How To Write Content for Voice Search
Senior Digital Strategist
August 27, 2020
The rise of Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa makes it clear that voice search is becoming a more and more common part of life. It is often so much easier to talk to our devices rather than type in a query into a search box. For example, it might be easier to say to your Amazon Echo, “Alexa, what time is the current sunset?” so you can plan for a walk as you are heading out the door. Another example might be to say, “Hey Google, what is the phone number for Ben’s Bagels?” while you are driving so you can stay hands-free. As more and more people use voice search frequently, it is increasingly important that voice search SEO be kept in mind when considering how to frame content on your webpages.
Voice search is different from a more traditional search for many reasons, not least of which is that we do not always type the same way we talk. When staring at a screen you might just type “Ben’s Bagels” when looking for a phone number knowing you will be able to see and scroll through all the information. With voice search, you may be more casual with your actual verbiage, but more detailed in your search knowing you must be more specific with this medium.
While voice search has seen great advancement recently, it is still hard to be as precise with certain searches since there is no visible interface. You are not usually given multiple options, and without multiple options, it might be hard for the device to figure out exactly what you mean. For example, I will often ask my Echo Dot a question and get the answer “I don’t know that,” and the interaction at that point is done, rather than asking for another suggestion.
Prepping your website for voice searches from students
According to the 2019 E-Expectations Report, 36 percent of college-bound juniors and seniors have used voice-activated search on their devices. Knowing that the use of voice search is growing and that is it so different from traditional search, now is the time to start thinking about framing your content in a way that will help relevant voice searches land on your website. A couple of things to keep in mind:
- Make sure your content reads in a way that is both natural to read and natural to speak aloud. Think about keywords people might say out loud versus what they would type when searching for you.
- Avoid unnatural or hard to pronounce words in your content, to make your content seem more human and approachable. The best way to test content like this is to read what you are writing out loud. If it sounds odd or stuffy, it is not likely to do well in a voice search.
The nature of voice search means that for users to get more accurate results, they have to be more detailed in their request. Without a screen as a UI, it is harder to be given multiple options so a voice search may result in only one result—or no results at all. When I say to my Amazon Echo, “What’s the best Master’s program near me,” it responds, “I don’t know that.” However, when I type “Master’s Degree Near Me,” Google finds about 135,000,000 results.
Part of this difference is because searching by voice is still in its infancy. However, the more information I give Alexa about specific colleges or specific degrees, the better my results are. Keep in mind that due to the way SERP results work, Alexa will list two or three results at the most. This is done by design so that the results will not overwhelm a user that is listening rather than reading. If you want a phone number, you need to ask specifically for that. Long-tail keywords in many cases will help you be more specific with voice search. This is because of all information required to get the right results.
When trying to rank for voice search, it is important to try to focus on what kinds of questions a user might be asking. What people are going to be looking for when on your landing page is going to be the who, what, where, when, and why of what you are trying to tell someone:
- WHO is your brand.
- WHAT is your product.
- WHERE is your location.
- WHEN includes any relevant dates.
- WHY is the compelling reason someone should use your product/service.
All of these are important for traditional SEO as well, but even more important in voice search since so much less information is provided via audio. Developing “voice friendly” answers to these questions thoroughly and concisely should be the core of your efforts to improve your results and connect you with the prospective students who are looking for the things your institution has to offer.
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