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Optimisation Around User Intent For Voice Search

With Voice Search on the rise and still a major marketing buzzword, Artefact revisits Google’s 2017 release of search quality evaluations guidelines for voice technology.

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Some experts believe that by 2020 30% of searches will be completed without a screen, so it’s no surprise that many brands are considering how to enter the Voice Search space.

In December 2017, Google announced the publication of specific search quality evaluation guidelines for Google Assistant and Voice Search to give more insight into how its quality process works.

The resulting PDF is rather short but extremely useful for anyone interested in this type of technology, from developers and academics to marketers seeking a better figurative footprint in the eyes-free search results.

IT’S ALL ABOUT INTENT

The document references the existing Actions & Answers criteria for the Needs Met scale in the general search quality evaluation guidelines, so the fact that the recommendations are intent focused isn’t surprising. Google has always closely worked in line with user intent, but it’s particularly interesting to see them work on guidelines for voice action apps.

INTENT UNDERSTANDING DETERMINES SATISFACTION

The examples given in the document for playing music rely on a human level of common sense to determine the success of a response. For example, when a user requests “play jazz”, the app should play a playlist rather than a single song.

Even more conventional queries get this sort of treatment. For example, when someone asks the name of the US president, they will want the current head of state. Or, if someone asks about the weather for the coming weekend, they’ll want to see a daily forecast for the whole weekend rather than just a general commentary.

HERE COMES THE KNOWLEDGE VAULT

“Play Mumford & Sons reminder” was a query that stood out as a testament to the sheer data parsing capabilities of the famous Google Knowledge Vault.

Initial thinking around the intent might be that someone wanted to set a song from the band as a reminder.

Mumford & Sons fans will, of course, understand that this query is asking for a specific track to play. The example response, however, just opens a calendar app to set a reminder. This example turns on its head the very old-fashioned idea of “latch onto the most obvious keyword”. Here “Reminder” is the name of a song, not the calendar-style activity.

Furthermore, it is reliant on the kind of advanced semantic parsing capability, generally native to Google itself with its Knowledge Vault technology.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME?

A lot of people are probably telling you that you need to revamp your entire approach to SEO, but the truth is that Voice Search is still in its infancy. It has yet to truly transform the way we interact with search, so major strategic changes are not yet applicable to most brands.

That said, quite a few brands are starting to look seriously at integrating technologies such as Google Home and Alexa into their marketing plans.

All brands should assess the relevance of Voice Search in its current state to their business objectives. Brands where it is especially relevant, like those with a local SEO focus, should consider having it on their roadmap within the next twelve months.

Currently, there are some good implications in the document that relate to preparing your brand’s content for Voice Search in general. There isn’t a single easy or technical way to “optimise” for Voice Search but there are some general things to bear in mind.

First and foremost, rich answer snippet results on Google surface commonly as responses to voice queries. While there doesn’t seem to be a direct equivalence – experiments at Artefact have shown that a voice answer doesn’t always match the rich snippet returned in “position zero” when sampling on a normal SERP – it is still worth keeping an eye on your footprint.

Make sure all your reference touchpoints like maps are up-to-date and on-brand and see where else your content could be showing up for Q&A-type queries.

When it comes to trying to feature in more snippets, extensive experimentation and careful monitoring are strongly recommended for the best results. Content formatting and wording is a much stronger influence than technical mark-ups like schema.org. You can also implement Google’s Speakable markup as another way of increasing your Voice Search capabilities.

So, create stuff that is fantastic for your users and focus on meeting intent if you want to see progress. Always know what the purpose of your content is from a user’s perspective – are you answering a question, providing specific guidance on how to do something, explaining how something works…?

With that in mind, you’re already well on the way to optimising for voice search in 2019. Chat to our SEO team to find out how we can help you optimise for Voice Search, build Voice Search apps and more.

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