Hey Siri: How Will SEO Change With Voice Queries?

Because typing in a search on Google takes too long, and we’re a world increasingly pressed for time when we need to know where the nearest Target or Starbucks is (wait – that’s redundant – Target is Starbucks), voice search has been on the increase. Apple’s Siri was the first virtual voice assistant, arriving with the iPhone 4s in the fall of 2011, with Google’s voice search appearing with Google Now the following summer. Siri was then joined by Window’s Cortana and most recently Alexa, who didn’t need to be tapped to answer a question, and actually had pretty good hearing when you asked for her input from another room. Of course, now with the iPhone 7, Siri also is at your service if you just invoke her name when asking your question.

We could debate the merits of these, but really in the world of SEO, it doesn’t matter as much as the overall direction these features are taking us. When search leaves the keyboard and instead comes right off your lips, will the words used be any different? Or will the technology that now has to decipher voice apply those words in the same why they might if they were being hammered out in a QWERTY landscape?

siriFirst of all, let’s talk about the demand. Just three years ago, only 15 percent of iPhone users employed Siri. However Google jumped on it and in a recent survey they found that now more than 40 percent of adults and a whopping 55 percent of teens use voice search. Searchers want to get direct answers, not just a ranked listing of links, especially if they’re driving and need a quick answer. So how should your SEO marketing strategy respond?

According to digital marketing phenom Neil Patel, understanding the most successful voice queries have the following features:

  • 3-word query length
  • Questions – generally, people needing information will ask for it rather than blurt out keywords
  • Location, location, location – a majority of searches will be local

Change your content, or at least how you present it

So obviously, your content will need to change – or at least you will need to change how you present your content – in order to anticipate these queries. Patel suggests tools like FAQFox to match your keywords with the likely questions that are asked based on them. Place the relevant FAQs on your site and in relevant blogs. This won’t hurt traditional searches either, by the way, and quite frankly is something that news sites have been onto already.

When I was an online editor, our regional managers would press us to use questions as headlines as well to help drive unique visitors to stories. “When does daylight savings time start?” was a fluff piece to write, and for “capital J” journalists, seemed beneath us. However, the medium was ideal, and it worked. Numbers jumped in the days leading up to the often-confusing time change because we knew that was exactly how people would pose the question.

Location information: directing queries to your doorstep

It’s basic, but smart to update your information on your website, as well as on directory sites like Google and Yelp!

  • Where are you located?
  • What are the directions to get to your place?
  • What are your hours?

On the backend of things, talk with your website designer about updating your XML sitemap and microdata to enhance the results in a search.

What should also be said right here and now is that if you have already enlisted a company that lives, eats and breathes SEO and keywords, these changes won’t rock your world much. The rise of voice searches, which is also increasing the demand for “instant answers” versus a listing, does not detract from the importance of using keywords. Traditional searches won’t be dying anytime soon, and it’s been pointed out that this trend is additive, so your keyword value may also be rising.

Keeping things (less) simple

In addition, our friends at Moz point out that voice queries in large part are looking for the straight story (direct answer), so consider what your content says, and what battles you want to pick. Unless the query is “Where is XYZ Business, Inc?” and you are XYZ business, the direct answer isn’t going to bring them to your site anyway. Your edge won’t be found in providing an answer that frankly anyone can provide. The answers to voice queries likely will shortcut the list of businesses that might otherwise be pulled into a search query.

For example, if your business sells tires, you aren’t likely to be the answer to “How do I check my tire pressure?” because Google and others can get that information themselves as the query is simple. The fancy term is disintermediation, and simply put, it’s cutting out the middlemen – and you are in the middle.

However, if you provide comparisons on various tire brands, which is more difficult to aggregate and present simply, you have a competitive advantage. and you probably will be able to keep that traffic. Bottom line: don’t pin your hopes on tons of content that will compete with directly with voice search queries. Simple content won’t win, for anyone.

Mapping your opportunity

That said, remember that voice searches are far more likely – three times to be exact -to be local than text. (Google has latched onto the concept of location and commerce early and often, grabbing tons of valuable user data along the journey.) This is in large part because these searches are driven my mobile users, who are looking for information with location enabled. Therefore, this is a huge opportunity for businesses and site owners in terms of ranking for local voice searches. Partner with an SEO expert to make sure your website is fully enabled for your location, including content that features nearby major landmarks or points of interest.

The bottom line is that  you want to be the answer to your customer’s question whenever possible, however they ask, and end up being the words coming out of Alexa’s mouth.

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