Patrick Brightman - 08/07/2018
“Alexa, how important is content in voice search?”
That’s a very important question, as Amazon Echo, Google Home, Siiri and similar voice technologies have changed Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices. Though similarities – such as long-tail keywords and structured content – remain, understanding some subtle differences is critical to success for both consumer and B2B brands.
First, let’s talk numbers to gain perspective on why a voice search strategy is essential for any brand’s overall SEO plans. Voice-enabled devices in American homes are expected to surge to 94.7 million over the next three years, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Census, Gartner, Edison Research, and Voicebot.ai. Trend data such as this makes it obvious that the time is now. The harder question is, “How does a brand successfully implement voice search?”
Content for Voice Search
You can take a deep breath and relax because the basic tactics of optimizing content for traditional search apply to voice, as well. In fact, the main element of a content program remans the same. If you want Alexa, Home, Siiri, and all other voice tools to find you and speak on your behalf to your target audience, you have to publish relevant content that is updated regularly.
Another key similarity is the use of long-tail and contextual keywords in your web content. Short-tail keywords, which still have value in traditional SEO, have little importance in voice search. Also, structured data, which is important in typed searches, is essential for voice.
Five Tips for Voice Search Content
Here are five ways to make your content work for voice search.
- Take Visitors on a Walk – Step-by-step instructions that guide users will be highly effective content in voice search. It also can clearly establish you as a thought leader.
- FAQs – If you want to have a better chance of being the featured response in a voice search, incorporate FAQ content on your website. (It will also help in long-tail traditional searches.) In lieu of a formal FAQ, build similar Q&A content into a blog post. You can also integrate a media relations campaign to secure byline articles that will allow you to write content on a respected third-party media site in this format.
- Structured Data – Effective SEO requires a balance between front- and back-end; creative content and functional web design. That applies in voice search, too. Make sure your website has structured data that provides thorough descriptions of the page’s meaning to make it easy for voice search algorithms to classify the page content.
- Content That Speaks to Visitors – Write your content based on how it will sound in a voice search response. Consider how your content is organized, as well. If it doesn’t sound natural and coherent when said aloud, there’s a strong possibility it may not appear in voice searches.
- Drop Tables – How content is presented on your website is also a factor. Avoid large tables full of data that will be hard for Echo and Home to translate. Also, pages devoted solely to links are not voice-friendly.
Talking Skills and Actions
Amazon states that skills are a way to create a more personalized experience on the Alexa platform. Google dubs these voice responses “actions” for its Home. Regardless of what they are called, they are basically the equivalent of a website domain. On the web, you’d define the site as www.mycompany.com. For voice, My Company serves as the domain.
Brand-agnostic skills for the voice channel are major opportunities for companies to achieve success in voice search. With the aggressive growth projections, brands and agencies need to begin to stake their claim in a brave new world of voice search or risk being the odd company out.
This is particularly true in certain markets. Given that nearly a quarter of voice search is done in the kitchen, CPG brands should be leveraging the technology now. Let’s say you are a spice company. You can develop a skill that says, “Alexa, what’s the best way to season chicken for a barbecue?” If you own that skill, the response can be, “Here are the most popular recipes brought to you by My Company.”
You can take the skill a step further. The recipes that Alexa or Home say to the searcher can be on your website. If so, the skill/action can do a follow-up invocation, “Would you like a link of this recipe to be texted or emailed?” That drives traffic to your website, continues the dialogue, and serves as an opt-in so you can send future marketing materials.
Time is off the essence, though. More brands are developing and submitting unbranded skills, and since it is a “first come, first served” approach, you could be left on the outside looking it. It is akin to 20 years ago when the Internet began to take off and “squatters” grabbed web domains.
Writing an Invocation
After defining your skill/action, you need to write the phrases, called invocations, that will invoke your skill/action. What is an invocation, you ask? Think of it as the navigation on your website.
There are certain steps to develop an invocation. First, it’s important to start with “Hey Google” or “Alexa.” Second, words like “ask,” “start,” “open” and “search” can play a critical role. Finally, keep in mind that invocations need to evolve. Once your skill is live, you must continually monitor and optimize your invocations for better results.
Understanding Voice Search
While Amazon and Google offer the resources mentioned above, subtleties remain to ensure success. Many brands spend an inordinate amount of time writing skills and actions, but the results are disappointing.
Without the proper “skill set” your voice search content will fall on deaf ears. That is why a third-party partner that develops skills/actions is a smart choice. Additionally, third-party providers have the expertise and ability to build the skill/action and invocations once and submit them to multiple devices.
While voice search is something every brand needs to keep a close eye on, traditional search remains vital, as well. We have a post on developing a content strategy for overall SEO optimization.
If you want to learn more about voice search content or how to implement a voice search process, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.