If you’ve read a recent SEO blog, attended a digital conference, or just follow SEO professionals on twitter, you will have heard a lot about voice search already. Opinions differ about its impact on search volumes and use among the general population, but a shift in user-based technology is imminent whichever way you look at it.
Here at fast Web Media we have done two rounds of research into voice search already and published two separate guides on how the technology functions and its impact on a number of key verticals. We also won a UK Search Award for our work with blu in the area of voice search, so we have a good understanding of the technology and some views on how it will impact the world of SEO, which can be categorised as:
- A move from options to single answers
- (Even more) competition for top spot
- A change in content format
- A focus on structure
- A fight to be useful
- Technical over offsite
A move from options to single answers
On a typical search engine results page (SERP) the user is presented with a list of options. 8-10 different websites per page they could choose which may be able to help them with their query.
Voice queries deliver 1 result, the one answer to a query. Brands will need to work hard to be the answer the search engines choose to present.
(Even more) competition for top spot
As a result of the move from options to single answers, competition is going to become even more fierce. When second place officially becomes first loser, every brand is going to be fighting to be the voice result.
A change in content
Content writers are going to have to start understanding voice search and structuring their text-based content appropriately. Long sentences and long winded explanations are out, short, punchy to-the-point answers and lists are in. And keep it conversational.
A focus on structure
Structured schema markup is key to becoming the preferred single answer for voice devices through featured snippets. Our research shows that a featured snippet is used up to 49% of the time as the voice search response on Google Assistant. SEOs are going to have to get comfortable with structured markup and schema, including the new speakable schema.
A fight to be useful
Right now, and for the foreseeable future the majority of voice queries are not transaction focussed. Current searches through voice-activated devices are made by people looking for information and advice, not to make a purchase. If this continues to be the case then businesses will need to consider how they incorporate these types of content into their strategy to maximise the growing number of people using voice devices.
Technical over offsite
Links, outreach and online PR are a very important factor in a successful SEO programme. But given the technical requirements of voice search and the need for content to be correctly structured, this could soon change. The overall authority of a website and its domain name will still remain important, but with the technical set up this will not be enough to be the voice search result.