When we shared our online marketing predictions for 2017, we detailed how Google is doubling-down on catering to its users’ expectations and experiences. And as virtual personal assistants like Cortana and Siri become more prominent in users’ lives, Google is seeing a significant increase in voice searches.
What Do Voice Searches Have to Do With You?
You’ve probably seen someone use voice search on their smartphone. Maybe you’ve even used it yourself.
With voice searches, users speak in complete questions. For example, they’ll say out loud, “Hey Siri, what’s the best kind of floss to use?” instead of manually typing “best floss brands” into the search box. The assistant sends these questions to Google. Then, it’s up to Google to process the question and deliver relevant, informative answers at lightning speed. This is why Google continues to hone its algorithm so it can process natural language and find precisely what users are looking for.
To aid in discovering webpages that are relevant to users’ questions, Google has adapted a new system called Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). By using LSI, Google actually analyzes the content of individual webpages, assessing synonyms and context instead of just scanning them for identical keyword matches. This produces search results that satisfy a search query in a more specific, helpful way.
So, now that you have a basic understanding of how voice search has impacted Google’s nuts and bolts, we can get to what you really came here for: How will the voice search trend impact you?
Target Your Content
Because of the dominance of voice searches, your website needs to be chock full of valuable information that pertains to people’s pressing interests. This was always the case to a certain extent, but now it’s even more urgent.
If you want Google’s LSI system to capture your content and present it in the search results, your content needs to demonstrate crystal-clear relevance to the user’s query. A few well placed keywords aren’t enough anymore. This means there’s a strong chance you’ll need to rewrite—or, at the very least, expand—the content on your webpages. There’s really no way around it.
We suggest starting with a free tool like Answerthepublic.com. When you input a keyword relevant to your business, the tool will show you all the questions users are asking about it. For example, some of the popular questions related to the keyword “floss” are:
- “How to floss back teeth with braces?”
- “When to floss toddler’s teeth?”
- “What does floss do?”
- “Which is better, floss or mouthwash?”
- “Who invented dental floss?”
The tool gives you hundreds of questions to choose from. To keep this example going, if you’re a dentist or orthodontist, you may want to consider writing a blog post about how to floss with braces or why floss is better than mouthwash. Or you may even want to have a whole page dedicated to flossing and answer some of the most popular questions there.
The point is, your efforts in promoting your business will go much further if these types of natural language questions influence the content on your site. This is the kind of content voice searches are targeting.
Use Keywords in Moderation
This is another rule that’s been around for a few years now. However, many business owners and some marketers still haven’t embraced it. Keyword stuffing is out.
A surefire way to make your content look like spam is to jam as many keywords as possible into it. Not only does this read terribly to humans, but it also lowers your Quality Score with Google. Search bots will recognize that your keyword-laden content isn’t bringing any informational value to the table.
Obviously, keywords are still important. However, keep your focus keyword density between 0.5% and 2.5%. Any more than that will read poorly and degrade your content’s value. Additionally, sprinkle in a variety of other relevant keywords, too, because Google’s LSI will now recognize them as synonyms in the context of your page. This means you can write naturally and still score big SEO points.
Above All, Make the Content Good
The goal of your online marketing efforts is to attract new customers. While it’s certainly important to rank well with search engines and their mystical algorithms, you ultimately want to gain the trust and interest of real people. So whatever you do, make sure you write your content in a clear, compelling way.
If you cringe at the idea of writing all your content yourself (What? You’re not a nerd like me?), you do have some loopholes available. Mainly, you can have someone else write your content for you! Many marketers and freelance writers offer ghost writing services.
A large number of business owners find ghost writing worth the small investment because it means:
- They get high-quality content that appeals to both search engines and humans.
- They save their energy for other projects.
- They spend evenings with their families instead of on the computer.
- They avoid bone-chilling flashbacks to high school essay assignments.
So whether you choose the DIY route or the ghost writing route, our advice is still the same: Create content your audience wants to read, write it naturally, and don’t overdo it with the keywords.
And just for fun, here’s a quote from Search Engine Land’s report on an April 2016 keynote address by Google’s director of conversational search:
Google’s goal is to emulate the Star Trek computer, which allowed users to have conversations with the computer while accessing all of the world’s information at the same time.
The future is here.