When you think about any potential topic you can write about, as an editor (or a content marketer) you know that you have to find the right angle to catch your reader’s attention. It’s not easy to guess what your readers are looking for, but the fact is that Google knows it better than you – and any content writer in the world.
In this article, I want to share with you a method to find new editorial opportunities on a given topic and to understand which angle and subtopics have a chance to be showcased by Google into its PAA snippet.
Finding editorial opportunities and approaching them from the right angle is one of the most difficult – and crucial – parts of the editorial work for publishers and content marketers. Google’s related questions that appear in the rich snippet People Also Ask can be a useful tool to understand what matters to your target audience.
What are users really looking for when they search for something on Google? What are the subtopics that matter most to Google around a specific topic? Follow me and you will understand how to figure it out for every single topic you are working on.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is the PAA snippet?
PAA, the acronym for People Also Ask and also known as Related Questions, is an accordion-like rich snippet that contains a selection of questions, which help Google’s users to go in-depth a topic without even leaving the SERP. Each answer in the PAA snippet comes from a different source that Google considers authoritative about a specific subtopic.
At first, you only see 4 different questions. As you start interacting with this snippet and click on the arrow to read one of the answers, you will notice that Google populates the snippet with an apparently never-ending list of new questions.
This is the PAA that you can see on the SERP for family business, one of the main keywords for Tharawat Magazine
Actually, these questions may be a lot, but they are not infinite and, if you pay attention, you will notice that at a certain point questions become quite repetitive. In fact, there is a logic under these questions and they have a hierarchical organization.
The first four questions are used to better understand the search intent and the choices of the searcher are used to deliver a secondary group of questions, which descend from the one that the user clicked.
The PAA snippet has a pervasive impact on Google’s SERPs. Nowadays, Related Questions appear in 84.4% of the SERPS in the USA market (source: MozCast), this makes it the first rich snippet in terms of occurrences. It is far more common than the rich snippet (19,1% of the SERPs), and it grew more quickly in the last three years.
What makes the PAA even more interesting from a publisher’s standpoint is that a single PAA can show up in 21 unique SERPs (source: GetStat).
In other words, if you get a spot on a PAA, you have your chance to be featured in different SERPs within the same semantic domain.
Let’s get back to the family business example. Google shows the same PAA when users are searching for the main keyword (‘family business’) and also when they search for other related topics such as ‘family business succession’, ‘family owned business success stories’, and much more of them.
This means that when your content is elected as a good answer by Google for its related questions, you will have great exposure and a serious boost in traffic.
So, there are serious opportunities for your website ahead! 😉
Why Google is suggesting (all these) related questions?
Search engines are eager for content to give users the best answers for different intents and needs. There was a time when Google’s aim was to give the users a set of results in the form of blue links and bring them to other websites seamlessly.
Then rich snippets entered the SERP and everything changed.
Nowadays Google plays all its cards to keep the users on its SERP as much as possible. The accordion-like rich snippet known as People Also Ask is just another way to keep the user on the SERP and investigate on the intent of the search.
So, basically, Google is trying to profile users by providing more context and guessing what they are more interested in around a specific topic. According to PageRanger, the initial 4 questions in a PAA target on average 2.8 different intents.
How to extract and analyze the PAA snippet from a SERP
As a content writer, looking at the questions from the People Also Ask, you can guess how Google is connecting entities. This quick peek into Google’s knowledge graph can give you a hint on:
what kind of angle you can adopt while writing on a specific topic
which related topics you can cover on your website to catch your target audience’s attention
how you can organize your content to optimize their visibility on the SERP.
Before thinking about how to craft your editorial content to answer related questions, you need to extract your list of related questions. To this purpose, there are several tools that you can do.
For example, the Italian SEO consultant Alessio Nittoli created a Pythonscript that scrapes Google PAAs giving you a list of questions in a CSV format. The code is available on GitHub.
Keep in mind that scraping Google without permission is illegal, as Alessio states in his disclaimer:
⚠ DISCLAIMER: This software is not authorized by Google and doesn’t follow Google’s robots.txt. Scraping without Google explicit written permission is a violation of their terms and conditions on scraping and can potentially cause a lawsuit
This software is provided as is, for educational purposes, to show how a crawler can be made to recursively parse Google’s “People also asked”. Use at your own risk.
When you have your list of related questions coming from the PAA snippet, you can move to the editorial strategy around your chosen content.
How to spot and organize editorial opportunities from a list of ‘People Also Asked’ questions
Spot new content opportunities
While analyzing the questions that come out your topic research through PAAs, you will notice that some questions are repeated frequently with slight variations that represent different intents. Other questions are logically connected: from generic concepts to more specific subtopics.
Depending on how these questions are related and how much you can get in-depth, you can plan a new article about a concept and then add more specific subtopics as paragraphs, or you can write a page about a concept or an entity and then write an article to cover each specific subtopic.
Here in WordLift, we adopt this latest model, that we have named the Entity Based Content Model: it develops around an entity and explores the relations that connect it to specific subtopics and to other entities.
Rearrange and organize your content
If you have been writing around a specific and narrow topic for a while, chances are that the content that answers the questions can already be on your website – but it may need to be rearranged. For example, you can add new headlines and paragraphs to highlight your answers and make them stand out of the content. A good practice could be to build an FAQ page.
Wrapping things up
Google PAAs are becoming so much pervasive, that if you get your spot on the Google PAA of your main keyword (and on some related long-tail keywords), you’ll get the chance to have a great boost in visibility and clicks.
