Voice search, structured data, & artificial intelligence (AI) is the future, and the future is now.
** Update: June 10th, 2018 — We’ve added a new section called The 3 Steps to Optimize Your Website for Voice Search below.
Voice search is growing rapidly, especially among B2B search queries and teens.
But on an aggregate scale, voice search is arguably the most important trend as you look to the future of search and how people interact with things such as mobile devices, cars, appliances… pretty much everything, including each other.
Here’s a graph that shows the growth rate of voice search:
Below are some quick data points to illustrate the rise of voice search:
Stats on voice search, mobile, and AI:
- Google announced at at their I/O 2017 conference that 20 percent of all U.S. searches are now voice search.
- 50% of B2B search queries today are made on smartphones (Boston Consulting Group, Oct. 2017)
- By 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches (ComScore research via Campaign)
- 20% of a mobile search queries are now voice searches (Campaign)
- The Google search app gets 30X as many action queries by voice as by typing (Think With Google)
- Voice search is significant factor in the future of search (Hilton’s Melissa Walner, GeoMarketing by Yext)
- 58 percent of all question queries have voice search results in Google (iProspect)
B2B Voice Search
According to BCG, mobile search contributes twice the ROI for B2B transactions compared to searches made from a desktop or laptop. Here’s a key quote from BCG’s research on B2B mobile search:
Because the effect of mobile marketing extends beyond the smartphone to the desktop or laptop, tablet, and offline sales, it’s important that this testing include these other channels. For example, the e-commerce division of one large industrial company was seeking to drive higher marketing ROI and determine the right amount of spending to dedicate to mobile. Using a regression-based approach to estimate mobile search’s contribution to overall revenue growth, including conversions that took place in other channels, the company found that ROI from mobile search was twice that from desktop and laptop paid search, after controlling for other factors. Because mobile search was making significant contributions to increasing sales, the company could increase its mobile spending and continue to improve overall ROI.
Along with the fact that 50 percent of all searches will be voice search by 2020, and 50 percent of B2B searches are made via smartphones, it’s clear that if you target the B2B market, it’s imperative that you shift to a voice search SEO strategy for your business.
Entities, Schema, & Structured Data: Optimizing for Voice Search
In order to optimize for voice search, it’s imperative that you leverage Schema markup (JSON-LD) within your website. Along with marking up the key pages within your website, it’s equally important that your business data is distributed across the most authoritative sites on the web and that your data is accurate and consistent.
For local SEO voice search, your business data must be consistent and accurate as it relates directly to your Google My Business listing (GMB / Google Maps listing).
For example, if you are implementing a franchise SEO strategy, aligning your business data with your location’s GMB listings, and then distributing that data (otherwise known as citations) is key to getting found in local search results, maps, and apps via voice search.
According to Google, JSON-LD is the recommended format for implementing structured data into your website.
Here’s a simple example of company describing their contact information via JSON-LD / Schema markup:
The entities in the example above would be data points such as:
- Type: Organization
- Name: Unlimited Ball Bearings Corp
- ContactPoint / Telephone: +1-401-555-1212
- ContactType: Customer Service
There are currently 16 core types of content (entities) that can be marked up with Schema / JSON-LD, according to Google’s structured data guide:
- Fact Check
- Job Postings
- Local Business
- Paywalled content
- TV & Movies
And there are a few beta features that Google is testing for marking up for search results such as:
The reality is, structured data drives intelligent search.
And intelligent search doesn’t imply some kind of super smart user that’s searching in really sophisticated ways.
Smart search is on the UI / AI side of the equation… the technology side.
Voice search is at its best when someone simply speaks into a device and gets the best response or action desired.
Structured data and SEO
When pages include structured data, this means the page is marked up with properly formatted Schema language. Google prefers the use of JSON-LD as the language for implementing Schema into a page and marking up content.
Without Schema markup, or structured data with the page, Google and other search engines and apps, simply see a page of text.
In this case, search engines have to rely on a much smaller segment of meta data to truly understand what the content is about such as the title and description tags, or image alt tags.
However, this meta data accounts for a very small percentage of the overall content and context of the topics on the page.
