Are you preparing your content for the future of voice search?

While we’re all aware that voice search is on the increase, it seems that we’re still burying our heads in the sand when it comes to making any changes to the way we write for online. By 2020 up to 50% of all queries are predicted to be performed via voice search.

The impact of this on our voice-driven organic traffic and revenues could be potentially catastrophic, if we’re unprepared.

Voice search optimization and keyword testing

At Pi we’ve been closely monitoring the organic results of hundreds of ambiguous queries, alongside their more traditional (old-school) counterparts, for over 12 months now to examine, firstly, how different the results are and, secondly, how they’re changing.

In this first of two posts we examine the difference between SERPs results derived from two groups of semantically related queries:

Group 1: Traditional (old school) ‘Keyword game’ queries
Group 2: Forward-thinking ‘Ambiguous voice search’ queries

We examined the data in the following order:

  • Step 1: Identifying top performing sites
  • Step 2: Comparing top-level site performance
  • Step 3: Comparing granular site performance
  • Step 4: Comparing on-page content
  • Step 5: Sites that apply keyword AND voice search optimization

With summer approaching, the focus subject matter is of course fitness, and the queries are based on a single desire: to get that all-elusive six pack.

Keyword game and ambiguous voice search queries fitness sample

The top 100 results in Google were tracked every day in mobile and desktop search.

Step 1: Identifying top performing sites

We compare the top 10 top performing sites for each group.

Fitness sites performing for ‘Keyword game’ queries on desktop and mobile

Fitness sites performing for ‘Keyword game’ queries on desktop and mobile
Pi’s content marketing platform displays the top 10 industry players and their visibility across a selection of chosen search themes. Everything represented in green represents page one performance; so the site with the largest ‘Green real estate’ has prime market share within what is essentially the ‘conversion zone’. In this instance, mensfitness.com dominates the conversion zone for ‘Keyword game’ queries. The area in dark yellow indicates page two positions, and the greatest opportunity for uplift. Menshealth.com has the greatest potential in this scenario.

Fitness sites performing for ‘Ambiguous voice search’ queries on desktop and mobile

Fitness sites performing for ‘Ambiguous voice search’ queries on desktop and mobile

While there are some sites that perform well for both types of query (e.g. mensfitness.com), others only perform well in a single category.

If you’re performing well for the ‘Keyword game’ but not for ‘Ambiguous voice search’ queries, unless you make changes, you’re going to start to losing out as searchers begin to abandon the keyword game!

We’re fast approaching a tipping point.

 

Step 2: Comparing top-level site performance

After selecting two sites (neither of which perform well in either group) we compared the performance via Pi Datametrics Visibility Index.

Site 1 – coachmag.co.uk performs best for more ‘Ambiguous voice search’ terms

Site 1 - coachmag.co.uk performs best for more ‘Ambiguous voice search’ terms

Coachmag.co.uk: Individual positions of ‘Keyword game’ and ‘Ambiguous voice search’ queries

Coachmag.co.uk: Individual positions of ‘Keyword game’ and 'Ambiguous voice search' queries

[click to expand]

The one thing that stands out in both ‘Ambiguous voice search’ query tables is the dearth of search volume, CPC value and competition. The caveat here is that, while voice search is picking up pace, we’re still very much in a transition stage whereby search volume, CPC and competition is still pretty low. This can be expected to some extent, especially when it comes to long-tail semantic queries, as phrases are less likely to be worded exactly the same per search. However, as technology and deep-learning evolves, it just means that now is the time to start preparing (i.e. when costs are low) to be well-placed within your industry in time for the voice search SEO boom.

Site 2 – fitnessmagazine.com performs best for ‘Keyword game’ terms

Site 2 - fitnessmagazine.com performs best for ‘Keyword game’ terms

 

Step 3: Comparing granular site performance

We’ve compared site performance for the highest search volume ‘Keyword game’ term ‘Abs workout’

Coachmag.co.uk gets worse at the ‘Keyword game’ while fitnessmagazine.com improves

Coachmag.co.uk gets worse at the ‘Keyword game’ while fitnessmagazine.com improves

So, when it comes to ‘Keyword game’ search performance, fitnessmagazine wins!

Now we compare the same two sites for an ‘Ambiguous voice search’ equivalent.

Coachmag.co.uk performs top for ‘Ambiguous voice search’ terms

Coachmag.co.uk performs top for ‘Ambiguous voice search’ terms
So, when it comes to ‘Ambiguous voice search’ performance, coachmag.co.uk wins!

 

Step 4: Comparing on-page content

We’ve analyzed the content linked to some sample queries, and come to a conclusion as to why one performs better than the other in both categories.

Let’s take a quick look at the content.

Replicating the more ‘Ambiguous voice search’ query “How can I most effectively get a six pack?” on my iPhone, here’s the very well positioned coachmag.co.uk…

Coachmag.co.uk ‘Ambiguous voice search’ query content

11 Coachmag.co.uk ‘Ambiguous voice’ query content
When visiting the returning URLs, it was clear that the author had really considered the reader and the type of discursive content they might want to find, as well as the questions they might ask.

They had clearly thought things through with a semantic mindset, choosing to neglect the old-school SEO approach.

What’s more, the content was fast loading and almost Nielsen-esqe (Jakob Nielsen: the founding-father of straightforward UX and design) in terms of usability and, crucially, was presented in a useful Q&A style. I, personally, would ask those questions, and happily follow those lovely links; taking me on a non-linear journey that would make Tim Berners Lee proud!

Compare this with the content below that worked for the ‘Keyword game’ but not for the more ‘Ambiguous voice search’ query, and it’s a very different story…

Fitnessmagazine.com ‘Keyword game’ query content

12 Fitnessmagazine.com ‘Keyword game’ query content

Even if you can bypass the ad-based whiteout that defies mobile adblocker in default mode, the content is not nearly so helpful, and fails to answer questions explicitly. It is, however, very ‘SEO-y’ if you look at it in the traditional, old-school sense!

 

Step 5: Sites that apply keyword AND voice search optimization

So, is it possible to do well for both ‘Keyword game’ and ‘Ambiguous voice search’ queries? Absolutely! Still on the subject of fitness, here’s an example of a yoga site performing well for both keywords and longtail, semantic queries:

Triyoga – position one in Google for an ‘Ambiguous voice search’ query

Triyoga - position one in Google for an ‘Ambiguous voice search’ query

Triyoga – position one in Google for the same ‘Keyword game’ alternative query

Triyoga - position one in Google for the same ‘Keyword game’ alternative query
So what’s the secret to positioning well for both types of query, and preparing for the future of search?

Google says that you can’t optimize for Rankbrain, BUT you can break out of the ‘Keyword game’ cycle using good sense.

Somewhere in between the standard approach of old fashioned keyword theming, and the forward-thinking approach of ‘Getting inside the mind of the searcher’ there’s a sweet spot to be found. And in that sweet spot lies visibility and revenue!

Finally, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in this age of semantic search and deep learning, the better we get at making relevant connections between related assets, the better Google gets at understanding those relationships, and the better shape our online ecosystem will be in!

Tada!


If you’d like to discuss your semantic performance with Jon Earnshaw, don’t hesitate to get in touch. He’ll work with you to prepare for advances in deep learning, so that you can own your market across all areas of search.

Book your demo now

 

Want more? Read our cannibalisation studies:

1 2 3