Once you extract the related questions, you can use them to enrich, refine and improve your editorial plan and to optimize existing content.
In WordLift, we are using the Entity Based Content Model to organize different pieces of content around a specific topic and offer to search engines and readers what they need to know.
If you want to know how to apply this model to your website content and to your niche, write us a few lines about your editorial project and let’s talk!
Ramia Marielle El Agamy has dedicated her professional journey to her family’s business. Through activities in education solutions, publishing, content marketing and family business networking the El Agamy family is growing its companies between Europe and the Middle East. Ambitious, business-focused, and charismatic, Ramia is the consummate modern leader.
Ten years ago she co-founded Tharawat Magazine, a quarterly family business magazine, with her family. In 2015, the editorial project went online with the aim of inspiring family business owners and entrepreneurs globally. Two years later, she added a new branch to her business with Orbis Terra Media, a content studio enabling brands to achieve narrative consistency across multiple platforms to reach their audience.
Back in 2017, Ramia was looking for a solution to reach a wider online audience to establish Tharawat Magazine as the preeminent publisher on family business topics.
That’s when we met. Tharawat Magazine’s team wanted to introduce an SEO approach in their editorial workflow.
She had a conversation with our business developer Gennaro — at first, she was sceptical. She tried WordLift, however, and after using it for a few months, she became one of our first VIP clients, adopting our tailored SEO services as a part of Tharawat’s editorial workflow. Joining forces has proven highly beneficial: in the last 5 months, Tharawat Magazine has grown by +321% in terms of traffic.
We also had the chance to refine a bespoke workflow built around a rich and well-organized editorial plan, but this is another story.
We spoke with Ramia to learn more about the fascinating world of family business.
Let’s begin with a very simple question: what is Tharawat Magazine, and how is it structured?
Today, Tharawat Magazine is one of the world’s foremost publications on family-owned businesses. With over a decade of experience and a thousand published articles, we have established our publication as a source of inspiration for business owners and experts alike.
Family businesses and their sustainability is integral to economic stability worldwide. We tell family business stories to teach, inspire and celebrate their successes.
Today, Tharawat Magazine is a part of Orbis Terra Media (OTM), a global content production and marketing studio based in Switzerland. OTM is a family-owned company operating with a decentralized team. They add significant value and a global perspective to the organisation.
Tharawat Magazine Editorial Team. From the left side: Ramia El Agamy (Editor in Chief), Sam Harrison and Alice Fogliata Cresswell (both Senior Editors), and Brianna Lish (Brand Manager).
In 5 months, your organic traffic has grown by a staggering +321%. This is a 64% increase month over month – how did this happen?
We attribute this success almost entirely to our collaboration with the WordLift team. When we came across the WordLift solution two years ago, we were under-utilizing the wealth of content we had. WordLift stepped in, cleaned up and structured over 1000 articles to increase their visibility. The accelerated returns over the last 5 months are a result of our editorial team’s understanding of how to read the traffic data to make editorial planning more SEO friendly.
Speaking of the editorial team, how do you organize their work?
We are fully decentralized; OTM team members work from around the world and come together around our magazine. We work with SaaS like Asana and HubSpot to coordinate our workflow and are also fully integrated with the WordLift team on Slack. We create original content, so we always start with the audio from recorded interviews, which is then transcribed and worked into written articles for the website and print and then resourced for our podcast the Family Business Voice.
We also field submissions from all over the world — the work of experts and academics who wish to share their latest insights on matters related family business.
From WordLift, we’ve learned the importance of creating SEO friendly content like industry-specific listicles that allow easy structuring and get rewarded by high rankings on Google SERP.
Tharawat Magazine is devoted to a very specific vertical: family business. To its credit, Tharawat Magazine also is a family business. Does it make your editorial work easier?
My family owns Orbis Terra Media, and we founded Tharawat Magazine. So let’s just say we really know what we are talking about when we publish family business stories.
However, the real force behind the success of Tharawat Magazine is our editorial team and the many family businesses who agree to share their stories with us.
Tharawat Magazine is the editorial side of a larger project, Orbis Terra Media, which you define as a content studio. Why did you decide to leverage your experience in content creation to provide a set services?
We founded Tharawat Magazine around 11 years ago in the middle of a major disruption in the publishing industry. After a few years, it became apparent to us that publishing alone would not result in the growth we wanted, and so we thought about what our strengths were. We knew that our skills in creating high-value and original content lent themselves well to content marketing services. So, we built Orbis Terra Media, which is now a global content studio. Coupled with a company culture keen on integrating technology and involving strategic partners such as the team at WordLift, we provide these services combining the best of our creative and editorial capabilities with data-based insights. At the end of the day, whether it’s for Tharawat Magazine or OTM’s content marketing clients, our goal is to create content that moves.
If you are a web content writer, there is no need to remind you all the struggle you have to face to distribute your content. Maybe you spend hours – or even days! – of hard work writing awesome content, but once your article is done, you know that your job has just begun. Now it’s time to fine-tune your content for SEO purposes, share it on several channels, monitor search keywords for your next article… Wouldn’t be wonderful to just focus on writing and nothing more?
Semantic markup is the key to success. Schema markup can really help your pages get the traffic they deserve. How? To explain it, we need to do a few steps back: first of all, you need to know what schema.org is.
What is schema.org markup
Schema.org is an initiative launched in 2011 by the world’s largest search engines (Bing, Google, and Yahoo!) to implement a shared vocabulary and adopt standard formats to structure data on web pages.