Structured data allows the brand to provide a much richer set of data points relative to the topics covered in the content.
Taking structured data one step further, you can also create associations across the pages of your website to provide even more relevance and structure to your pages and content.
For example, let’s say you are a personal injury lawyer in Chicago with 3 partners and 25 associate lawyers. Here’s a great strategy for implementing structured data:
- Homepage (organization / Schema type: Attorney)
- About Us page
- Partner attorney profile 1 (partner 1 / Schema type: person)
- Partner attorney profile 2 (partner 2 / Schema type: person)
- Partner attorney profile 3 (partner 2 / Schema type: person)
- Practice area / City Page 1 (personal injury lawyer in Chicago)
- Practice area / City Page 2 (brain injury lawyer in Chicago)
- Practice area / City Page 3 (car accident lawyer in Chicago)
Each of the pages above can include highly structured data (Schema / JSON-LD) that would give search engines, maps, and other apps rich data about granular level attributes found within the content of each page.
But let’s say “Partner attorney 1” focused on “brain injury cases”.
By associating your structured data across your website, you could in essence tie the “Partner attorney 1” profile page directly into the “brain injury lawyer in Chicago” page.
By making this association through structured data, now search engines such as Google not only has rich information and understands your “brain injury” page better, but Google also has specific instructions (via structured data) that “Partner attorney 1” is the primary attorney for “brain injury cases”.
This makes both the brain injury and partner attorney profile page more authoritative as a result of the structured data, and because of the associative properties within structured data, there is now a specific attorney tied to a specific practice area.
This same use case with structured data can be applied at scale in nearly every business type and market category.
Structured data is also a powerful way to present rich snippet content in Google search results.
Here’s an example of structured data being used to present event information in search:
Not only can structured data (Schema) be used to present additional data sets in Google, but this is also true of most search engines and apps.
Bing takes a little bit of a different approach to the way the show event data in search, but the concept is the same — structured data is being leveraged to present information in the search results:
Another popular use of structured data in search results is to present reviews and star ratings along with the search results.
When you implement structured data for reviews, you can markup your page with things like
- number of reviews
- star ratings / average star ratings
- person leaving the review
When you implement review markup and get stars to appear with your search result, this can help you stand out definitively in search and get a higher click thru rate.
The reason being, people’s eyes will be drawn to your search result because it’s probably the only one with stars showing.
For example, here’s the search results of the keyword phrase “forsyth county car accident lawyer“:
Even though this website is ranked #2, it more than likely will catch people’s attention before the first search result. And in turn, they could attract more clicks and awareness from people searching.
* Disclaimer: Leibel Law is a client of ours
Intent of the search
So why is all this talk about Schema and structured data so important?
Because Google is trying to show search results based on a users intent, and not solely on the words typed into the search bar.
Also because Google desires to show the absolute best search results based on what’s typed into the search bar.
In order to under what the best pages are to show in the search results, Google has to have a detailed understanding of what your page is about.
And structured data helps to explain to search engines, (and maps, and apps) all of the different topics and entities associated with your page.
The more it understands the bigger picture of your page and content, the better Google will be at presenting your page for searches that are topically related to your content.
Another way to complement the structured data on your pages is to understand LSI (Latent Semantic Index).
I wrote about LSI in another post called Local SEO 2017 – It’s All About City Pages.
And here’s a quick snippet from that article:
Perhaps one of the greatest advancements in Google’s search algorithm is the move toward topical relevance. Topical relevance goes beyond specific keyword phrases, and looks to the overall relevance of a particular topic. One look at the organic rankings for Wikipedia pages will give you an idea of the power of topical relevance. Today, Google uses LSI technology to determine the overall authority of a page based on topical relevance. So instead of focusing on just one keyword phrases, Google looks at the content to see how many other “topically related” terms or phrases are used throughout the content. In summary, latent semantic indexing means that Google is trying to understand the topical relevance of your content.
Again, this is moving far beyond search results based on one single keyword phrase or just a list of 10 blue links.
The best strategy for tailoring your pages for LSI is to think more content is better.
If you have a page of content that’s only 300 words long, that’s not enough content to cover a lot of different related topics.
