What Does Voice Search Mean for SEO/Content?

November 7, 2018 Mary Bratzler & Wilson Nash

The popularity of smart speaker devices (Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Home Pod) and digital voice assistants (Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, Cortana) has grown dramatically in recent years. As a result, the number of voice searches being made using these types of devices is also growing rapidly. Modest predictions suggest 50% of all searches will be voice initiated by the year 2020. What does this mean and how does it impact the way we optimize school websites?

To answer this question we first need to examine the key differences between voice search and traditional text searches. First of all, the fundamentals haven’t changed—the primary focus of any SEO strategy should still be on creating and maintaining up to date and high quality content. The rise of voice search has not changed this fact. What has changed is the way people search. Many have become accustomed to going to Google Search and typing in just a few keywords without any consideration for grammar or sentence structure. This tactic generally works well enough for traditional searches conducted with a keyboard. Voice searches, on the other hand, tend to be longer, more specific, and structured as conversational questions and complete sentences.

Google, the most commonly used search engine, has introduced a new type of search result—featured snippets. When people type a query into Google Search, an answer may display at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) as a featured snippet. With voice search, the device will actually read aloud the text in the featured snippet.

Taking some of these differences between text and voice search into consideration, we can circle back to our initial question—what does voice search mean for SEO? For starters, it means that it is even more important than ever to have answers to some of the most commonly asked questions on the school’s website in a format that can easily be utilized by search engines like Google. Though we cannot control what content appears as a featured snippet, we can optimize for voice search using  “Frequently Asked Questions/FAQ” content.

Creating content in a question and answer format will increase the likelihood that search engines will find and serve up appropriate information as a featured snippet. When writing questions for an FAQ, consider how a prospective parent or student might phrase that question if they were talking into a smart speaker device. It’s important to use common language, not marketing terms or school jargon (i.e., use middle/high school instead of upper school; kindergarten/elementary instead of lower school). A tool to help discover what the exact phrases people are using in their searches is Answer the Public.  

It is also important to include both the question and the actual answer to that question in the FAQ. For example, consider the question “What is the cost of tuition?” If a link to a PDF document with tuition information is provided instead of answering the question in the text on the page, search engines are not going to be able to recognize the relationship between the question and answer.

If this information can’t easily be found on the school’s website, Google may even pull that information from another site, such as Private School Review. An important strategy for SEO is to check the local directories and business listings and make updates so that the school’s profile is correct and displays a consistent name, address, and phone (NAP). A good resource for checking these listings is Moz Local.

Bottom line, place relevant FAQ content throughout the site, especially on key landing pages. Answer the questions people are searching. Consider how they may phrase those questions when you are creating content. And regularly check local and business listings to make sure NAP and other information is updated.

About the Author

Mary Bratzler & Wilson Nash

Mary Bratzler, an Educational Consultant with Blackbaud's K–12 Professional Services team, has 15 years of experience in data management, content management, and the “ON” products. Most rewarding for Mary are the "Aha!" moments when schools take best practices and turn them into solutions for managing their websites. Off-hours will find Mary enjoying time with her family or playing a game of Scrabble or Sudoku.

Wilson Nash is an Interactive Designer with Blackbaud’s K–12 Professional Services team. When he isn’t helping schools build their websites with OnMessage, Wilson enjoys experimenting with other forms of new media such as Motion Graphics and iOS development.

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