Babar Khan Javed
Mar 7, 2018

Struggling to rank in voice search? Focus on speed, content, and optimisation

Advertisers and agencies that aspire to rank high in voice search will need to ensure that at least a dozen variables are implemented by the experts, according to a new report.

Struggling to rank in voice search? Focus on speed, content, and optimisation

Schema and page authority don't matter for ranking with voice search, a new study by Backlinko finds.

Examing over 10,000 results derived from a smart speaker, Backlinko determined nearly a dozen variables that represent voice search ranking factors.

Schema, the markup code placed on sites to help search engines return more informative results for users, was found to have little impact in generating a high rank on voice search.

The main ranking factors included:

  1. Page speed, a metric Google wants advertisers and agencies to take seriously.
  2. High domain authority, a metric MOZ measures effectively.
  3. Long-form content that is based on FAQs and follows the Hero, Hub, Help rule.
  4. Featured snippets from concise answers
  5. The implementation of HTTPS
  6. Social media sharing options
  7. Able to rank in the top with desktop search.

"From the article, the factors which will likely affect voice search in APAC most are page speed, how trusted the domain is and providing concise answers," said Nate Shurilla, head of CRO and analytics at iProspect Japan. "There is another factor for our region that will be critical, and that is localisation."

With the average domain authority of a search result at 78.6, Backlinko found an explicit correlation between digital properties that had structured content in an answer format while ensuring those pages delivered the fastest speed.

"Page speed is crucial to get answers as fast as possible," said Shurilla. "When asking someone a question, we are used to immediate feedback. This is essential to making interactions as natural as possible, and Google is obviously emphasising it. This is also one of their competitive advantages over Alexa. In an internal study, we found Google to produce answers to queries just under 40% faster than Alexa."

As the co-creator of the iProspect InfoBot, a beta-phase voice assistant to be used by the agency team during presentations and within teams to acquire information on the go, Shurilla believes that domain trust is also important.

"This comes back to traditional SEO and isn’t anything new, but is more important on voice," he says, adding that users won't go to the next result if the first doesn't generate the answer to the specified question.

He says the digital assistant has to get it right on the first try, so standards will be higher than they have ever been, adding that trust will deteriorate if a user knows the answer being provided is factually incorrect, possibly resulting in a reversion to old search format behaviours.

"Responding concisely is another thing we’ve taken note of," said Shurilla. "If a response is too long the user will get frustrated and may think twice about asking the rambling assistant again in the future. This is also true for Alexa. When product details are too long and wordy, she will skip over them in favour of more concise ones. I see this being more of a factor for languages like English than those that are naturally more compact like Chinese and Japanese."

The most important factor for Shurilla is localisation.

"While Google Translate has continued to improve, it is still not instantaneous, meaning translating an answer from English into another language and responding would increase wait times which won’t be tolerated," he says. "This could happen eventually, but not in the near future."

Tests by Shurilla's team found that responses are only picked up from pages in the same language as the query.

With the recent announcement that Google Assistant will understand and speak 22 languages by 2018, the Chinese language is next due to nearly 80% Android penetration in China.

"The key to being a top result would be relevance and authority regardless of how the search is made," says Athena Bughao, head of search and biddable, APAC at Essence. "How relevant is your site and how credible for usage? Some technical factors involved here would be ensuring your site has the secure version of HTTP and ensuring you maintain healthy interaction, site association and valid site traffic to basically prove you are of good repute."

For the next 10 months, advertisers intent on capitalising on the growth of voice-based searches will also need to establish domain authority by working on long-form content, page speed, and site optimisation.

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