Write for humans, optimize for machines

Since the launch of the RankBrain algorithm in 2015, machine learning has helped Google better understand user intent and the websites it crawls. This has also allowed marketers to focus on writing, rather than pleasing search engines.

Now that Google has rolled out mobile-first indexing in March 2018, websites are required to be fast, secure and responsive (or at least have a mobile version). And by adding structured data, these pages can also show up as rich results, making them much more appealing than their neighboring text answers. Or potentially even become the answer in voice.

Companies should adapt their SEO strategy specifically for mobile and voice search, meaning that content should be written for people, but optimized for machines.

Machine learning improves SEO

Writing for Humans

Think of pages having topics rather than keywords (or long-tail-keywords). For example, page titles should sound like something your customer would ask out loud. H1 tags should read like an engaging but descriptive article title and H2s should help break your article into sections to help the reader find what they need. Is your content meaningful for the reader? Is it adding value, helping them and fulfilling your business objectives?

If you are able to answer a question better than anyone else, it could qualify for a featured snippet, and potentially become the one and only answer in voice search.

Related: The State of Voice Assistants (Infographic)

It’s true that finding relevant topics and search queries can be done through keyword research. However, Google Trends and Answer The Public are tools that can take your efforts one step further. Checking Google Search Console regularly to see what your audience is searching for can prove to be quite useful as well.

Mobile SEO for Rich results

Image by: Results Driven Marketing

Optimizing for Machines

Given the amount of data Google has access to, combined with its machine learning capabilities, it’s time we realize that it isn’t necessary to repeat keyword phrases over and over on a page to get results. Alternatively, we should adapt our SEO strategies on the technical side to help search engines understand our content. For example, adding Structured Data to your HTML markup assigns values to specific content types, allowing search engines to categorize and index your content, and serve up better results in search, providing a better overall UX.

Google Home voice assistant

Mobile vs Voice

It’s no surprise that Google decided to roll out the mobile-first index. Think of all the personal, behavioral and location data being tracked and stored on individual mobile devices. Add that to Google’s access to big data from their global network and machine learning. Though voice technology is in the early adopter phase, it’s estimated to have 1.6 billion users by 2020.

Essentially, Google indexing for voice is the same as indexing for mobile, with two important differences:

  • When people ask their voice assistants a question, they only get one answer (usually pulled from the highly coveted featured snippet). This is known as position 0, before all the ads and other results.
  • Questions are made verbally rather than typed, which leads to longer, natural language questions.

That is why writing for your audience and optimizing search engines is key. With this in mind, if you want your content to be found on mobile or via voice assistant, now’s the time to start adapting your new SEO strategy.

Have you thought about how SEO will be affected by mobile-first indexing? Are you looking for an opportunity for your content to become the featured snippet or the only answer in voice search? We’ve put together a comprehensive Technical SEO Checklist that will help you optimize for mobile-first indexing.

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