Search engine optimisation has long been central to the efficacy of digital marketing campaigns, helping brands improve online visibility by ranking well in terms of their search results position. While text-based SEO efforts such as the use of relevant keywords, the creation of high quality content and the analysis of industry-specific search queries continue to influence search results positioning, search engines are adapting to changing technologies and user behaviours, altering the way search results are determined.
In an effort to better match user intent to relevant content, increased focus is being placed on semantic search factors, natural language and conversational keywords. In other words, search engines want to improve the user experience by connecting commonly spoken language with high quality online content.
While these efforts may have begun by better analysing conversational phrases in traditional text-based searches, the rise of voice assistants and voice queries has transformed the global search market. Data suggests there are over 125 million voice assistant users active in 2023, with 36% of people using voice search platforms like Apple Siri and Google Assistant to interact with search engines on a daily basis.
To make sure that voice search users consistently receive search results relevant to their voice search queries, search engine listings must account for the nuances found in conversational language. This is the basis of voice search optimisation, but effectively integrating this principle into existing SEO efforts will require a deeper understanding of how voice search users interact with popular digital assistants.
To help with this pursuit, let’s explore voice search, position zero and the future of strategic positioning.
Position zero represents the top search results position for any given search query. Also known as a featured snippet, this search result will appear as a highlighted response near to the top of Google’s results page, viewable without your target audience needing to click on and follow a link to your page.
While it may seem counterintuitive to target a search result that (by design) doesn’t influence users to click through to your website, achieving position zero can be beneficial in a number of ways. Primarily, securing featured snippets associated with your target keywords will impact key metrics such as Brand Authority and Domain Authority, improving search engine ranking positions for your business’ content.
Additionally, Google results pages with an associated featured snippet are interacted with by users in a different way to those without. Research by Ahrefs found that featured snippets secure around 33% of the traffic usually diverted to top ranking web pages. As it’s often easier to achieve position zero than it is to rank well for competitive keywords, optimising for position zero can be a quick way to boost traffic.
Position zero results are intended to provide instant answers to common search queries, accounting for the conversational nature of natural human language. While this feature was originally designed with text search prompts in mind, voice search results are quickly becoming equally or even more important.
With 57% of all search engine traffic coming from mobile devices, more internet users are utilising voice assistants and voice search applications to get quick answers to common questions. As voice searches are often more conversational than text-based queries, voice SEO efforts must differ from standard SEO.
To achieve competitive positioning and high visibility in voice search algorithms, content creators must understand how users ask questions when using digital assistants and mobile devices. When people use voice search features, they tend to phrase each search query in the same way as they would when speaking conversationally. Engines then analyse these nuances via natural language processing (NLP).
NLP queries can differ noticeably from common text searches, for example, a user looking for a local restaurant may phrase a text search as follows:
“Best restaurants near me”
Comparatively, voice searches tend to contain longer and more structured phrases, for example:
“Where can I find the best restaurant in London?”
From this one example we can see that to rank high in voice search positions, businesses will need to focus more on long tail keywords and conversational phrases in their content to match user behaviours. In addition, local SEO becomes increasingly important for any business with a physical trading location.
When optimising digital marketing content for voice search visibility, brands must make sure to account for multiple specific formatting factors. Alongside long tail keywords and key NLP considerations, voice search queries focus on factors like local SEO and device integration to convince Google that certain web pages are deserving of a featured snippet position. Below are five key optimisation tips to consider.
NLP is a form of artificial intelligence that helps search engines better understand human language, ultimately analysing user intent to ensure relevant content is boosted in search engine results pages. It applies to both text queries and voice searches, but voice search optimisation requires a specific approach.
If you want your content to achieve position zero for a voice search prompt, you’ll need to take the time to research conversational keywords related to your business. The aim is to include common questions asked by your audience in your online content, with the only information below being a concise answer.
An effective way to achieve this is to research existing FAQs related to your business listing, taking note of the search volume associated with each, and including the highest ranking questions in your content. Answers should be no longer than around 30-40 words, begin with a natural rephrasing of the question and be included in a piece of high quality content that’s highly relevant to the initial voice search query.
With the rise of voice search optimisation, long tail keywords have become increasingly relevant. When consumers use voice activated devices and AI powered personal assistants to search for content, they typically use similar phrasings of long-form questions alongside more traditional target keywords. This means businesses can include highly detailed phrases in their content to better match queries exactly.
