IpadWith the development of voice activated assistance on mobile devices, search has become much easier for users. With Google keen to improve their service for mobiles, voice assistant technology could dramatically change SEO in the near future.

Google encourages mobile search. The recent “mobilegeddon” algorithm update was a declaration the company is serious about improving user-experience on handheld devices and the ‘direct answer’ facility they have built into search results is likely to become a prominent feature.

According to Google, ‘direct answers’ makes it “quicker, easier and more natural to find what you’re looking for.” I doubt that will be the case every time, and the service has limited space.

Regardless of Google’s proposed outcome, a voice activated search facility is going to have an impact in SEO strategies. So where does this leave marketers and how can you optimise pages with structured data that will be matched with voice search instructions?

Rich answers

Direct answers, also called rich answers, do not appear every time end-users enter a query into a search engine, whether typed or spoken. However, the indication is that search engines will start delivering more rich answers to voice searches.

The number of mobile owners using voice search is increasing and now voice assistant technology is more accurate, the ease of use is likely to become even more common – especially if Google is able to produce results.

Google produce rich answers in various ways. They will always appear ahead of links, but the way in which they are displayed will depend on the search query. For example, if a searcher wants to know the latest scores, a table will appear.

Results typically appear in menus or tabbed results, although charts, graphs and images are possible. But the results are always answers that are in the public domain, a bit like we are already seeing with Google’s pathetic knowledge-based boxes – therefore expect a lot of Wikipedia pages appearing at the top of your search results.

How will direct answers affect online marketers?

The results appearing in direct answers are pages with the highest rank authority. The problem marketer’s face therefore is optimising their pages to match voice search and improve domain authority.

The problem for users is that results are often poor. For example, I wanted to know if Buddha really existed. The ‘rich answer’ was: “Just because there is no evidence that he existed, doesn’t mean he didn’t exist.” Great…

The drawbacks for everyone are obvious, but that will not stop Google attempting to develop the functionality of voice search. The saving grace is that ‘direct answers’ responds to natural language that marketers can optimise on webpages.

But that still leaves the conundrum of increasing authority levels so that Google select your pages to appear in the rich answers snippet – especially when you are competing against established publications that publish the same type of content you are.

Publishers should therefore be looking at asking questions in their content that users searching for answer may naturally ask. For example, ‘where can I buy a leather coat in Bristol?’ Optimising pages for local searches will be your most successful.

It seems that Google are making online marketing more complicated than ever before at the minute. Their intentions may be promising, but early signs suggest the potential results are going to be a mess.

By getting a head start and optimising pages to directly respond to voice search before the service becomes ensconced in search results for eternity, you stand a better chance of establishing page authority and stealing the rich answer spot light.