The inexorable rise of voice search algorithms like Siri, Alexa and OK Google has dramatically changed the way people find your business online. Here are four tips on writing content that raises your chances of hitting ‘rank zero’ on more searches.

Voice search is on the up and up. In 2018, research shows, 57 per cent of smartphone users in Australia used voice activation regularly. Accounting for 49 per cent of activity, voice search was the second most common use. By 2020, research firm Gartner estimates almost one in three search sessions will take place without a screen. Certainly not something to be ignored, then.

Winner takes all – how to hit ‘rank zero’

Getting in front of your voice search customers is all about ‘rank zero’ – the single audio answer a voice search algorithm gives the searcher.

Rank zero is usually the highest organic result the algorithm can find. If you aren’t rank zero, it’s game over for reaching that potential customer. As paid advertising is currently unavailable on voice search, brands really need their content and SEO to hit that No. 1 spot. Here are our top four tips on how to do it.

1. Answer real questions

When typing a search, we tend to use disjointed keywords (e.g. ‘health sector law firms Australia’) and scroll through the first page of results that pops up.

When using voice search, people speak in longer, chattier sentences – more human. For example, we’re more likely to say: “OK Google, what’s the best law firm near me specialising in the health industry?”

Voice algorithms look for the most direct answers to these queries. On Google, it’s often the top ‘feature snippet’ that gets read out as the definitive answer – though not always.

2. Target long-tail keywords

Voice searches are less about keyword variations and more about real speech. This means your content and key search terms need to be long-tailed and structured to answer the queries that would bring people to your website.

If your website and content include the answers to these common questions, there’s a greater chance the algorithm will feature it as the rank zero answer.

The single answer to the law firm question above could be a website introduction like this:
“Smith, Jones and Yung specialise in the areas of corporate health and medical research law. The 10-person team has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra…”

3. Match keywords with common intents

Behind every search is an ‘intent’ – an articulated or inferred need for a product, service, solution or simply more information. Intent is hugely variable but also extremely important when aiming for rank zero.

To reach searchers, your long-tails have to cover common intents. It could be discovering more about your brand, the timing of a new product release and its price, or looking for help with a problem.

For example: “Alexa, what’s the best law degree in Australia?”

4. Go with a Q&A style

Once you’ve agreed your natural language and the intent-linked long-tail keywords relevant to your business, you need to embed them around your site.

Many businesses think FAQ-style content belongs on a single troubleshooting page. However, you now have to optimise much more of your writing for queries and answers. These need to appear on your main site pages and in your blog posts.

To master voice search, your aim is both understanding user intent and giving your audience an immediate answer with as much detail as possible. By doing that, you’re providing the voice algorithm with as many hooks as possible. It’s a trial and error process but also a great way to get to grips with your customers’ motivations and preferences – and where you answer them.

Josephine Phillips

© Six Black Pens 2019