I’m always surprised that not many people realize just how different the way we speak and the way we write are. Within the brain, there are different processes for how we receive, interpret, and understand information presented to us depending on whether we hear it or read it. While the topic is fascinating to language nerds like me, it’s irrelevant to the world of search engine marketing. Search engines are all handled in writing, after all.
Or, I should say it was. In the past few years, companies like Google and Amazon have worked round the clock to develop voice recognition technology. While the results have been funny at times, new breakthroughs now make vocal searches viable. Although still imperfect, the tech is rapidly improving, making speech more relevant to search engine optimization. This means that marketers and web designers must now consider the differences between speech and writing if they want to maximize search relevance.
Recently, Google unveiled Google Assistant for speakers and cars. Google’s own John Mueller discussed many of the things content marketers will now have to consider if they want to take advantage of the new systems.
1. Use Structured Data
Google attempts to understand the content of your page and figure out what type of voice queries will match the content of those pages. Using structured data can help Google’s algorithms better understand the content to match it up with queries. If you’ve been in the business of SEO marketing, you already know about structured data. With vocal queries now coming into play, those same ideas apply, but now you have to take into account that people will be speaking to their devices. So . . .
2. Consider Voice Snippets
When thinking about how to phrase important parts of your page, try saying the central point of the page out loud in a single sentence. What kind of questions people could ask that might be relevant to the content of your page? How does your content sound when read out loud? How are you organizing the information?
If you’re targeting for a voice assistant, avoid content that doesn’t make sense when read out loud. For example, a table of data might be good when reading it, but if you were to speak the content of the table in order, it would be a jumbled mess of nonsense. You can still use tables, but consider adding some short titles to sum up the table’s information so Google can better match it to the vocal query.
3. Make Your Content Easy for Users to Read
This has always been pretty basic advice for search marketing, but it becomes even more important with vocal queries. The more complicated your paragraphs, the more difficulty Google will have matching the content to searches. It might be best to give direct answers to questions to make the subject of a paragraph clear. If someone asks a question about what the tallest mountain is, a direct answer to that question is going to rank as more relevant than a paragraph explaining how mountains form, how they are measured, and so on, which somewhere answers the question inside it.
However . . .
4. Don’t Over Optimize for Voice Searches
While putting a direct question as a title for your page, followed by an immediate answer in the first paragraph might rank quite well for that specific question, this method can quickly backfire if used too bluntly. You will end up creating small pages with only a little, highly specific content. Your page becomes useless for any matter more broad than the specific question being answered. Pages like these will bog down your web zone, making your site clunky and inconvenient. That sort of webpage design loses out on many of the important factors for ranking in the search algorithms. You may get more hits on specific subjects, but visitors will have little reason to stick around your website. Such momentary blips on the radar may look good from a strict number-of-visitors perspective, but are unhelpful if you’re looking for meaningful web traffic.
5. Write Natural Content
At the end of the day, the most important thing remains the same. You want your content to be clear and concise. The purpose of communication is to be understood, so get straight to the point. Make sure that it sounds good when read out loud. This simple guideline will help more than any other suggestion I could offer.
The emerging technology will change things, but the biggest mistake you could make is to over think it. Speaking is something everyone learns to do and it comes naturally to anyone able to use a computer. Most of your time should be spent on working out what your content should be. When it comes to how you present it, focus on making it clear, easy to read, and make it sound easy on the ear. Read your own content out loud and see if it feels right to say it. It takes a bit of work, but it’s not terribly complicated, so don’t make it harder than it needs to be.