For those who have missed on out the past couple of years of SEO trends, searchers are increasingly opting out of the large screens in favor of the portable and easy-to-access. While mobile search continues to make up the majority of the conversation, (Google’s recent announcements of increased Mobile-First-Index roll out, their posts on mobile speed, do I need to go on?) real opportunities lie in the absolute boom that is voice search. Just look to consumer trends in the space. From Black Friday buying trends (hint, a LOT of smart speakers were sold last year) to growing YoY usership in voice assistants, users aren’t only growing more mobile friendly, but are totally opting out of the screen. Where do these two, mobile search dominance and rising voice search, meet? Well, say hello to the smart speaker displays. Coming off of the recent announcements of the Google Home Hub and Facebook Portal, along with the growing popularity of Amazon’s Echo Show, the clear front runner for search is in the hands of smart speakers with display screens.
Ownership on the SERP has always been the SEO’s main priority, no matter what search engine they are working within. If you have been on any 2018 SEO article, you have probably heard of the continually growing importance of Featured Snippets. You know, those answer boxes that seem to appear more and more whenever you search for something online. Placed alongside other knowledge graphs, review boxes, job postings and other web elements parsed from other sites and displayed on the results page, the dominance of the results page has never been more competitive with the search engines themselves. Where the real issue lies with voice search, especially on displays, is in the distribution of answers in relation to questions asked. Smart display speakers retrieve one answer and display that one alone without the option to explore other options. So, while users have greater access to content that is portrayed in a directly intractable and personable way, SEOs will begin to face a rat-race to obtain the monolith position zero for smart screens, fighting it out for what some might consider the largest singular display ad that can be acquired organically.
Preparing for the Race
The first (because let’s be honest, Google will release a v2 before you know it) Home Hub being will be released to the general public on October 22nd. Which I can only presume means that every big box retailer will be pushing these devices (and the Amazon Echo Show) this holiday season as a hot billing item for shoppers. Do you want to make sure that your website is properly optimized for voice search before the big rush? Then there is no doubt that featured snippets are your key into this growing search method.
Checking your current Featured Snippets
For featured snippets, you have a few options to audit your current rankings. Popular SEO tools such as SEMrush and Ahrefs have been incorporating more options to check and see personal ownership of what you currently have. Start with top 3 position, high volume or high conversion-intent keywords as your first priority. With over a 27.8% probability of users clicking onto your site if you own both the first position and featured snippet position, the easiest means of immediate ROI will fall into this wheelhouse.
Analyzing the Competition
Beyond current ownership, keyword research for new featured snippets should be incorporated into your SEO strategy moving into the new year. Most in-house tools have begun to showcase featured snippet appearances by keyword (and if your tools aren’t, it’s probably time to switch over to a new software). But, with featured snippets not always appearing with keywords with noted volumes, you may have to rely on more than your usual toolbelt of keyword research software. Manual SERP analysis for questions (branded and unbranded) tied in with custom surveys sent to your audiences asking about commonly asked questions about your product/service (quantitative and qualitative), and Answer the Public searches is my personal go to for this.
Generate a list of keywords in a spreadsheet that holds your current positions for competitive keywords, along with who currently owns the position, the search volume, keyword difficulty and the type of featured snippet that the keyword currently holds.
Now, for the optimizations!
Optimizing for featured snippets and voice search for speakers with screens relies on a holistic approach to your content. For paragraph-based featured snippets, structure your content with an appropriate information hierarchy that makes sense for both users and search engines. H2 header tags with the featured snippet keyword and a 40 to 60-word answer have usually been in favor for Google programmatic algorithm. Your metadata strategy will play a much bigger role in the smart screen space, complimenting your optimized content. If you are a site that relies on contextual content (review sites, recipes, careers postings, news, etc) make sure your pages have Schema markup. The ever-increasing amount of Schema being released, along with the ever-changing SERP means brushing up on the various types of markup data that can be added to your page prior. Finally, emphasize images within your content more than ever. With the growing importance in image SEO for featured snippets, make your branded images and other rich media more recognizable and identifiable with schema markup data and other metadata.
Smart speakers with screens present a new opportunity to take ownership of an up-and-coming space. Experimenting with this new search method, especially hands-on with your own devices, and optimizing accordingly will be your tickets to greater chances of position gaining. Consider your search strategy holistically across mediums (YouTube, podcasts, products for sale) and invest in discover-ability on smart displays before you are left in the dust
Want to talk more about voice search or smart displays for SEO? Reach out to me on my LinkedIn!