However, if you write a 2,500 word article or page of content, and if the content is high quality and well researched, you’ll naturally have a wide range of related topics spread throughout the content.
As mentioned in the quote above, Wikipedia is a great example of long form content that includes a lot of different related topics.
In fact, Wikipedia is so detailed with related topics, they include links to multiple Wikipedia pages throughout any given page of content.
Check out this Wikipedia page on a topics that’s been in the news lately: Local SEO 2017 – It’s All About City Pages.
As you read through the content, notice how many additional keywords (related topics) are linked pointing to their own Wikipedia page.
In the first 2 paragraphs of that page, I counted 12 outbound links (or 12 related topics) pointing to topically related Wikipedia pages.
Now, I’m not saying the pages within your site need to be on par with Wikipedia articles!
But you can certainly put some time and effort into building out well researched content and focusing on more content per page, not less.
If you write a 2,500 word page of content and layer on the Schema / structured data, you’ll be well positioned to compete in the top search results in Google and attract traffic from a wide range of topically related keyword phrases.
The future of search will be all about voice search, AI (artificial intelligence), and machine learning that influences the search results.
This means you need to move beyond thinking of your websites and web pages as just a collection of text, images, and meta data, and start thinking about how to integrate Schema markup language to enhance your pages.
JSON-LD is the preferred markup language according to Google.
Well researched, long form content is a great way to optimize for the Latent Semantic Index.
Combined, the above strategies will help you compete in the search results for a wide range of related keyword phrases. This is important because Google is now showing search results based on user intent and not simply the keyword phrases typed into a search bar.
3 Steps To Optimize Your Website for Voice Search
3 Steps to Optimize Your Website for Voice Search in 2018 and Beyond
According to Google, over one-fifth of the searches on Google are voice search.
And it’s expected that by 2020 (less than 2 years from now), over half of all searches in Google will be voice activated queries.
This should make it obvious that voice search is important for any business website.
Voice search is especially relevant for local businesses since 22% of voice activated searches are for local information.
Most of these local searches come from people looking for business hours, directions, or phone #’s.
However, Google recently announced they’ve seen a 130% increase in “near me” related searches.
For example, people simply say “dentist near me” or “lawyer near me”, or even “best landscaper near me”.
And when someone speaks a query that generates a “near me” result, Google is mostly looking at the geographic location of where the person is physically located.
Since voice search is so important now, and increasingly more important in the future, how can small and local businesses optimize their website’s for voice search?
Here’s 3 simple steps to optimizing your website for voice search.
Step 1: Add question and answer based content
Add question and answer based content to your website. Think of the most common questions you hear from customers, then create new pages of content with the question at the title and answer as the content of the page.
The majority of voice activated searches are question based. People simply want their questions answered quickly and accurately. Someone will simply pull out their phone and say “ok Google, who’s the best car accident lawyer near me”? (change out “car accident lawyer” for any given business category in a local market).
And according to Thrive Analytics, this type of search behavior is increasing at a rapid pace.
Since people are searching (or speaking) questions in to Google, it makes sense that you should include a large amount of Q&A based content in your website.
One of the most prominent areas of question and answer based content have huge impacts on their presence in search is with our law firm client’s websites and search optimization strategies.
I recommend creating an FAQ page to consolidate links pointing out to all of your Q&A based content. And then I recommend creating a new page for each question and answer.
So your question would be the title of your page, and the answer would be the content published on your page. This is a very simple strategy to follow.
Then on your FAQ page, list out all of your questions, and then link that question directly to the page where you answer that question.
Want to see an example of this?
Below are some Q&A based content on our site here at Bipper Media. Notice below how I’m simply writing the question and link out to the page where the answer resides.
EXAMPLE FAQ List
Since most people using voice search are looking for answers to specific questions, having a Q&A driven content strategy like this will help your website be more optimized for voice activated searches.
For the local business, start thinking about questions you most from customers. Then start creating simple pages with the question as the title and answer as the content for that page.
I’m willing to bet that any business could easily come up with 50 questions they hear most from customers!
