice search is different to traditional text-based searches. Voice searches are longer and are closer to natural language. Instead of typing “where buy running shoes” it’s more likely to be something like “Where is the closest shop to buy running shoes from?”
This means we have to adapt our content to take advantage of voice search. Instead of emphasising short-tail keywords in our content we need to focus on long-tail keywords and phrases.
3. Understanding User Intent
Closely associated with the change in format is a change in user intent. People using voice search are much more likely to be asking direct questions with an expectation of getting a direct answer. There’s also a greater sense of urgency with voice search. People are more likely to be searching for real-time solutions. For example, they might be looking for the nearest taxi stand or the closest café.
This means our content needs to be focused on providing direct answers to questions.
4. Integrating Local SEO
One of the ways of making our content better suited to voice search is to ensure we are relevant. People searching this way are likely to be looking for local businesses and services. Begin by making sure your contact details are always up-to-date, especially if you have a physical store. Don’t forget to include a phone number. If people are comfortable using voice to search they’re probably also likely to want to talk to a real person. Next, register your business with Google My Business so that you are directly tied into Google Search and Google Maps. Finally, look for any other local online directories that are relevant in your area.
5. Helping Search Engines
You can go a step further by making it easy for search engines to understand your content. By ensuring your content is easily indexed and categorised you increase the chances of your content being shown in search results. This can be achieved in a number of ways:
- Structured Data Mark-Up
This gives explicit information about the content and purpose of your page. A great starting point is Google’s online documentation: “Introduction to Structured Data”. It’s also worth looking at org.
- Using a simple, logical structure to organise your website content
- XML Site Maps
These help search engines understand the structure of your website, particularly with regard to navigation. There are lots of free tools to generate them for you online but a good starting point is Google’s help article: “Learn about sitemaps”.