Voice Search Optimization for Content – First Steps

SEOs love talking about how voice search is the future. The technology is already here: on our phones and in our homes. Now, content marketers must understand how to optimize their content for voice search.

Source: Matt Botsford, Unsplash

Digital marketers have talked about voice search for a while now.

Voice command technology is improving and making its way into everyday use: on our phones and in our homes. The first step to optimizing content for voice search means understand the tech itself.

At Internet defines it as:

“…a technology that allows the user to use a voice command to perform a search on the Internet, a website or an application. The result of advances in speech recognition, this feature first appeared on smartphones, making it possible to replace the search bar.”

The ability to search is only the beginning. Voice command technology lets us control appliances around the house, and even write by dictation.

Reports state that 111.8 million people in the USA were already using this technology regularly. And this number will probably grow.

This means content marketers need to get busy.

SEO is levelling up and your content should reflect that.

Optimizing content for voice search means we should still follow its basic principles: providing relevant and helpful answers. As usual, this also means placing relevant keywords (and phrases) into the text. In many cases, this may involve simple content enrichment or a complete overhaul.

Understanding the User – Typers & Talkers

Like all marketing, optimizing content for voice search should begin with a solid understanding of the user.

When searching for an answer, users typically type relevant keywords into a search bar. This brings up a results page. Today, a typical Google search looks like this:

Results for Google search query, "content marketing 2021" including list of relevant questions related to the term. Liam Hennessy, Digital Strategist

It may also look like this:

Google search results for the term "What is SEO?". Includes list of relevant questions. Liam Hennessy, Digital Strategist.

In the second screenshot, I type a question (“What is…”) that includes a keyword head term (“What is SEO?”). A direct answer to my question sits right there. This is called a “Featured Snippet”.

When typing on a device, users are typically willing to find long answers and will happily scroll down the page to find the best result. When searching, they may only write the relevant head term (“content marketing 2021”, “SEO”).

These users are typers.

Users that ask a question with voice command will typically use more natural language (“What is SEO?”). These users are talkers.

Answers to voice search queries come from the Featured Snippet that appears after the user uses a longtail question phrase (“What is SEO?”, “What is content marketing?”). The most helpful, relevant answer shows up and whatever voice program you’re using will read it out.

When optimizing content for voice search, the goal is to get into the Featured Snippet. Optimization therefore comes down to the way you write an answer to a user’s query.

Be aware: SEO best practices change and improve all the time. These are not set in stone. User behavior will likely mold and craft how these guidelines develop in the future. It’s always all about the user.

1. Create “Rich Answers”

Rich answers are anything that contains a Featured Snippet and other elements like Google’s Knowledge Graph, Knowledge Panel and Knowledge box.

2. Consider Content Structure

Voice search is more conversational than a regular search. Your content should reflect that. This could mean including questions as H2 headlines and answering the question in the following paragraph. One effective way to implement this is by including Frequently-Asked-Questions (FAQs) on the page.

3. Write Conversational Content

Natural, conversational language is the key to answering questions. Your question will be read out, so the more it sounds like a conversation, the better.

4. Use Longtail (Question) Keyword Phrases

Voice searches typically use longer keyphrases due to their conversational nature. This means content creates must focus on developing long-form content that includes questions and answers.

This is just the beginning. The specific tactics you need to implement will depend on your business, your goals and what kind of websites or other digital assets you own. Local businesses, for example, will need to apply these optimization tactics to their Google My Business listing.