Schema.org markup helps machines understand your content, without fail or ambiguity.
Let’s explore how to use the Schema markup, the benefits of using it and how it can be implemented on your WordPress website.
How to add Schema.org markup to WordPress
To use schema markup on your pages, you can either use a tool like WordLift or do it manually. WordLift plugin enables you to add Schema markup on WordPress without writing a single line of code. Once you configured the plugin, a new menu will appear on the right side of your article in the WordPress editor: it will allow you to annotate your content and, by doing so, to create an internal vocabulary to your website or blog.
WordLift uses JSON-LD to inject schema.org markup in your web pages. Click here to see the magic: it’s a gif which shows you the data representation of this article with JSON-LD!
Imagine you have published an event on your website: once you completed creating your specific content, the final step will be to add a normal meta description, which will appear on the search page as plain text. But, by adding Schema markup to the page, you can really help your content stand out by transforming it into a rich snippet and therefore getting a lot more clicks ?
There are several types of schema you can use to mark your content, and by using the event schema markup is possible to show dates, locations and any other detail related to a specific event to help people easily get access to all the information they might need:
Once the purpose of adding structured data is clear – that is to provide accurate information about what your content’s website is about, you could also see that adding Schema markup to your site really is a highly-customizable process.
How to increase your traffic with semantic markup
While crawling the web looking for some specific content to be served to users, search engines will unquestionably identify the context your articles belong to. Nowadays this is the most effective and affordable way to distribute your content and made it “findable” to those who are looking for it through Search Engines.
The example above shows the results of a long-tail search about the upcoming Salzburgerland Party Meeting event. As you can see, the first result is a rich snippetwith 2 links and allows you to skip directly to the next events. All that is made possible by the markup, which helps search engines detect the structured data matching the user’s answer inside the whole website. It’s been proven that rich snippets increase the Click Trough Rate: so, more qualified traffic for you, here!
Salzburgland.com uses WordLift to structure its content.
Moreover, you can explore new ways to disseminate your content based on chatbots, which can serve your just-baked articles to your readers depending on their interests.
In the image on the right side, you can see how Intelligent Agents such as Google Allo can answer your voice search questions with appropriate content if they are correctly structured.
Assess markup quality with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool
Once you added your schema markup to WordPress, it’s easy to determine that everything was done right, simply by using the Structured Data Testing Tool made available by Google. Just enter the URL you need to analyze and let the tool verify your content.
Let’s see, as an example, the markup of the SEMANTiCS 2018 Conference on our blog:
As we can see, everything worked just fine, there’s only 1 warning about the field Offer that in this case has no value added.
The first rule while adding schema markup is to be clear. Google will know! Also, remember that adding schema markup to your page might as well not guarantee any result at first. But it’s always recommended to do it because it can definitely give you the best chance for success in SERPs, and help increase your CTR.
Automating structured data markup with WordLift
While developing WordLift plugin, we focused on making more accurate than ever our schema.org markup.
Now we can say – without fear of contradiction – that our Plugin offers you one of the most extended sets of markup to structure data on a WordPress website… without writing a single line of code!
Here is a list of improvements on the markup that SEO specialists are going to appreciate:
ARTICLE: we’ve added the markup schema.org:Article for each article/blog post, publishing it with the property Main Entity of Page. Simply put: we say to Google and to the other search engines that this web page is an article. To know more about this property, read this how-to by Jarno Van Driel.
PUBLISHER: we also communicate the publisher’s information related to each article as structured data. The publisher can be an individual with his/her proper name or an organization with a brand name and a logo.
ID: with WordLift we also made available the Publisher ID. What is an ID, and why it is so important? For each entity, article, and publisher, we generate a permanent ID: a unique identifier which is fundamental in the context of 5 stars Linked Data because it allows the connections between data on the web. Each entity, article, and publisher can be connected to other data, hosted – for example – in WikiData, with the “same as” property and each of them can also be decoded with a JSON-LD data representation.
RELATED ENTITIES: we used the meta tag “mentions” to say which entities are mentioned. In this way, you’ll have a hierarchy or entities where the main one defines the article itself and the other ones are recognized as mentioned on it.
To play around with JSON-LD markup that WordLift created for this article head straight to the JSON-LD Playground.
Page Speed is the unquestionable strength of Accelerated Mobile Pages. This factor gives these pages an incredible boost in mobile SEO and in CTR. What can you do to further optimize your AMP pages? Here is where structured data in the form of schema.org markup comes into play.
Before we go deep into why structured data can be a not-so-obvious way to boost your AMP pages, let’s answer a simple question: what are Accelerated Mobile Pages and why are they so important?
AMP: the open-source library that speeds up your mobile pages
Launched by Google in 2015, AMP is an open-source library that allows developers to create web pages that load almost instantaneously on mobile browsers. In other words, speed is a crucial factor that AMP aims to optimize.
To understand why the speed factor is so important nowadays – especially after Google rolled out its mobile-first index – you have to think about how users are browsing the web and, therefore, how Google is trying to offer them a better search experience.
In 2018, mobile search has taken the lead over desktop search: 67% of worldwide visits are performed using mobile devices according to Stone Temple.
What do mobile users want? Speed!
Yep, it is as simple as that. 53% of mobile users leave a page after 3 seconds of loading. Does that sound exaggerated? Think about yourself, looking for a piece of information or news for a quick read and waiting in front of your tiny smartphone display for seconds that feel like minutes.
In case the page is native-AMP, meaning that there isn’t another page for desktop devices, the canonical should be the AMP page itself. This could become a smart option in the future for websites whose traffic and business model is mostly mobile based.
