There has been much talk about voice assistants and voice-first interactions. What is voice search? Voice search is not somewhere off on the distant horizon. It’s right around the corner:
It makes sense. Most people can speak over a hundred words a minute, but type about forty words a minute. On top of that, even though we all live in a mobile-first world, interacting with mobile devices still requires too many steps. Unlock your phone, find Safari or Chrome, click, tap on the search field, type in the query, hit enter. Versus, “Hey Siri, where is the closest Starbucks?”
Why bother typing when everyone has an assistant right at their fingertips? Or as an increasing number of consumers are buying a digital assistant like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple Homepods. Here is why digital assistants are becoming a critical channel: there are approximately 50 million smart home speaker users in the US and 76% of them perform local searches at least once a week.
While search is evolving, most of the digital marketing world is concerned about mobile optimization and web pages. Instead, consumers have moved to talking to Siri while second-screening on the couch and asking for information while driving.
For digital assistants, organic search will play a more significant role than paid media (at least till the platforms start to monetize voice search). Unlike desktop and mobile search engine results where users can browse pages and pages of results in search of the right answer, digital assistants respond with only the top-ranking result.
Voice search requires a slightly different approach to SEO. Most optimization techniques focus on ranking for 1-2 word keywords, like ‘atlanta homes’ or ‘new homes in atlanta.’ Voice search interaction is more conversational. Most users will instead say something like ‘find me new homes in atlanta.’ User queries are much more likely to be in the form of a question, ‘are there homes between 400 k and 500 k around me?’ Ad copy, website copy, and landing page copy should be geared towards these types of questions.
Featured snippets are frequently used as responses by digital devices. You have seen this; it’s when there is a box at the top of the search results that contains a quick answer to a question.
The SEO strategies for featured snippets are the usual best practices: create a topic specific page, answer the question, use conversational language, use headings (H1, H2, H3, H4) to structure the page correctly, and use a title similar to the question.
Schema markups are another way to optimize for voice search. They are pieces of code in the HTML that help search engines understand the contents of a webpage. Having the properly structured schema markup on your site will automatically optimize content for voice search.
Here is an example of schema markup from Zillow for a listing: