Every copywriter wants the coveted secret sauce recipe to satiate a growing audience. We want to dish up the right topics in a compelling way that encourages readers to consume—and come back for more.
But here’s the zinger:
Nearly HALF of all web searches are voice-initiated now.
I can’t help but wonder: Will people stop reading my sweet, juicy words churned out by the thousands? Will I lose my personality and voice when communicated to the masses through robotic monotone?
Though the rise of robo-retrieved content is a tough spice to swallow, I’m not filing for unemployment yet. Here’s why: Artificial Intelligence will never replace the need for copywriters and the human touch.
The rise of voice recognition assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana does not diminish the need for compelling copy. But writers may need to learn a few new tricks.
As audiences replace PCs and mobile web browsers with voice-activated software and smart speakers, brands will need to adapt to new writing conventions to remain relevant. With this transition well underway, we’ve poked around various marketer’s kitchens to discover the common ingredients needed to please the voice assistant’s palate. Here’s what some of the top voice search results are doing:
1. Serving Long-Tail Keyword Questions
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) writing is as old as the dinosaurs — well, as old as the 1997 film Jurassic Park anyway! Every copywriter employed today understands the value of tossing in a few popular catchphrases designed to attract the attention of our old friend, Googlebot. Though it can be irksome, the use of SEO brings up the philosophical quandary: if you write a piece of copy, but nobody sees it, did you write that piece of copy at all?
There’s no denying that SEO matters. But keywords—your connection to audiences— will continue evolving. For a spell, “long-tail keyword phrases” were all the rage ‘round the copywriter watercooler. No one wants to rummage around through the bargain bins for keywords like “cheese” or “buy cheese” when they could rank higher for longer, more specific phrases like “buy Dubliner cheese” or “cheese curds near me” instead. It’s easy to imagine how these more targeted phrases might serve up a primed audience that’s ready to convert.
As people refrain from typing words into their search engines and ask Siri aloud instead, these keyword phrases are increasingly morphing into questions. So now we’re asking, “Where can I buy Dubliner cheese online?” and “Who has the best cheese curds near me?” We’ve reached a new level of audience-targeting ecstasy. You can almost smell the sales increase.
2. Sizzling Meaty Featured Snippets
If these questions have a familiar taste, it’s probably because 40.7% of voice search results come from a Google Featured Snippets box. If you’re not optimizing your content to rank here, there’s no time like the present to begin. So, how do you do that?
Focus on the who, what, where, why, when, and how to deliver digestible content to curious minds.
Don’t be afraid to write more. We’ve noticed that Featured Snippet inquiries tend to be longer—7-8 words instead of the usual 2-3—and while the snippets themselves are only about 29 words, they come off much larger 2,312-word blogs and FAQ landing pages.
Season your writing with trigger words. Putting the right words in can be as important as cutting excess words out. Consider how you might use Google Snippets trigger words, such as:
Tip: Writing for voice search doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch. Just like how grandma used whatever meat she had on hand for the soup, you can choose a meaty piece of old copy, add spice, mince your words, and delight new audiences, while making the best use of your resources.
3. Removing the Fat, but Keeping the Flavor
Start with simple base ingredients. Using Flesch Kincaid as your guide, imagine that your friend is super busy and wants the Reader’s Digest version at an 8th-grade level.
As the old adage goes, some of the best writing is rewriting. It’s always worth asking, “What is the clearest, simplest way I can state the necessary information?”
I’ll never stop writing metaphors and using quirky turns of phrase, but there’s merit in celebrating easy wins—like decluttering. As author Stephen King once said, “The road to Hell is paved with adverbs,” so goodbye slowly, utterly, oddly, necessarily, really, actually. Farewell, ambiguity: just, some, things, this. Does every sentence have a purpose? Yes? Good.
Lastly, we all need shorter sentences. There. I’ve said it.
4. Whipping up Conversational, Personable Tone
Why is voice search so popular all of a sudden? Consider this fact: 41% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say they feel like they’re “talking to a friend.” I mean, Siri’s not always the best friend—like when you ask her “what to do if you think you have alcohol poisoning” and she gives you the coordinates to the three nearest liquor stores—but she does pick up when you call.
Anyway, the good news is that writing for voice search is much like writing for humans; you have an opportunity to forge a relationship between the customer and your brand. Forget stiff technical jargon and powering through a college thesis with your Thesaurus. I, for one, will be glad to never use an awkward SEO phrase like “best hotels Toronto has to offer.” Instead, think of what a friend might ask about your products and services at a cocktail party or coffee shop. It’s that easy.
Though robots are the filter, there’s still plenty of room for creating camaraderie and content that’s not only clear and insightful, but entertaining and delightful.
5. Consider Your Presentation
Top-performing voice search content makes use of snappy formatting. When you look at old content, consider how you might break up long blocks of text with short headlines (seven words or less), bullets, and paragraphs that are about three sentences in length. Googlebot becomes an attainable pal when you know these subtle preferences.
A growing insurance firm got on-target copy
A rapidly expanding insurance firm, Provence needed a revamped website that reflected its growing stature. Unfortunately, its existing copy missed the mark—only appealing to prospective policyholders, not independent agencies that may have wanted to merge with Provence. But through in-depth interviews, MarketSmiths soon put things right. Provence’s new website played up its strengths and appealed to the dual audiences central to its business plan, giving Provence pride of place in a crowded market.
Ready for the Secret to Writing for Voice Search?
By now you’re probably thinking, “This writing advice is no secret! Why, it’s just good copywriting!” Eureeka, friend! Isn’t that how life goes sometimes, though? Everything changes… and yet everything stays the same.
Of course, not everybody has the bandwidth or expertise to crank out masterpiece after masterpiece—let alone research and implement high-level keyword strategy content that fares well with voice search. Before you start asking Siri or Alexa, “What are the best tools to write my content for voice search?”—contact MarketSmiths.
Our team is skilled at writing for voice search to deliver the bite-sized chunk of information your audience needs and the high-performing content you deserve.
Best of all? We’re 100% human.