For example, rather than targeting a competitive short keyword like “security camera”, businesses can target longer phrases like “what is the best budget security camera for small businesses?”. This allows brands to reach niche audiences effectively without needing to compete for oversaturated key phrases.
Including highly-relevant long tail keywords in your content means that your web pages will be more likely to achieve position zero for niche searches related to your market. This means when consumers use voice assistants like Siri, Alexa or Cortana (as well as voice activated devices like smart speakers), your content will be automatically prioritised, improving the user experience and your results rankings.
27% of the global online population uses voice search features on mobile devices, with smartphones being the most commonly used device for conducting voice searches. With this in mind, the content you intend to promote as a featured snippet must be formatted to be easily viewed on any personal device.
While it’s important to pursue voice search optimising factors to achieve position zero and capture more of your target audience, you must make sure users remain on your pages to retain traffic. Typically, this means ensuring your pages load quickly, your site is easy to navigate and your content is easy to read.
To ensure a smooth user experience for voice search on mobile devices, consider these best practises:
Brands can provide search engines with additional context related to their web pages using structured data and schema markup. This standardised format helps content to stand out in voice search returns by communicating important details related to your pages and your content directly to search engines.
Enriching data like reviews, ratings, images and other contextually relevant information can be added to your results snippets by selecting appropriate schema and utilising data structure insertion methods as outlined by Google. This means when a user conducts a voice search for any keyword or phrase you’ve targeted, returning results will contain additional information to help your web page stand out.
Research conducted by Google found that web pages utilising schema markup typically receive a higher number of meaningful interactions, with highlights including a potential 35% increase in traffic and an 82% higher click-through rate, increasing the chance your content will rank well in voice search returns.
Around 22% of voice search prompts are for location-specific content, meaning a large number of users will include keywords related to places, landmarks or directional phrases like “near me” when interacting with voice search tools and voice assistant programs. For local businesses to benefit from these voice search prompts, it’s important to include local terms and phrases in relevant pieces of online content.
It’s wise to regularly update your website’s local SEO elements, including aspects like your Google My Business Listings profile. Google is known to prioritise sites with updated business listings profiles when returning results for location-specific searches. So, ensuring this information is regularly updated will boost the likelihood of your content ranking well in response to local voice search prompts.
For any search marketing strategies to be effective, brands must understand how to accurately monitor rank positions and analyse the efficacy of performed techniques. Thankfully, measuring website traffic, web data and search engine ranking reports has been simplified in recent years. There are numerous tools (both search engine native and produced by third parties) available to businesses and website owners.
Primarily, brands can easily check page positions in Google using the site’s own Google Search Console service. By creating a Search Console account, businesses can freely review key metrics such as total impressions, click through rates and average ranking positions. This means you can A/B test changes to your content to analyse the efficacy of your SEO strategies in relation to targeted voice search prompts.
In addition, website owners can utilise search engine positioning software to further enhance existing SEO efforts. Alongside tools like Search Console and Google Analytics used to provide insights into key metrics like traffic and engagement. Wider tools can be used to add value to search engine rank reports.
The core technology behind voice search features and programs is unlikely to change drastically in the near future. But the way we interact with voice search platforms likely will. Primarily, as voice search assistants become more advanced, prompts are expected to become more complex and conversational. This means voice search optimisation will be heavily reliant on continuous keyword research practises.
The future of voice search optimisation will also need to account for new technologies and increasingly smart personal devices. Voice search programs will be positioned to provide a transformative user experience. Voice search may be used to order items from smart fridges, highlighting new key phrases to be targeted by brands.
In addition, the rise of augmented reality devices like smart glasses will open up new avenues for voice search optimisation. Without a physical interface for users to interact with, voice search prompts will become increasingly important, revealing new keywords and phrases for fast-acting brands to target.
The world of SEO and digital content marketing is constantly changing, with users altering their search habits in response to new technologies, trends and desires. In many ways, voice search represents the forefront of these developments, providing consumers with a more natural and conversational way to navigate digital content. But brands must adapt to these changes to rank well for modern search terms.
By introducing conversational language and long tail keywords into digital content, as well as targeting location-specific phrases, utilising schema markup techniques and optimising websites for mobile users, businesses can increase their chances of achieving position zero for competitive keywords and phrases.
With daily usage for voice search platforms growing by almost 10% per year, the future of voice search seems bright for those that have already adopted voice search optimisation techniques. If your brand needs help optimising for position zero, or could benefit from some professional insights into modern SEO techniques, contact our team today.