You can enhance your AMP content for Google Search by creating a basic AMP page, adding structured data, monitoring your pages, and practicing with codelabs.
And later in the same article:
Use structured data to enhance the appearance of your page in Google mobile search results. AMP pages with structured data can appear in rich results in mobile search, like the Top stories carousel or host carousel.
What exactly does “enhance the appearance of your page in Google mobile search” mean? As you can see in the example below, the page of SalzburgerLand Partners Meeting on WordLift Blog is an entity of the Event type. Below the link, you can see that Google features some basic metadata such as place and date. This gives users extra information and adds one more reason for them to click on the content.
The same thing can be done with different types of entities: for example, imagine products coming with their price and availability information.
How to add structured data to your AMP pages
Google Search recommends to use the same structured data markup for both the canonical and the AMP pages:
Use the same structured data markup across both the canonical and AMP pages.
This means that if you want to benefit from semantic SEO techniques on your AMP pages, you have to align the structured data of your AMP version to the canonical page. If you have invested some time with the schema.org markup of your content, it would be a shame not doing so!
If you are using WordPress, you may already know that thanks to the plugin AMP for WordPress you can turn any of your pages or articles into an AMP page.
There are many other plugins that do the same thing, but we recommend you to chose this exact one because it comes from the first strict cooperation between Google and WordPress. In fact, the Google AMP team is the same team that is working to empower the WordPress ecosystem. One of the first results of this cooperation is the AMP for WordPress plugin created by Automattic, our friends at XWP (a leading WP developing agency) and Google itself.
What's new in the AMP Plugin?
In the latest AMP Plugin Release, you will find even more support for AMP theme support, including support for core themes, a big update to the compatibility tool and extended Gutenberg support! ?
From now on with WordLift, your AMP pages can finally inherit the schema.org markup of the canonical page and share the same JSON-LD. Simply put, after you add the structured data to your article, WordLift will automatically implement all the metadata in the corresponding AMP pages.
Using our plugin, structured data for AMP is quite simple. Have a look at this schema.org markup of an AMP post on the blog of our sister company InsideOut Today.
Wrapping up: the benefits of structured data on AMP pages
Using the same markup for AMP pages and canonical pages, you will benefit from the advantages of a mobile-optimized page – since Google index is more and more focused on mobile performances – and also from the extra help of semantic SEO. Boom! You can kill two birds with one stone.
As we have seen before, AMP speeds up a website’s load time and therefore it increases mobile ranking, which affects the CTR. Users are more likely to click on the results that are more prominent on the SERP.
Wait, there’s more! A fast loading page will also have a lower bounce rate. Here the advantage is twofold: your users will benefit from a better UX and search engines will register the high dwell time as a positive signal – helping you to strengthen your website rankings.
On the other side, enriching your AMP pages with structured data will help search engines better understand your content and also give them enough metadata to display your pages as rich snippets on the SERP. Guess what? This will guarantee you even a higher CTR.
In the last two years, we have faced the adoption of a fast-growing technology which will reshape the way we experience the web. In 2018, voice search is everywhere: on your computers, smartphones, cars, and even at home through smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Alexa. If you are publishing content online, you’re likely to be curious about voice search SEO in 2018.
What is it going to be like? And, moreover, what can you do to optimize your content?
Starting from what is voice search and why is it so important for your online business, in this guide we will share with you 10 actionable tips on how to optimize your content for voice search and different SEO techniques that can specifically help you with this. You will also discover how to create content-based Google Actions starting with your news, podcasts, and recipes in order to open new access points to your content from the Google Assistant.
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Make Your Website talk Voice Search SEO in 2018 – The Handy Guide
Voice search, also known as Conversational Search, is a new kind of human-machine interaction where devices can answer human spoken questions. Conversational search analyzes a string of words and replies with responses which resemble our natural language.
Voice search is now integrated into many devices such as mobile phones, home assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home, and cars which support Intelligent Agents.
Today this technology has four main players:
Amazon, whose Alexa Voice Search uses Bing as a search engine
Apple, whose Siri is now using Google, after a long time using Bing
Windows, whose Cortana uses Bing – which is also owned by Microsoft – as a search engine.
Just a few years ago, voice-activated technology sounded like science fiction, it reminded us of Star Trek‘s iconic characters commanding their computers with just their voices. Now it’s 2018 and voice search is real and going to stay: 35.6 million Americans used a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month in 2017, estimates eMarketer — it’s a year-over-year increase of 128.9 percent. We are facing the adoption of a fast-growing technology which will reshape the way we experience the web.
Alpine.ai counts that, in 2018, there are over one billion voice searches per month and, according to ComScore, voice search will keep on growing, covering at least 50% of all searches by 2020.
Internet users are finally massively using voice search for a variety of reasons:
It finally works! The error rate in speech recognition is getting close to zero. Andrew Ng has long predicted that as speech recognition goes from 95% accurate to 99% accurate, it will become the primary way that we interact with computers. This 4% accuracy gap is the difference between annoyingly unreliable and incredibly useful. Thanks to deep learning, we’re finally cresting that peak.
It’s fast and simple. Most people speak faster than they type. That’s a fact. So, when you are in a hurry, it would be much easier to speak to a virtual assistant and get the answer you were looking for straight away. Also, when searching the web by typing a query you have to evaluate the results and pick the one that comes from the most relevant source (probably between those in the first SERP), if you are not satisfied with the results, you will have to narrow down your research by adding more keywords to the query. It requires some time and experience. Since virtual assistants are becoming more and more conversational, the voice search process is now simpler and more user-friendly: it resembles a natural conversation where the virtual assistant keeps track of previous questions and replies accordingly.
