As you may be aware, voice is fast becoming the newest frontier that marketers need to contend with. Sales of voice-controlled smart speakers have increased and companion apps allow smartphone users to access digital assistants on the move. Search engines have also improved their speech recognition systems to increase accuracy.
However, what still remains unclear to a lot of businesses is how to be the answer spoken aloud. Your ultimate goal is to be included as the answer in the Featured Snippet box at the top of a search page — also known as the answer box or position zero.
To get there, it helps to know what voice search services are looking for.
While hardly new to the scene, structured data has become increasingly important. Search engines rely on “marked up content” to help power the rich experiences that consumers enjoy today. Examples include direct access to a business’s name, address, phone number, email address, and more. Using structured data takes technical work in the code base of your website, but it’s well worth the effort. Simply put, search engines trust data that is marked up, and you don’t want to be left behind as competitors deploy this to improve discovery and use of their content.
Today’s technical SEO efforts focus on more than just URL and image optimisation. They also include making a site secure and making sure that it’s mobile friendly. These are priorities for search engines, so businesses must make sure they align as the engines increase trust in these signals. Let’s include the basic SEO work applied to every website in this section as well. Basically, no matter how you consider the work of SEO, it’s largely all part of the technical SEO effort today.
Quality of Content
Today, businesses are judged by the quality of content — and by the quality of how that content translates into a spoken voice answer. Long gone are the days of short answers in hopes that any answer will work. We live in the era of the right answer. Consumers demand accurate, well-formulated responses to queries, and being in the voice space is no different. Developing rich content that explores not only detailed, direct answers, but also follows logical patterns to explore related questions and answers is critical. If you get this right, you’ll be a trusted authority on your topic.
In Google’s Own Words
These next few points come directly from the Voice Rater’s Handbook, a training guide Google’s staff uses to learn how to rate voice answers, which in turn helps train their systems. Here are a few key takeaways on what voice devices look for, so you can be the answer.
Length of the answer:
The rater is encouraged to understand if the answer to be spoken is of an appropriate length, matching the complexity of its content. Complex questions often require complex answers, so a mis-match here means a low-quality answer. They also ask if it would have been beneficial for the user if the answer were either more concise or more detailed. Sometimes a quicker answer is the better answer.
Formulation of the answer:
The rater should determine if the answer is grammatically correct and if the response is formulated in a way one would expect from a native speaker as opposed to a machine or someone not fully fluent in the language. And when the answer includes an attribution, was the source of the content clear, obvious, and understandable?
In other instances, a Quality Rater may be tasked with focusing on an additional factor, which is elocution:
The goal with this is to understand how accurate the pronunciation is of each word spoken in the response, as well as the intonation of the voice throughout the response. This seeks to understand if the speed at which the response was spoken is appropriate. Is it too fast, or too slow? This could be due to an awkward rhythm in the spoken response, or words slightly mispronounced.
As you can see, a lot goes into making sure you have the best possible spoken answer for voice search. And while these are Google’s directions, you can bet that Bing, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and other companies have similar approaches to managing voice through their ecosystems.
The bottom line — regardless of the ecosystem, you must manage, arrange and structure your data properly to become the chosen answer. This will be your key to success in the future.