With voice search on the tip of everyone’s tongues, digital marketers are asking themselves: should this change the way I approach SEO? Ostensibly, there are few differences between typed search and voice search — both input text to Google’s search engine, feeding back the same results page. But there are some new behavioral practices emerging among voice search users that you might want to take into account in your SEO campaign. At the very least, they might shed light on how the landscape of SEO is set to shift over the coming decade.
Slow demise of keywords
Keywords were currency in the old days of SEO. How many could you squeeze into an article? How many could you hide in white font on a webpage background? Today, SEO is about user experience. Google’s algorithm is becoming more and more advanced in its ability to rank content readability, and also to understand how much people are engaging with the content they read. Rather than a robotic box-ticking exercise for points on the SEO scoreboard, the game of content will be dictated by what captures and maintains the interest of users, requiring both valuable information and entertaining delivery.
Voice search is a part of this shifting dynamic. When using voice search, users speak in longer, more conversational form, as opposed to the keyword-heavy searches of typists. As searches come to reflect natural conversation more and more, the content will have to respond in kind. Copy that has natural flow will be privileged over jarring keywords and soundbites. Again, this is part of a wider transition, but with more than half of smartphone users using voice search technology, and predictions of sharp growth in popularity, voice search could become a key swaying factor in these SEO developments.
When you search a question into Google, you are often greeted with a small box of text extracted from a larger article. The algorithm chooses these excerpts based on a variety of factors and is becoming increasingly competent at providing pertinent answers to user queries. In voice search, these excerpts are even more important, as the voice assistant will often launch into a verbalization of this piece of text. It is hard to say at this point how users should write content in order to facilitate this function, but it seems that the main point lies in clear, concise writing. Having well-signposted paragraphs that respond directly to relevant questions (also known as good writing) could improve the algorithm’s ability to distill your content into key sections.
The importance of local
Voice searches are 3 times more likely to be seeking local information than typed searches. With more and more people adopting voice search tools, we may even see a rise in the total number of local searches, as those in cars or on the move now have a less cumbersome way of performing Google searches. This means that it’s becoming increasingly important to actively signpost that you’re a local business, for example with area-centric copywriting and advertising. Include notable local landmarks or establishments in your copy to further bolster local SEO.
The most pressing aspect of local SEO is, as always, your Google My Business listing. Having an updated, professional GMB page is by far and away from the most valuable use of your time when optimizing for local SEO. While the majority of businesses have now made the transition to the 21st century, understanding that without a Google listing you might as well cast a spell of invisibility over your store, some still lag behind. Updating the listing means adding good pictures, responding to queries and including information like website links and phone numbers.
The most obvious point, one that echoes throughout the frantic world of SEO, is mobile compatibility. A site that isn’t optimized for mobile devices will see users clicking off immediately, to which the omnipresent Google algorithm wags its finger admonishingly, penalizing your search ranking. Almost all voice traffic comes from mobile devices, so this is no longer an area where businesses can afford to lag behind in 2021.
The list of digital trends to keep up with grows by the day. Luckily, the advent of voice search tech doesn’t necessitate an overhaul in anyone’s SEO strategy, unless that particular strategy consists of having no strategy, in which case much work remains to be done. The development meshes quite nicely with several other preexisting trends in SEO, so businesses need above all to stay on top of the usual suspects. Ross Pike of web design agency Quadrant2Design comments, ‘Excelling at SEO may be difficult, but what is more manageable is the completion of a few key components, such as mobile-optimized sites, updated social media pages, complete Google My Business listings and relevant content.’ Businesses should stay aware of the developing trends in user experience like voice search tools, but not get distracted from focusing on the central pillars of SEO.
Theo Reilly is an independent writer and multilingual translator whose goal is to counteract stale writing in business blogs. Theo has a particular interest in business and marketing-related matters surrounding the online world, web design, exhibitions and events.