It’s multitasking-friendly. Say you are at home cooking an apple pie and you just need to know how many eggs you need or you are driving to the venue of some event which is about to begin and you are not sure about the fastest route. In both cases, voice search can help by giving you the information you need while you are busy doing something else and without using your hands!
It’s mobile-friendly. Anywhere, anytime, our virtual assistants are in our pockets, just a voice command away. Most times, thanks to instant answers, you don’t even need to read something on your device, you just get the right answer… in zero time!
What users need when using voice search is a quick and actionable answer: here is why, when it’s possible, intelligent agents try to give an immediate answer skipping the websites. The bright side is that when your content is structured and rich, your articles and pages may be displayed as the instant answers by Intelligent Agents giving to you a boost in CTR.
Moreover, voice searches are often longer and more contextualized than typed ones. When using a keyboard, users try to be specific enough and use as few words as possible, on the other hand, asking something to an intelligent agent, users tend to indulge in details related to their context. Content writers should prepare for voice searches by trying to be relevant to the long-tail of complex searches.
There is more. Smart speaker and conversational interfaces are perceived by users as shopping channels. In a recent survey published by Bing, more than 40% of consumers state that they expect digital assistants to understand their purchase preferences and make routine purchases on their behalf within the next 5 years.
That’s why according with Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella: “Every brand will build intelligent conversational agents.”
"While the number of malls is plummeting, conversational technology is on the rise. Smart speakers are becoming permanent fixtures in our homes. Future retailers will use digital assistants to inspire their customers to take action, deepen loyalty and redefine the shopping experience together."
The rise of voice search trend is just the tip of the iceberg: search engines are slightly moving from keywords to semantics and natural language processing is heading towards human-centric results. It’s not just happening on voice search, it’s true for any kind of search, especially on Google.
Since fall 2013, thanks to the algorithm known as Google Hummingbird, SERPs have been more and more populated with results which take into account context information such as the kind of device used, geolocation, time of the day, previous searches and more. To give each user the best results, Google is also using a machine learning technology called RankBrain, which is the third signal in order of importance contributing to the results of each search. RankBrain is used mainly to interpret the searches in order to find pages that offer a good answer for users, but might not have the exact words that were searched for. It clearly relies on semantics since it goes beyond keywords and gets deeper into the contextual meaning of the search.
When using context information, search engines serve more relevant results to users by picking the answers which seem to be more accurate and case-specific. Considering the biggest picture, voice search is one more reason for content creators to focus on content structure and rethink each page or article as an answer for specific personas.
WordLift gives content marketers the opportunity to focus on writing while it does the techy job and gives structure to your article with metadata.
10-step checklist to optimize your content for voice search
#1. Answer questions
Many voice searches are questions which start with the 5W + H (in case you don’t remember from your school days they are Who, What, When, Where, Why and How). Usually, the answers to questions which start with Who, What, When and Where are a single piece of information that can be isolated: that is why Google and Intelligent Agents tend to answer these kinds of questions with instant answers. Owning or being the result picked as an instant answer is a strategic asset (the so-called Rank Zero case).
WordLift offers you the chance to structure your content by assigning a role to each piece of information using the Who, What, When and Where categories.
Wondering if there are any featured snippet based on the content of your website?
Organize the content of your page with subtitles, bullet points, tables, and some highlights: it will help machines understand the content on your page. Also, remember that many people tend to quickly scan a page before actually reading it. A neat content organization of your page will help your hasty readers and give them a reason to thoroughly read your article.
#3 Optimize for mobile and local search
Most times, voice search comes from mobile devices. Keep in mind and consider that a mobile-friendly website is crucial for your SEO. When talking about mobile optimization, remember that page speed is crucial.
Let’s take a step forward and think about how proximity could eventually change the relevance of your content. If you own a local activity, it probably does: think about how your products or services may help people around you and structure your content accordingly.
Think about the needs of people walking nearby your office and feed them with useful information that relates to your business.
#4 Add schema.org markup
Google Assistant has no doubts: WordLift is the best answer for those who are looking for an SEO plugin that uses semantic technologies.
Schema.org markup helps you by adding context to your content: you can use it to explicit the relations between information in your content, to disambiguate the words you are using and to give structure to your pages. When using schema.org markup you are communicating with machines through semantics instead of keywords: you are helping machines to define the context around information so that it will turn into useful results for humans.
WordLift creates a knowledge graph and adds Schema.org markup to your content: this is actually one of the main strengths of our plugin.
Do you think that average users talk to their virtual assistants with complicated, hyper-specialized words? Wrong! They will most likely use everyday language or even slang to ask questions. So, more than ever, remember the KISS principle: “keep it simple, stupid!“. Ask yourself what would users who know nothing or nearly nothing about the topic you are writing about would search, and then write for them.
Einstein used to say: “If you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough“.
#6. Control Rank Zero
When dealing with Google Home or Google Allo or Google Assistant (they do have their own slight differences) one source of information is the so-called rank zero snippets. These are featured snippets in search results whose summary has been extracted programmatically from a web page. While the real difference, for these snippets, is not the way the information has been fetched by Google (as this works much like the good old SEO) but how the result is presented to the user: these snippets answer a great deal of questions, triggered by our voice.
Sometimes controlling Rank Zero can be as simple as interacting with a site owner, share your product and get a review for it.
