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When interacting with artificial intelligence (AI), more and more of us are choosing our voices, rather than our screens, to ask questions, make purchases, do something or go somewhere. While this trend is viewed by some as an exciting advancement in technology and consumer convenience, it has left many marketers scrambling to keep up.

According to a recent survey of more than 250 marketing leaders, most brands are woefully unprepared for the post-mobile world as roughly 66 percent of marketers lack any strategy when it comes to voice search.

AI Is Here, But Marketers Are Unprepared

During a recent interview with Erik Newton, Vice President of Customer Marketing and Head of SEO at BrightEdge (a leader in enterprise organic search and content performance, and the company behind the survey) I had the opportunity to find out exactly what marketers should be doing to best prepare for what lies ahead in a world where voice, not text, is king.

According to Newton, “Marketers must be aware of several factors if they want their content to be relevant and accessible in the voice era. In the winner-take-all world of voice search, only one result is announced, which means that their content must best the competition if it wants to emerge as the sole victor – and voice – of these queries.”

He went on to say that with the success of AI voice assistants such as Alexa (Echo), Google Home and Siri, it should come as no surprise that voice search is on the cusp of revolutionizing SEO.

Voice Recognition & Microphones Driving the Growth of AI

There seem to be two key drivers in the growth of voice search: (1) the availability of microphone-enabled devices, and (2) the improvement in voice recognition. “As computers rival and eventually surpass our own ability to listen,” Newton said, “companies would be wise to employ a long-tail strategy and expand their sites horizontally so that niche content can be accessible to voice searches. White Hat Security, for example, has been successful in showcasing their expertise on several specific topics by adding an FAQ and a glossary section to their site.”

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SEO Continues to Evolve, And So Too Must Your Strategy

Newton made it clear that advancements in voice search have shifted SEO from keyword-specific targeting to a more conversational, context-sensitive approach, elevating AI’s ability to better understand meaning and intent. As users are more likely to ask questions during their voice searches, context and key phrases will be crucial to connecting users with quality content. With a greater emphasis on “natural” search terms, he pointed out that content marketers who include relevant, semantic content in their page title, h1 and body copy will reap the rewards of advantageous SEO positioning.

To this end, it is critical that brands ensure that their content is compatible with Google Quick Answers and is positioned at the top of search results. Newton explained that when formulating Quick Answers, Google selects snippets from high authority pages with well-structured content. These pages must be theme-relevant, optimized for a stellar user experience and accurately answer specific queries. For example, brands like L’Oréal USA have consistently yielded top voice search positions thanks in part to content such as how-to videos tailored to answer specific consumer questions.

And Don’t Forget About Geo-Location Tied to Voice Search

Newton further recommends that brand content be relevant to user location during voice search. This is especially important for offline and hybrid businesses. Also known as NAP (name, address and phone), brands must monitor their address and contact information throughout all points of digital distribution, such as Google My Business, local directories, InfoUSA, local chambers of commerce, the BBB, Yelp, Citysearch, IYP sites, 411, Merchantcircle, Foursquare, Facebook and LinkedIn. Another way for brands to bolster their impact locally, according to Newton, is to publish blog posts specific to each target region.

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Finally, he suggested that content marketers should focus on schema markup, or rich snippets, to help search engines categorize and understand content that can appear in organic search results. This microdata allows brands to add GPS location data to a page, which is especially useful for transitory storefronts such as kiosks, pop-up stores and food trucks.

Building AI Into Your 2018 Content Marketing Plans

With 2017 half way over already, Newton stresses that content marketers must continue to improve their SEO skills, cultivate key phrase-specific, relevant content and maintain a local connection with their audience if they want to continue to be part of that conversation now and in the future.

For more details on how and why your brand should adopt a voice search strategy, check out this article by BrightEdge. As voice search is expected to reach 50% share of queries by 2020 according to Comscore, you’re going to want to build this strategy into your content marketing plans for 2018 and beyond.

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