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How Voice Search Is Changing SEO and Content Marketing

May 3, '16 / by Susannah Noel


It started with Siri. Then came Google Now, with Microsoft’s Cortana joining the mix soon after. It’s called voice search, and it has the potential to completely transform the world of SEO.

Millions of people are now finding answers simply by talking into their devices. The million dollar question, of course, is what voice search means for you.

How does voice search affect SEO?

The big difference between voice and traditional search is phrasing. For example, if you’re at a keyboard and you want to know whether UPS is closed on Memorial Day, you might type this into the search engine:

 UPS holiday schedule

But if you’re using voice search, you might phrase your search like this:

 Is UPS closed on Memorial Day?

It seems that when we use voice search, we tend to search the way we speak – conversationally, and often in the form of a question.

If your goal is to pull in traffic from voice searches conducted on Google, Yahoo and Bing, you may need to adjust your SEO techniques.

Related Content: 3 SEO Techniques with the Highest ROI

Rethink your keyword strategy

Voice search or no voice search, keyword research is still the foundation for your SEO. You still need to choose a target keyword for each page, and you still need to include that keyword in each page’s metadata and content.

But to better match the way people use voice search, your keyword strategy should put added emphasis on two core elements:

Long-tail keywords. Voice search is tailor made for longer, niche keywords that match the somewhat wordy questions people might speak to Siri. A great way to leverage these long-tail keywords is to create a healthy library of blog posts that each answer a specific frequently asked question.

Variations on the target keyword. Google now prioritizes “conversational search.” This means Google is increasingly focused on the intent of the searcher and the context of the information the searcher is seeking, rather than simply trying to match specific keywords.

For content marketers, this is good news: We no longer need to painstakingly insert exact-match keywords into our copy, which often leads to clumsy wording. In fact, the best way to use keywords in the age of conversational search is to mix it up, using synonyms and various phrasings for your target keyword.

Keep your content conversational

So we now know that voice search queries tend to be more conversational. The natural next step is to make sure the copy on your website is similarly conversational in tone – that is, that is reads as if you’re actually speaking to the reader one-on-one.

Because tone is one way content marketers establish their brand, this change may impact your brand identity. If your brand tends to incorporate staid, formal writing, you might struggle in the months and years ahead. Instead, start thinking now about how you can shift to a style that’s more natural and personal.

Include questions in your content

Many voice searches are phrased as a question. To leverage this, we recommend adding more question-and-answer-based copy to your website.

You could do this this a details FAQ page, or you can create a Q&A feature on your site. In this case, users can leave questions, you answer them, and the back-and-forth is published on a Q&A page.

The Q&A approach has the added benefit of encouraging users to actively engage with your website, rather than passively consume the content you present to them. Users gain an all-around more robust experience, which in turn can boost your search engine performance – creating a win-win for everyone.

Search engines are getting more sophisticated

In the good old days, Google, Bing and Yahoo served up search results based primarily on the keywords in your copy and the links pointing to your site. But over the years, their algorithms have become more nuanced.

To rank well today, user experience is increasingly important. Make it easier for your website visitors to get what they need by incorporating variations on your target keyword, writing with a natural, conversational style and leveraging frequently asked questions within your content.

It’s a new and shifting landscape out there, and there’s no way to definitively prescribe the best way to “win” at SEO and content marketing. In a years’ time, everything could change! But we’re confident that if you implement these changes now, you’ll be moving with the tide, rather than against it.

If you’re looking for additional guidance on your SEO strategy, reach out to us for an audit of your approach. We’ll offer suggestions to help you kick things up a notch – all free, and no obligation ever.

How well do you SEO?

Topics: SEO

Susannah Noel
Written by Susannah Noel

Susannah Noel is a guest author for Clariant Creative and the cofounder of Noel Editorial and Editorial Arts Academy. In addition to editing books and teaching others how to succeed as an editor, she's a copywriter specializing in financial services and health. She lives in Montpelier, VT. Read more about Susannah at susannahnoel.com.

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