Here are the steps I followed:
Look for an easy-to-reach Rank Zero position that is relevant to your business. For example, I discovered a featured snippet for one of my favorite SEO tools by searching over Google “What is WooRank?”
Understand where the information is coming from, in my case, the content on WooRank was extracted from a reviews’ website called Reviews – Finances Online (they do a very good job)
Contact the website owner and ask for a review, just as I did for WordLift, our beloved WordPress plugin
Boom! “That’s right, man. I got in.” – epic quote from the movie “Tron Legacy”. The snippet was created within hours and this was a simple and easy way to train Google on what WordLift really is.
#7. Curate Your Entity
While Rank Zero results are driven by old SEO tactics, other snippets are driven by data that Google can truly understand and compute. This information is stored in the Google Knowledge Graph (eventually evolved in the Google Knowledge Vault). This is a large database organized much like our brain in a network of synapsis. These snippets, called knowledge panels, are bound to a Knowledge Graph ID, a unique identifier in the web of data that unambiguously maps the information related to a person, a company or a product. Just to give you an example my Knowledge Graph ID is kg:/m/0djtw2h. A simple query using this ID will show you everything that Google knows about me.
These types of results are way more powerful than the results generated using the Rank Zero snippets as they can be computed. The machine knows what it is talking about – it is not just repurposing information scraped from a webpage. The AI now has the data needed to discover other data and learn from it.
Here are the steps in this case:
Look for the Graph ID you need using the Knowledge Graph Search API (here is a good article to walk you though) – if you can’t find it – give yourself a new target and build the data you need to get a Graph ID for your entity.
Ensure that a consistent representation of the same entity is available in other digital spaces such as social networks, the universal encyclopedia, and your own website or blog.
Remember to add your structured data markup (on all websites you can control) and a direct link to that Graph ID identifier. WordLift does this for you automatically and tells Google “Hey here we’re talking about entity X and here you can find additional information to learn from”. This is very a powerful technique for the so-called semantic search optimization.
You’re done! Let the fun begin!
#8. Teach Google the right Synonym
The explosion of online information has led to an impressive growth in quantity, diversity, and complexity of linguistic data accessible over the Internet. These resources become way more useful when they are linked to each other. Today’s natural language interfaces and personal assistants leverage on this vast amount of information and benefit from the linked data paradigm. There are already incredibly useful lexical-semantic resources that AI tools and PAs can use by accessing linked data: WordNet, FrameNet as well as general knowledge graphs like DBpedia and Yago represent the foundation of today’s computational linguistics. How can you take a spin at these technologies and improve the visibility of your brand?
Discover “Bauernherbst” with Google Allo
Here is an example that uses structured data markup to help Google Assistant promote a major festival in Salzbugerland, whose brand name is a German word (Bauernherbst), to an English speaking audience:
start with an entity (in this case an entity of type event that describes the harvest festival in the region of Salzburg)
add the synonym to the entity using the schema.org markup
create the same entity (and the corresponding web page) in both German and English
connect the schema.org linked metadata of the German page with the schema.org metadata of the English page (and you can do all of this with WordLift without any technical skill)
Voilà, magic happens!
#9. Hijack your environment and let the PAs do the talking
I remember the first time I saw the Google Glasses at SXSW Festival in 2013. The proud smile depicted on the faces of the very few lucky early adopters and how easy it was to kill their enthusiasm and annoy them to death without even talking to them. As soon as they would pass by with their head-mounted displays, someone nearby would shout… “OK Google” therefore activating the device and requesting them to press a button and stop the talking. We all know now, as Google Assistant has been shipped to all most recent Android devices, how frustrating it is when it gets activated by mistake.
Now, what if… this is done with a purpose and within the context of an online advertising, a business talk or a presentation? This is what Burger King just did a few days ago to set the Internet on fire and to force Google to update all home devices and shut down the assistant-activated ad. Burger King’s new 15-second commercial on YouTube triggers Google devices by shouting a voice search query within their promotional video… “Ok Google, what is the Whopper burger?”. Sorry, I just loved that. There have been a lot of understandable complaints and yet, if used properly this is a game changer.
Here is how it goes:
Make sure you can successfully have the PA talk about you or your preferred entity
Create a podcast or a video that engage the PAs in the room where your video is being watched
Always avoid being too invasive and remember privacy is important for everyone
#10. Claim and Optimize your Business
Being successful in the Voice Search world is about strengthening your online presence, focusing on the user intents and making sure content, as well as data, is consistent across the Internet. A lot of people use voice search to get information about local businesses. Sometimes it’s quicker from a mobile device (if not absolutely mandatory – if you’re driving) to ask your PA to make a call for you or to help you drive on time to a destination. These search queries rely on the accuracy of the business listings and on the consistency of a business’ name, address and phone number (NAP).
Hello WordLift. Tap to Call.
Here is what you need to do to help Google Assistant find your business:
Add it to Google My Business, Yelp and Bing Places for Business and remember to choose the right business category.
Incorporate schema.org markup on your website to tell search engines: yes, this business has this website and yes, this is the business’ name, address, and phone number. Schema markup helps PAs truly understand what your business is all about and reinforces the same data you should already have in the various directories.
Voice ranking factors – a Backlinko study
In February 2018 Backlinko published a research study that collected and analyzed 10.000 Google Home results. The aim of the study was to better understand how Google Voice ranks works and, moreover, how to optimize a website for voice search.
They investigated the role of 11 ranking factors, and here is the summary of their work.
