Voice Search is certainly a big (and overhyped) topic within the SEO community.
Various data are cyclically presented by many parties about growing use of voice queries and the debate is evolving on whether it is more important to focus on the questions rather than on the answers.
The reality is that voice search is still in a very early stage and when SEOs talk about it they mostly refer to becoming “vocal answers” to very specific questions.
In this post I exactly want to share how you – as a marketer – can conduct a quick experiment focused on Voice Search optimization in order to make your content become a vocal response for Google.
What do we know about “Voice Search”?
Voice Search is a function that allows users to search the Web using voice rather than typing and interacting with different device types.
The common perception is that people use their voice to search mainly because this allows them to maintain a multitasking approach and experience a faster interaction with devices while getting quick and immediate responses to their needs.
That said, the very first thing about voice search we have to consider is that there are critical differences between vocal queries depending on whether they can be classified as “searches” or “assistance”.
Vocal interactions can in fact be roughly divided into 2 macro types, depending on the intent and the interaction device:
- action-based interactions (commands for assistant)
- question-based interactions (queries expressed with voice), for which a precise answer is expected as output.
From now on we will focus only on the latter.
A “Voice oriented” approach to content
Trying to apply a “voice-oriented” approach to content today means, first of all, understanding that most voice opportunities are concentrated on providing location-based and commercial info (and that is why voice is a particularly viable option for local businesses) or providing “direct answers” (weather, news, sport results, etc..) to very specific questions.
We can start our experiment by asking ourselves:
- do I have content that can aspire to become a response for voice queries?
- do I know or can assume how my content can be selected by Google to become an answer?
- can I do something concrete to make my content more suitable to become a response for vocal queries?
The “right” type of content
As we have seen, people today use voice in search mainly to ask for information on various topics (question-based interactions) that can have local or informative intent.
It follows that, if we have or we can produce content in the form of direct answers to specific questions we are in possession of a raw material we can try to transform in response to vocal queries.
But is there a specific type of content format that can be particularly suitable to become a response?
We know that Google is increasingly responding with results in “enriched” form (featured snippets) to questions expressed in a “traditional” (written) form. In many ways, Featured Snippets are perfectly structured to become voice search results. They’re precise answers that Google selects and “extracts” from trusted and authoritative sources.
According to a Backlinko study: “Appearing in a Featured Snippet may help you rank in voice search. 40.7% of all voice search answers came from a Featured Snippet. “
Featured Snippets are definitely not the only “source” used by Google for voice answers but, given their characteristics, they are probably the easiest type of voice-eligible results to obtain and the best candidate to carry out a small experiment about voice search optimization.
Let’s test it by ourselves.
A quick experiment: trying to become a vocal answer
Marketing intelligence tools such as SEMrush or Ahrefs can be of great help at this point, allowing us to identify informative queries at a scale in our target market and filter them based on the features of the SERP (for example containing or not featured snippets).
After we have identified a good number of informative queries for which our site is ranked and Google has already selected one result to become a Featured Snippet, we can simply try to ask the same exact query to Android’s Voice Assistant of our phone in order to verify how Google is answering.
Does it respond to the query with the featured snippet result?
If the answer is yes, by getting that featured snippet ourselves we will have a very good chance of becoming the response to the voice query.
How to get there
Now that we have identified a common pattern (informative queries for which a featured snippet appears in SERP which is – in turn – used by Google to provide the answer when the query is expressed in a vocal form) we can proceed with the optimization of our content.
If you want to get featured snippets, then you’ll probably have to make some changes to your content structure and writing style.
Here are some suggestions on writing and formatting:
- After having identified the main query you are targeting and the page of your site that is already ranked for that query, collect related answers about the topic
- Organize your content in the form of short paragraphs, each having a question form subheading
- Use headings for the title of the paragraphs in an ordered and descending manner
- Provide a direct and concise answer to the query, using a simple and understandable writing style and maximizing the use of tables, bullet points, numbered lists and images
- Optimize the title tag of the page to match the query as much as possible
Now your turn.
Try to get that Featured Snippet and verify if your content becomes a voice answer.
Today, the real limitation of an active approach to voice search optimization lies mainly in the difficulty of identifying opportunities and measuring the success or failure with certainty.
Voice search is in an early stage of its development and, given current uses, today it represents a good fit in particular for local businesses, for which it is essential to use Google My Business and markup content with structured data in order to be eligible to become voice answers.
That said, if you think that voice can be an opportunity for you regardless the fact your business is not local or just want to rethink part of your content strategy according to how Google is changing, you can try to develop custom applications within the home assistant network (Google or Amazon) or simply optimize informative content on your site in order to answer to specific questions.
We know that Google evaluates the quality of the voice responses provided by its assistant according to criteria, among others, of appropriateness of the response and brevity.
Aren’t these the main features of a Featured Snippet result?