Gain Voice Search Customers! Smarter Pages = Better Results: Voice Search, Part 1

Back in the day, traveling through airports, there was a good chance I’d see someone talking loudly to themselves and gesturing wildly at the air. I’d wonder if they were crazy — until I saw that sneaky bluetooth headset strapped to their ear. But that was, you know, 2010. Today, things are even crazier, because we’re not just talking through our devices; we’re talking to our devices - almost treating them like an animate object, a person, or even a personal assistant!

Why? Because it’s easier, faster and more convenient. We can “voice type” text messages and emails. And we can search the internet through voice search. And your company can gain top ranking for voice search with smarter page design.

 

Voice Search: It Isn’t Just Phones Anymore!

So, to gain customers through voice search, we have to look at the complete voice search market.  We are all familiar with using phone searches: “Hey, Siri Order my Starbucks”; but voice search is expanding way beyond just phones. Home devices like Google Home and Alexa are examples of voice-activated devices that are connected to the internet and can search, communicate, and purchase items for you, when asked.  Now we  ask “Google find events near me this weekend” when talking to the Google Home device from our couch.

The voice search trend is becoming less of a trend and more of a feature of how we use the internet. Over 20% of Google searches are voice searches and growing every month.  Between Alexa, Cortana (both who use Bing as their search engine for the Internet), SIRI and Google, voice search is here to stay. And there’s lots of opportunity for your brand when you have the right answers!

 

Winning New Customers Step # 1: Create “Answer” pages - not just web pages

Search engines aren’t just “search engines,” they’re answer engines - engines that pair the customer’s search with the best answer it can find in its catalog of sites.

So the first thing you want to do is make sure your content is shaped around questions and answers. This makes it relevant to people and tells search engines that your content is valuable.

But what’s the right content for voice search? The answer is surprising. Most of the popular results (for Google) were from a short, featured snippet with your answer on it (more on that in a second), and that featured snippet was sometimes derived from a page that was 2,300 words long on the searched topic. (Wow! Get your writing cap on, folks!)

This topic content is often built around the “long tail of SEO” and search intent.  This intent should shape how you write your content. Here’s what I mean: before search engines became more predictive and smart, the customers would have to craft a specific search request to get the search returns they wanted. They would put a bunch of keywords into Google, hoping the right combination would get them to relevant content, and if they left out a keyword, they would probably get bad results.

These days, search engines are so predictive that you can speak in natural language and they can understand the intent of your search. My daughter searches every day with SiRi, instead of typing.  “What is a simple switch for oil in cake recipe?” and the search return gives her the mayonnaise swap for oil in a cake recipe. It is matching the intent of her search with both short answers and long content on that web page. (Of course there are a number of other algorithm factors we will cover in future articles.)

Another interesting fact is that the most popular voice results were written at a 9th-grade reading level. So when you’re writing compelling, specific content, make sure it’s still easily read by someone online.

To summarize, make sure your content has:

  • Short, concise answers
  • Long-form topic content: 2,300 words
  • Voice “Intent” SEO optimization to match the intent of the searcher
  • Content written at no more than a 9th grade reading level

 

Step # 2: Design Smarter Pages

Improved technology and better design seem to go hand-in-hand. Have you seen the movie Her, where Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with a Siri-like virtual assistant voiced by Scarlett Johannsen? If so, you might remember the beautiful look of the AI’s software, which kind of out-Appled Apple in its sleek design. (I’m sure that’s not why Joaquin fell in love, although some of our graphic designers might say otherwise.)

Design becomes more simple and sleek as technology improves because it usually becomes more intuitive and easy to operate. And strangely, that’s important for voice search, too.

It may sound counter-intuitive, since no user is going to "see" your page through a voice search device. However, design as a whole is a growing factor in search return ranking. Google’s focus is now on creating that intuitive experience for the users and the engagement of the users within once they find your site. So the quality of both the design and technical build of the content is key to success. Aristotle recommends scanning your pages for several criteria:

  • Technical features (We have another article soon with more details on speed!)
    • Speed!  Speed! Everything on the page must be fast
    • Content loading order - Has your tech team set content loading priorities?
  • Page design
    • Are there good headlines throughout the content?
    • Are there plenty of bulleted lists rather than long paragraphs?
  • UI/UX factors: font, color, contrast
    • Is the page mobile friendly?
    • Are the calls to action clear?

 

How do you know if you meet the voice search and Google’s criteria?

If you don’t have a super-advanced AI assistant to scan your site and tell if you’re following best practices and meeting the new criteria, Aristotle can help.  This technology is evolving every day and ads on voice search will eventually become an affordable opportunity for you to win new customers too!

That’s it for this post. In part two, we’ll go over some technical fine-tuning that’ll give your website the slight edge and implementing your voice search optimization plan.