PageSpeed is the king of voice search SEO. The average voice search result page loads in 4.6 seconds, which means that is 52% faster than the average page.
HTTPS websites are crucial to appear within Google’s voice search results. In fact, 70.4% of Google Home result pages are secured with HTTPS.
Length: Google prefers short, concise answers to voice search queries. The typical voice search result is just 29 words long.
Schema.org: 36.4% of voice search results come from pages that use Schema.org, slightly higher than the global average of 31.3%.
Authoritative domains produce more voice search results than less authoritative ones. The average Ahrefs Domain Rating of a Google Home result is 76.8.
Social media: content with high levels of social engagement seems to perform well in voice search also. Just consider that the average voice search result has 1,199 Facebook shares and 44 Tweets.
Simple, easy-to-read content may help with voice search SEO. The average Google voice search result is written at a 9th-grade level.
Title: we found that very few voice search results had the exact query in their title tag. This might mean that creating individual pages for each voice search query is not an effective voice search SEO strategy.
Word count: on average, a voice search result page is made of 2,312 words. It may surprise you, but Google often sources voice search answers from long-form content.
Desktop search: content that ranks high in desktop search is very likely to appear as a voice search answer. 75% of voice search results rank in the top 3 for that query.
Featured Snippet: 40.7% of all voice search answers come from a featured snippet. If your page is eligible for a featured snippet, it will likely appear on voice search.
Recently schema.org and Google have launched Speakable, a new property for web content that is still in beta and that may change the publishers’ approach to voice search optimization.
What is speakable?
According with Google:
The speakable schema.org property identifies sections within an article or webpage that are best suited for audio playback using text-to-speech (TTS). Adding markup allows search engines and other applications to identify content to read aloud on Google Assistant-enabled devices using TTS. Webpages with speakable structured data can use the Google Assistant to distribute the content through new channels and reach a wider base of users.
A the moment, this property only works for websites that are in English, other languages will be implemented soon.
What content can be eligible for speakable structured data?
Content from news sites is eligible to appear in news results and also to be read by Google Assistant. To validate your news site you can:
The acronym PASO stands for Personal Assistant Search Optimization, and it is referred to the use of SEO techniques with the aim of positioning content as the source of the answers given by Personal Assistants (PAs) such as Siri and Google Assistant to their users. The term was first introduced by John E. Lincoln in an editorial appeared on Search Engine Land and titled «Why the future is all about PASO — personal assistant search optimization».
Why are personal assistants (PAs) going to shape the future of SEO?
Personal Assistants typically return only one result instead of the thousands of links we are used to in regular search. This means two things: competition is going to be really hard because it’s first or nothing, and the winners will take all the clicks (and traffic).
Personal Assistants are used on smartphones and at home. They are portable, hands-free and incomparably convenient, especially when you are busy doing something else and you need a quick information to take action. Their use is going to grow very fast in the years to come: in fact, voice search is predicted to overcome regular search within 2020.
Personal Assistants are powered by Artificial Intelligence and they can give tailored results to their users, learning from factors such as localization and previous searches.
So, yes, PASO is definitely going to be something you should think about from now on.
Here is a very immediate example of how this exact web page that you’re reading has been indexed by Google and it is now providing the answer to the question.
What are Google Actions?
Google Actions are apps that extend the Google Assistant to help users get things done using their voice. Rather than by tapping on your phone as we normally do with apps, an Action lets us accomplish tasks mainly through our voice using a natural-sounding conversation.
In the last few months, Google has sold tens of millions of smart devices like the Google Home, Google Home Mini, and the Google Home Max at an incredible growth rate (one every second since last October according to Google).
By the end of 2018, the Google Assistant — which is already available in eight languages — will be available in more than 30 languages and will reach 95% of all eligible Android phones worldwide across multiple devices from Smart TVs to cars with Android Auto (yes, since January 2018, the Assistant is accessible behind the wheel of your favorite car).
At a time when it’s harder and harder to grow your traffic organically over traditional social networks without spending a fortune on advertising, we’re talking about a new entry point to your content for millions of users.
How Can I Make My Google Action Easy to Find?
Users need to invoke your Google Action through Google Assistant in order to engage with it. There are two main ways to make your Google Action accessible to users:
Explicit invocation: This occurs when a user already knows the name of your Google Action and asks the Google Assistant to talk to it with something like “Hey Google, talk to Sir Jason Link” – a user, in this case, needs to know what it can ask your assistant. The Web Directory of Google Actions is a good place to start. Here is the page dedicated to Sir Jason Link.
Implicit invocation: This is where the magic really happens. It’s the way to engage with users that don’t know yet about the existence of your app. As shown above, if a user will say something like “Tell me something about Semantic SEO?”, Sir Jason Link might be invoked.
In the table above – taken from the Google Action Console of our app – we can see which phrases led to Google recommending our app.
The columns in the table above include:
Matched spoken phrase: the user query that led to Google recommending your app.
Matching action: the intent or action that the user’s query was mapped to.
Impression: this is the number of times the phrase led to Google recommending our app (it’s similar to impressions in SERPs).
Selection: the number of times a user invoked our app after Google recommended it. Imagine this as the equivalent of a user clicking on a SERP result.
Selection rate: Probably the most important one in terms of optimization. This is the percentage of impressions that led to a selection. This metric would be the equivalent of a Click Through Rate on the result page.
As you can see from these results, Sir Jason Link received the highest number of impressions for an open intent call — $topic:topic — that basically deep links the request on single entities (whether these are companies like “Google” or a concept such as “Linked Data”).