Step 2: Add Schema Markup to your website
Adding Schema markup to your website structures key data about your business, making it easy for search engines to crawl, index, and understand the data better for search results.
Schema markup is the future of search!
Before Schema, search engines saw nothing but text on a page and had to guess as to the context of the meaning of those words.
Schema markup helps search engines see text as data points. And when those data points get associated with other data points from both your website and throughout the website (external websites, etc…), then search engines have a much better understanding of all the relevant data points associated with your business.
Here’s some Schema markup we’ve used recently:
There’s a lot going on in here… so if you aren’t familiar with Schema at the code level, don’t let this intimidate you!
You can use a batch of code like this and simply change out the references to make them relevant for your business.
You can learn more about Schema markup and all the data types by checking out Schema.org.
Step 3: Build Location Authority for your Business
Location Authority is a simply a reflection for how well you’ll rank in search vs. any other business and within any specific geographic area. The more location authority your business has for any given geographic area, the higher you’ll rank in search and more traffic and exposure you’ll get to high quality audiences.
The way we go about building location authority for our clients is two fold:
- Verify and optimize our clients Google My Business listing
- Distribute our client’s citations at a large scale throughout the web
Verify & Optimize Google My Business
Every business that serves local customers should have a verified Google My Business listing for their business.
Here’s a simple step by step to creating and verifying a Google My Business listing (via Google Business Support):
- Go to google.com/business and click Start now at the top right corner of the page.
- Sign in to your Google Account, or create one if you don’t already use Google services.
- Enter the name of your business and click Next.
- Note: You can also select your business from the suggestions that appear as you type.
- Enter the address of your business and click Next. You may also be asked to position a marker on the location of your business on a map.
- If you manage a service-area business, follow these additional steps:
- Check the box for I deliver goods and services to my customers. Optionally, check the box for Hide my address (it’s not a store) Only show region –.
- Click Next.
- Select a delivery area option and click Next.
- If you manage a service-area business, follow these additional steps:
- Search for and select a business category and click Next.
- Enter a phone number or website URL for your business.
- To complete sign-up, verify your connection to this business by clicking Continue.
- Select a verification option.
- To verify at another time, select Try a different method and click Later. If you’re not authorized to manage the business, find the person in your organization who’s authorized and continue the process.
No matter what you see, confirm that your business information is correct. It’s important that when you verify your business information, everything is ready to appear to customers across Google.
To edit incorrect information, follow these steps:
- Click Later.
- If you manage more than one location, open the menu and click Manage locations. Then, select the location you want to edit.
- Click Info from the menu on the left side of the screen.
- Click edit next to each section you’d like to change and enter your business information.
Now that you’ve either claimed or created your listing, it’s time to verify your business. After you verify, your business information will be eligible to appear across Google.
Once you receive your verification postcard, return to google.com/business. Sign in and click Verify location from the menu (or click the Verify now button). Then follow the instructions to enter the verification code from your postcard.
The first question you might have is, what’s a citation?
Fair question… basically a citation is the complete local address and website URL for your business.
For example, here Bipper Media’s citation:
855 Gaines School Rd, Ste A
Athens, Georgia 30605
And citation distribution simply means publishing your citation throughout the web. The most authoritative citations for local SEO are those that are consistent with your Google My Business listing. The way you publish your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) on external websites and directories should be an exact match to the NAP on your Google business page.
The more citations you get published throughout the web, and more relevant and authoritative the sites are where you publish those citations, the more location authority you’ll build for website (organic search) and Google My Business listing (local / Google Maps search).
Another powerful strategy for building location authority is to focus on getting citations in vertical directories. These are directories that are specific to your industry and or location.
Voice search is on the rise. More than ever, people are simply pulling out their phones and saying “ok Google…” or “hey Siri…” to get their questions answered. And this trend is only going to increase into the future.
With voice search increasing, businesses need to get onboard and get their websites optimized for this new trend in voice activated search.
Equally important, it’s important to understand that voice searches on Google are mostly relevant to local business information. This means businesses need to get their Google My Business listings optimized for Google Maps and Google local search results.
Interested in learn more about how to get your website and local presence optimized for voice search?
Get started with a free diagnosis of your business today.