2aboutSince mobile devices are used more than desktop interfaces by now, mobile optimization has become a prerequisite for a successful internet presence in any industry. A feature that is not to be underestimated in terms of search engine optimization is therefore voice-controlled search or "Voice Search".

With Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and Google Now, the big players seem to be already gripped by voice-operated search. According to Google, especially young people are using this new type of search increasingly, the more surprises that many SEO experts have missed out on the "Voice Search" optimization to date.

However, since the tendency towards the use of voice-controlled searches is rising, it is assumed that "Voice Search" will affect the SEO fundamentally. Although Google (still) doesn’t punish pages that are not "Voice Search"- optimized, an appropriate early optimization will definitely have a positive impact in the long-term.

But, what exactly should be taken into consideration (and what actions) to successfully optimize websites for the increasing number of voice-activated inquiries? Well, here are some hints:

Semantic context

Since the Hummingbird update in 2013, semantic context is gaining in importance whereas a mere keyword optimization slowly takes a back seat. Fact is that Google gradually tries to understand the semantic context to deliver the best possible and most appropriate results.

The more context Google can find on a specific topic online, the better the content of this page can be understood and its relevance for the query of the user determined.

Search engines learn to understand the intention and semantics behind a "Voice Search" and recognize and identify better and better what exactly a user is looking for.

Logically, the bounce rate plays a bigger part here as well, since it is a kind of indicator if a website answers the question of a user (or not), making the landing page relevance for "Voice Search” more important. Consequently, filling a website exclusively with unrelated keywords, makes generally no sense regarding voice-controlled search. Rather, content should be designed for the target group and be adapted to their style of speech.

Natural language and question words

Unlike search queries, that are entered as text in search engines and steadily got shorter and more generic, whole sentences are generally used in "Voice Search" which often start with question words. SEO experts therefore have to find out first of all what the users are looking for on the site and how they could answer their question when optimizing the webpage and the content. If questions are properly asked via "Voice Search", the answers can be easily picked up by Google in the FAQs and preferentially displayed in the search results, provided the content is relevant. Ideally, the content sounds authentic, which in turn will be positively considered by Google.

Another added value is offered by online forums, where customers have the opportunity to receive direct answers to their questions. In fact, the customer actively helps with content, e.g. creates the FAQs, which can be used by Google later as a relevant answer in the search results. Furthermore, the involvement of the user is evaluated positively by Google and contributes to a better ranking in the search results – thus, killing two birds with one stone.

Google's "Direct Answers"

"Voice Search" has the purpose to answer a question efficiently and is often closely associated with multitasking. According to a Google study, people use "Voice Search", for example while cooking or watching TV. Hence, the majority of voice-enabled searches has the purpose to answer an immediate question, such as searching for a restaurant or shop in the nearby area.

Besides, the voice-operated search serves the rapid information gathering, for example the research of data, facts, or instructions. Google is therefore increasingly trying to give “direct answers" to voice-activated searches, instead of offering the user only links that can help to search for a concrete answer. In a recent study of 850,000 queries, Google found that almost 20% of these questions were answered with direct answers.

To be found in the Google index with such direct answers, SEO experts have again to make sure that the content of the page gives an immediate answer to specific questions. However, content alone is often insufficient in direct answers. The domain authority plays a major role as well to be generally in the running for direct answers in search engines. Despite the relatively larger effort in the optimization, each SEO manager should consider to optimize websites for "Voice Search" already today, since traffic coming from voice-controlled search is regarded as promising and expected to gain ground in any event.

In a nutshell it becomes clear that features like "Voice Search" cause Google and other search engines to strive more for better performance and providing the best possible search results. Google continues to place increasing emphasis on content and sites that are optimized to user behavior, trying to give the most accurate, most direct and simply best response to their “Voice Search" query, while providing authentic content.

"Voice Search" has complemented the usual bullet-point style search behavior of users to search queries in the form of long-tail keywords and complete questions. For SEO experts, the immediate solution is therefore a natural content, that is linguistically adapted to the potential users, and FAQ strategies that provide rapid and targeted answers.

By Daniela La Marca