When the user triggered these keywords we got a significant amount of requests and for each of these requests, we had the content ready in our website (we do have entity pages for companies like Google and for concepts like “linked data“).
The selection rate, of course, in this specific example, was not optimal.
If you are a publisher and you produce constantly one specific kind of content such as news, podcasts, and recipes, you may be interested in optimizing your content in order to help Google automatically create Actions on the basis of your content. In this way, Google will generate a page on the Assistant directory.
Then when Google Assistant users’ intent will match with your content, Google will ask them if they are interested to listen at your news, podcasts, and recipes.
News. Once your news is part of the Assistant Directory, users will be able to access to your news articles as part of Google News – that includes top stories carousel and can massively improve your performance in traffic.
Podcasts. Users will be able to find and listen to your podcasts, playing episodes on their devices directly from the Google Assistant.
Recipes. Users can access your recipes starting from the rich card presented in the Google Assistant.
In other words, content-based actions will create a new access point to your website, driving more traffic to your content.
What do you have to do to prepare your content to become a Google Actions? Follow the instructions below.
In order to index your news in the Assistant Directory and in Google News, your content has to meet these requirements:
Mark up your content as structured articles Accepted schema.org types for non-video news are: Article, NewsArticle, BlogPosting. Here are the schema.org properties that Google requires for news markup: author, author.name, datePublished, headline, image, publisher, publisher.logo, publisher.logo.height, publisher.logo.url, publisher.logo.width, publisher.name. Modified date, description, and main entity are recommended, but not required. For video news you should use the schema.org type VideoObject. Here are the schema.org properties that Google requires for video news markup: name, description, thumbnailUrl, publisher.name, publisher.logo, publisher.logo.url. Duration, content URL, embed URL, interaction count, and eventually expires (in case after a specific date the video won’t be available anymore) are recommended, but not required.
In order to index your podcast in the Assistant Directory, you have to follow these 4 steps:
Expose a valid RSS feed describing the podcast, which conforms to the RSS 2.0 specifications. Google also asks for a few requirements: Podcast level <title> containing the name of the podcast <link> URL to the homepage of the podcast <item> listing the episodes of your podcast Author, image, description, and category are not mandatory, but surely the more your RSS feed is structured, the more easily Google will process your content and match it with users’ searches. Episode level <title> containing the title of the single episode of the podcast <enclosure> containing a URL of the audio file. These are the audio formats that Google accepts: aac, m4a, mp3, ogg, wav. Description, GUID, publication date, and duration are the information you can also include to every single episode.
Add the at least one episode that conforms to the requirements above to your feed.
Create a homepage for your podcast. It has to describe what your podcast is about. Include this HTML element somewhere in the code: <link type="application/rss+xml" rel="alternate" title="Your Podcast's Name" href="Your podcast's RSS url"/> Don’t place any other <link type="application/rss+xml" rel="alternate"> element on the page.
Needless to say, the homepage, the RSS feed, and any the single episodes of the podcast must be exposed to Googlebot. This means that they must not require a login, and must not be protected by robots.txt or <noindex> tags.
Extra tip: the RSS specifications for Google Play Music and Google Search are complimentary – even if not identical – adding your podcast to Google Play may be worth the extra mile. Follow the instructions here.
Recipes are content about creating a specific dish. For example: “pizza margherita” is a valid name for a recipe, while “facial scrub” is not.
In order to index your recipes in the Assistant Directory, you have to structure your content using the entity type Recipe.
The schema.org properties that Google requires for recipes mark-up are only two image, and name, but some of the extra properties can really make the difference.
For instance, recipeIngredient and recipeInstructions are required to allow the Google Home and Google Assistant to read the recipe and guide the users through the preparation of the dish. And… this is really what a key feature for people who are looking for a recipe!
To determine if the speech quality is acceptable, Google rates your content on the basis of three factors: length, formulation, and elocution. Learn what it means to improve your texts thinking about how the robotic voice of a personal assistant is going to pronounce them.
Was the response of an appropriate length matching the complexity of its content? Would it have been beneficial for the user if it were either more concise or more detailed?
Was it grammatical? Was the response formulated in a way you would expect a native speaker to formulate it? As opposed to a machine or someone not fully fluent in the language. When the answer included an attribution, was the source of the content clear and understandable?
How accurate were the pronunciations of each word spoken in the response? Was the intonation of the voice natural throughout the response? Was the speed at which the response was spoken appropriately? This could be due to an awkward rhythm in the spoken response, or words slightly mispronounced.
Key takeaways and conclusions
Throughout this article, we saw that the voice search is here to stay. People are adopting it more and more often, and publishers have a unique chance to play into a new field of SEO, where the first result is really the one which counts.
To optimize your content for voice search you have to rethink your content in a more conversational way, trying to guess what a user would ask to a search engine or a personal assistant. Embracing the everyday language and switching to a conversational style is important, but it’s just the beginning.
You have to keep strong attention to technical SEO matters, such as mobile optimization and schema.org markup.
Schema.org markup is fundamental when it comes to Google Actions, the digital applications that the Google Assistant uses to answer to its users’ search intents. Your content can automatically become a Google Action with the help of a proper schema.org markup.
Structured content is the key to the new SEO strategies and it’s a critical asset to be featured in voice search results, as well as featured snippets and Google Actions.
WordLift makes content structuring through schema.org accessible by anyone without any technical skills. In other words, using WordLift you can optimize your content for voice search and create new access points leveraging on personal assistants.