What is SEO in 2018?
It’s a difficult question, because the SEO environment is rapidly and constantly changing. The biggest and undoubtedly most pressing change to SEO in recent times is the explosion of voice controlled AI assistants… I will place a bet that you will know at least one person who received an Amazon Echo or a Google Home Mini for Christmas… and if you have had an iPhone over the last few years, you will without a doubt have had a conversation with SIRI.
This new emergence of voice controlled assistants creates a new level to think about when it comes to SEO.
Google has said that over 20% of searches are now voice based, so it’s not something to ignore.
1. People don’t talk like they type
It’s important to remember that the way people talk and the way people type is completely different.
When people use an AI assistant they will talk to it the same way that they would talk to a person. “ Where is the nearest solicitor to me?” “Where can I get financial advice from?”.
They tend to use natural sounding phrases and questions rather than direct query based language that would be used for a desktop search: “solicitors near me”, “directions to ClientsFirst”.
Voice search is conversational and long-tail - this means that you will have to take a look at the way you are creating content. People are asking a question to an AI assistant more often than not, meaning they need help or information about something.
This also means looking at your current keyword strategy - it might be the case that you will have to include more long-tail keywords and fit your content around these keywords.
2. Local search
You can see the theme here and how local search will fit into a voice-based SEO strategy. When people are using voice search, they are often looking for a service, store or product that is near them.
This means that identity is as important as ever on your website and in its SEO. It’s a no brainer that if you are a local business then you have your location featured throughout your keywords strategy.
For example “Financial planning services based in Macclesfield”.
This also brings Google My Business into play which, without a doubt, will have an effect on your business appearing in local search results.
The key thing is to make sure you have Google My Business set up correctly and that you are using location based long-tail keywords in your metadata.
3. Mobile is now even more important
Marketers have been banging on for years about mobile and how there needs to be an increased emphasis on it overall...
But in the case of voice search SEO, mobile is incredibly important. Over half of all search queries come from mobile devices and most mobile devices are equipped with some sort of voice AI.
The first step here is to make sure that your website and content is mobile friendly as there is nothing more disappointing than landing on a website that doesn’t work on mobile.
Google also recently split their algorithm into mobile and desktop, so if people are searching for your services and your website isn’t mobile friendly, you might not appear as high (or at all) in search results on mobile.
Google has a great mobile-friendly test you can use to check if your website is ready for mobile.
4. The holy grail that is featured snippets
What is a featured snippet, you ask?
Well for non SEOs, it’s the box that is near the top of your search results that often gives you an answer to any questions you are asking. Try it now by typing a question like ‘what is a marketing agency?’ You should see a box with lots of common questions and answers.
So what does this have to do with Voice Search?
Google will pull answers to questions from these featured snippets, if available. The good news is that featured snippets are created from any search result on page one of a search query, making it more attainable for firms to get into a featured snippet.
This works in the same way for places, so when someone searches for a service near them, Google will use its featured places to suggest the best results.
Voice Search isn’t the norm just yet, but it could be eventually
We aren’t yet at the stage where all internet searches are done via voice and we won’t be for a while. It also won’t be an overnight switch… what we will see, though, is a gradual increase year on year until it gets to the point where voice search competes with standard search. This is the same trend that’s taken mobile search from a small percentage of searches to a 50% or more share of the search market.
Who knows how far off we are from voice achieving a similar share?
But it’s clear to see that smart marketers can already take advantage of Voice Search for their own firm.
SEO isn’t as linear as it once was - it’s now multi-layered and conversational and voice is just one of the changing aspects.