Think quick, do you use the same search terms for text searches as you do for voice searches? At first glance, most people will say yes, but they’re wrong. When typing a search term to find a service, you will probably type something like: roadside assistance Olympia. When you are talking into your phone or using a digital personal assistant on a desktop, you are more likely to use a full-sentence-style search, like “Who offers roadside assistance near me.” Personal assistant programs like Siri, S Voice, Google Now, Assistant.AI, and Cortana have made great advancements in language recognition. We can now ask for what we want and get results that match.
In October of 2014, Thrive Analytics published a report that showed a jump in personal assistant usage of 87% over the previous 12 months. This massive increase in voice search users will have an impact on the way people search. Internet marketing companies will need to adapt their focus from short, 2-word search terms to include more specific answers to the searchers’ questions.
A More Natural Search
With tiny buttons and people on the move, searching by voice is simply easier. The vast improvements that companies have invested in language recognition have finally made realistic voice searches a reality. No more frustrated over-enunciating to get your smartphone to understand. When you’re driving and notice an engine problem, you can now use the hands-free function and ask your phone “Where is the nearest mechanic?” rather than pulling over and typing “mechanic NE Portland.”
An interesting trend shows that the younger the searcher, the longer the search phrase. At present, 3-word phrases are the current average for voice searching (up one word from the current and long-held, two-word text search). While this is not much of an adjustment yet, trends are showing that younger searchers use longer search phrases. Why? Those of us who have been around since the invention of voice search are more leery of its accuracy. Younger millennials are more trusting that they can say “Show me size 6 women’s shoes that are under $40” and get results that hit those specific points.
The Future of Internet Marketing
These types of changes to the way voice search users look for information will shape the future of on-page content marketing. Google has long been saying websites need to have natural language that is aimed at the reader, not the search engine crawlers. In fact, more and more algorithms have been coming out that penalize word-stuffed/keyword-heavy web pages. A natural progression will be to focus landing pages around a well-planned network of related information.
One Moz article on best SEO practices has this to say about content: “Google only cares about your content inasmuch as it answers the user’s search query. Search results are not a collection of “good” content; they are a ranked list of content that best satisfies what the user is looking for.“
What is quickly gaining importance as a ranking factor is how a web page matches the searcher’s intent.
Content optimized for voice searches will need to include:
- More detailed information. Voice queries are detailed and therefore more clear on intent. A landing page needs to make clear what it is offering. A vague key term like “trucks Portland” does not tell the search engine if you sell them, fix them, are looking to buy them used, or simply offer information about them. Landing pages need to be detailed about the service being offered. This includes things like pricing, hours, and location, as well as detailed information about the service or product that answers the type of questions searchers want to know. The more detailed information included in the content, the better chances the page will have of hitting enough match criteria to show up in the SERPs for long-tailed search queries.
- More enticing search snippets/meta descriptions. The information offered in the meta description has much to do with the number of clicks the page gets. Sure, you may be ranking on the first page, but if the snippet has little to draw a customer in, you may find a disparate number of views compared to the number of actual clicks to the page.
- Mid- and long-term matches. Think like a searcher. If you were using voice search to find your service or product, what variable phrases might you use? These exact phrases do not need to be used in the content or the URL structure directly. Instead, the content should naturally answer these questions. After all, Google is not looking through pages for a match to the question; it is looking through them to find the answer.
- Hyper-local indicators. Voice searchers often ask “Where is a ___________ near me?” Those all-important words “where” and “near me” tell Google to search the person’s current location. Because mobile devices return more localized results, it is important to include not only the city where a business is located but also the neighborhood, surrounding landmarks, and other hyper-local indicators that help the searcher and the search engine realize exactly where the company is.
The Take Away
Voice searches are more specific. If you were to search for “water testing” you will get a ton of articles about what is involved in testing water, top news stories on recent water tests, as well as laboratories that provide water testing. So, if you are a plumber who wants to advertise your free water testing to help homeowners find the right water filtration system, the page should include information that answers questions like “How can I test the tap water in my home?” and “How do I know if I need a water filtration system?” If your page includes information that naturally answers these types of questions and makes it clear you offer free water testing while also selling filtration systems, it will be better positioned to rank for customers using voice searches.
Detailed information covers both questions of location and service type. The days of a simple two-word service+city equations for landing pages are becoming a thing of the past. The good news is that now companies can write more naturally and to the point about their products and services as well as their location and wind up raking without all the clumsy word-stuffing that was once a necessity.