Over the years Google have made their algorithm more and more complex. The end goal seems to be ensuring that the website with the most relevant content – not the highest budget appears first. Years ago techniques like keyword stuffing meant that the more keywords you repeated the higher you ranked – even if you were no longer making grammatical sense. This is good for the end user but also benefits small to medium businesses who know their work better than a SEO firm trying to sell their services.
I think 2015 will be the year of the long tail keyword for several reasons. Primarily: the Google blog did a study a few months ago into voice search. They found “55% of teens” and “41% of adults” use Google’s voice search feature daily. The fact Google have commissioned this study means that voice search is likely to be a focus point for Google HQ this year. Voice changes the wording we use to search for things, and 2014 has been a year very focused on local search.
For why people use voice search Google identified that people feel “it’s the future”, it helps with multitasking and tellingly more than 65% of the study said “it makes me more efficient”. More relevant however is how people use this data:
- Nearly 40% of people use voice search to ask directions
- 31% of teens use voice search to help with homework
- 20% if teens and 9% of adults use voice search to find movie times
- 30% of children and 9% of adults use voice search to play music
This data shows that the majority of people use voice search on the go. This reinforces the importance of local listings and appearing on Google maps. The data is clear that people are asking questions when searching the web – the main exception being asking Google to play music.
An example the blog entry gives is the question “how long does a goat live”. This is phonetic and how we might ask a goat farmer the question – or Google using voice search. When typing this question into Google we would be far more likely to write something like “Goat lifespan”. With voice search becoming more popular I feel that within the next few years VSO (voice search optimisation) will become an offshoot of SEO or even an industry in it’s own right – similar to what has happened with social media marketing.
Voice search – looking to the future
As it is clear that people speak and type in two separate ways this does mean any remaining black hat techniques are likely to go out the window – both as people start to use voice search more, and as Google tightens its algorithm to become more relevant to these voice searchers and less complicated for local business.
I would predict next winter mobile use of voice search will spike as more and more of us have smart phones with good vocal recognition technology. When we are searching for things on the move we won’t want to take our gloves off. People use voice search to answer questions “how do I make …?” or locationally “where is the nearest…?”
This gives two clear practical applications. Websites with blogs tend to answer questions but also tend to be optimised for search engines (particularly Google). As people increasingly ask questions on page factors will change. If you are a large online store without a physical office this will make blogging more important so you can answer questions that people ask you. I predict any changes will have more impact on local business however.
Targeting the mobile voice market for local business
I would say it is already vital to make your page respond to the device being used but looking at analytics can tell you what portion of your visitors are using mobile devices and if this statistic is high it may be worth optimising your web page specifically for these devices rather than the more traditional desktop computers. This means making everything on your page as accessible as possible as quickly as possible.
Think about what people want to find on your website – if you run a takeaway people are looking for your phone number and your menu. Make sure that people are able to see clear links to your menu when they land on your page, and ensure your phone number and address are clear to see on every page.
Over the next few years I feel that voice will become a major factor in bringing people to local businesses. We are increasingly connected – 4G bought high speed internet to the high street so if you are looking for something now you can just ask your phone for specific local information and get a result. The question “Where is the best restaurant within a mile of me?” is a good example.
If you are a cafe try doing a voice search for “what’s the best cafe in [location]”. This will bring up a list of local businesses for you to choose based on user reviews and locality. It is important to appear on these listings already. If you aren’t make sure you have a Google business account and use techniques to encourage people to leave reviews.
How can I optimise my business for voice search?
For online business landing pages are used to target specific questions. There are two approaches to doing this – a landing page or a blog.
For Blogging I advise to target each blog to focus on one keyword or phrase. Using title tags and CSS identifying a clear question somebody would ask when searching using voice and then making a long tail phrase out of it is a good way of targeting these users. The title of this segment above is a question phrased as somebody might speak rather than as somebody might type in a search bar. Although it isn’t likely anybody will actually make this search it is a good example – the focus of this blog entry is voice search so this is formulating the target keyword as a phrased question.
Landing pages are similar. For instance if voice search becomes a massive business I might make a page titled “how does voice search optimisation work?” and make sub headings answering questions like “what is the best way of optimising my website?” Again this is massively dependent on your business model and aren’t things people are likely to be searching for until voice search becomes a competitor to keyboards.
While we are a long way away from living in a word where dictation overtakes the use of a keyboard I feel that in the next few years we will find voice optimisation becoming a stronger ranking factor (as we have found with video and multimedia over the last few years). This will boil down to more in depth keyword research – what phrases people use to vocally find your niche – and if this becomes as big as I feel it will Google will adjust their analytics or keyword planning tools to allow for this.
Tellingly one thing Google discovered people really wanted was to be able to ask their phone to order them a pizza. I predict within the next decade at most we will be able to tell our phone to “deliver a margarita pizza to my house”.