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Voice-command SEO: Are You Ready for the Cortana Revolution?

Posted by Andrew J. on September 12, 2017

Online search habits are changing. With mobile smartphone devices accounting for nearly 60 percent of search queries by volume in 2016, as well as the rise of voice-activated intelligent personal assistant (IPA) technologies — such as Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa — SEO professionals are facing the difficult task of finding new strategies to accommodate this rapidly evolving reality.

Voice assistants are being built into enough personal and household devices to cover Google_home.pngevery room of the house. With this expansion of digital assistants, the error rate for speech recognition algorithms is now less than 5%. Out of sheer convenience, to "Google it" will certainly mean speaking rather than typing. The good news is that voice-command search modalities actually present a great opportunity for savvy businesses to get ahead of the competition. To understand how, let’s take a look at two important concepts affecting voice-search protocol, and see what practical points can be implemented to better enhance our SEO along the way.


1. Semantics and Grammar

A typed search query differs significantly from its spoken counterpart — and Google has been mulling over this distinction for a few years now. In fact, when the company launched its Hummingbird algorithm update in 2013, it did so with the intention of prioritizing “conversational phrases” — reminiscent of the typical voice-command search — into its ranking guidelines.

So what are the consequences for SEO compatibility? The points below should be considered:

Capitalize on a customer’s “micro-moments”: This is a term coined by Google to describe certain mobile-based voice searches with “real-time relevance.” The point here is that your SEO content should fulfill a triad of functions — be there, be useful and be quick.

Exploit co-citation and synonyms: Hummingbird’s algorithm also utilizes something called latent semantic indexing, which, in practice, means that specific keywords are far less important than content that reads well for your customer. Terms similar to your product or service will now contribute to your ranking — which is good, as most voice queries are often vague and imprecise.

Anticipate questions: Words such as "who," "what," "where" and "when" are especially common in voice searches, so be prepared.


2. Location-Based SEO

A voice search using either a smartphone or IPA device usually generates a result similar to that of a Google Rich Card or Quick Answer, i.e., a single recommendation that most fits the user’s query — oftentimes with location-precise relevance.

However, this can prove an advantage if you remember the following:

  • Go “hyperlocal” and use specific geographical information in your content to synchronize with search users in the vicinity.
  • Take advantage of markup schema and leverage the power of microdata.
  • Ensure that every physically distinct business location is optimized with locally used terms for the area, as voice-search queries are likely to be framed in the parlance and dialect of the region in question.

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Topics: Google, search trends, SEO, voice assistants, performance marketing

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