If you’re a frequent internet user with a flair for using more advanced devices, you’ve likely conducted your own share of voice searches to scour the internet for answers. With the world of convenience this brings, it’s no surprise that 72 percent of people have used this method of search through a personal digital assistant.
Thanks to intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) that seem to become more common these days, voice searches are becoming a more popular feature in smart devices. It has changed the way we do an internet search, particularly when driving or doing some other tasks. Soon, more users will be more into voice search as new devices become more accessible.
As a marketer, it’s your job to cover all bases and not limit yourself with traditional search to reach a wider audience. Tapping into this channel would necessarily mean one thing: to claim the top spot, you should aim for the coveted position zero or featured snippet.
A featured snippet is an answer that appears in search results pulled from a relevant website. It’s what digital or virtual assistants relay to a user after performing a voice search or query. There are effective methods to optimize your site and achieve this goal. But before you find effective voice search SEO services to help you in this quest, it’s essential to first understand the vital roles of structured data and schema markup in making this possible.
What is structured data?
Structured data is code in a specific format that’s written in a way that search engines understand. This code is added to a website so search engines can read and use it to show search results in a certain and much richer way.
You’ll need a specific “vocabulary” to make search engines understand the code and make it work. The one used by the major search engines is Schema.org. It provides a series of tags and properties to mark up your website content such as job postings, local business listings, products, and reviews, among other things in detail. This vocabulary was collectively developed by the major search engines—Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex—to reach a shared language, allowing them to gain a better understanding of websites.
Once you’ve correctly implemented this vocabulary, search engines can use the structured data applied to more effectively understand the contents of your web pages. This results in a website that’s better presented in search results in the form of rich results such as rich snippets or rich carousels as an example.
Implementing structured data results in rich snippets which are known to increase click-through rate, drive traffic, and bring you competitive advantages. Having this data can also help your pages appear in featured snippets and, consequently, in voice search results.
To have more extensive knowledge of why structured data is vital in helping boost your voice search results, let’s dive deeper into its role.
Structured data leads to rich results
Rich results are formerly known as rich snippets
Formerly known as rich snippets, rich cards, or enriched results, Google has put an end to the terminology confusion and assigned “rich results” as the correct term. These more coveted search results require the implementation of structured data on your site, which makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site and understand what your page is all about, allowing them to return more relevant and detailed results.
While structured data doesn’t guarantee high rankings, it can indirectly affect your site in achieving better search results. Due to your enhanced appearance in SERPs, you’ll have an increase in click-through rates and a decreased bounce rate due to relevancy.
Rich results on mobile: the carousel
Not to be confused with rich snippets, the rich carousel delivers an enhanced presentation of certain types of subjects on Google. The results are in carousel form that users can swipe through and are most useful for mobile users.
The rich carousel is practically an extension of the rich results. When viewing this on a mobile device, these rich results are presented in cards that are part of a carousel showing the most relevant answers to your search.
Certain types of answers can get special treatment in the carousel such as restaurants, recipes, movies, and ecommerce products, among other things. This type of search results is incredibly useful for users who are looking for places to eat, flights or hotels to book, and products to purchase. Some now offer the possibility to book directly from the search result.
The primary driver of this kind of innovation is the astronomical rise of mobile searches, so search engines are working on tapping into the countless possibilities this can bring.
The Knowledge Graph is that big block of information that appears on the right-hand side of the search results screen. Also known as Knowledge Graph Card, this block contains relevant and context-specific information about your search that’s powered by the Knowledge Graph.
For instance, if you search for a specific company, the Knowledge Graph will show a near-complete profile depending on how that company did its SEO work. When you search for a recently released film, the results will show posters, the cast, and reviews. The Knowledge Graph is a fascinating and powerful tool once you know how to get your information there.
With Google’s core business focused on providing users with the correct answers to all their questions, the search engine doesn’t just present the result that matches closest to the search term, but it also makes broader connections between data. This leads to rich results, carousels, or Knowledge Graphs.
You might mix up the Knowledge Graph and the block of information you see on the right-hand side of your screen. They are not one and the same. To clear the confusion, the Knowledge Graph is the engine that powers that block that we call the Knowledge Graph Card. This card contains the most visible result of what the Graph does. When there’s enough information about the subject, the card will be filled will relevant facts, images, and related searches, among other useful data.
A featured snippet is a search result presented in a box that’s featured on top of Google’s organic search results and below the ads. Its objective is to answer the user’s query right away. Getting featured here adds more brand exposure in traditional and, most especially, voice search results.
Featured snippets come in three types that frequently come up as answers to queries:
According to research done by Ahrefs, 99.58 percent of featured snippets already rank in the top 10 of Google’s SERP. So, if you’re already ranking high for associated search queries, you have a good chance of getting featured.
On the other hand, a Getstat study found that 70 percent of snippets came from beyond the first organic position. Therefore, it’s required to have your page be in the top 10 but not required to be number one to be featured.
Another study has shown that the following subjects get featured results more frequently as featured snippets:
- DIY processes
How does Schema.org work?
You now know that schema is a type of structured data markup you can include in your webpages. Now it’s time to go deeper. Schema markup is a vocabulary of tags or microdata that you can add to your HTML. Doing so delivers a fuller explanation to search engines of what your website is all about while improving the way your page displays in SERPS by enhancing the information or rich snippets displayed below the page title.
Schema.org is a collaborative community activity that designed schema to be a universal language for search engines. It offers a collection of shared vocabularies that can be understood by the major search engines. The vocabulary is constantly evolving and is developed by an open community process.
Schema can be used to mark up all kinds of items on a website from people and products, to events and recipes. Every item has an agreed set of sub-properties that’s aimed to be recognized by all major search engines to provide a better explanation of a specific item.
When it comes to voice search, schema is particularly valuable due to the structuring of your data that bolsters the direct answers required for voice search results. It also increases the chances of your website appearing as a rich result, which is generally used as the source in answering voice queries.
What kind of items can you mark up?
Schema.org is defined as having two hierarchies with one for textual property values and the other for the things they describe. The main Schema.org hierarchy is composed of a collection of types, or “classes,” with each having one or more parent types.
The list is quite extensive, so the best way to deal with it is to know which sections to prioritize. You can think about what your site, business, or product is about and write down the specifications and properties you feel are essential. From there, you can work your way up the chain.
You can sift through the list by skipping on irrelevant data. Before you start implementing structured data, determine what you should mark up first. Regardless if you have a product line in your online store or you’re a restaurant owner, you need to know what you want to do and explore the possibilities. Remember to check the documentation by search engines to understand what they need from you.
Avoid going for the obscure ones and pick those that are relatively easy to implement. Work your markups in major groups such as CreativeWork and Organization. From there, you can find the most common items to mark up and cover all bases.
To give you an idea of how it’s done, let’s go through the first major group: CreativeWork. This covers the most extensive group of creative works, which are those that have been produced by someone or something. Here’s a shortlist of the most common under this category:
- Q & A’s
- TV & Movies
When we look at the hierarchy, the implementation starts with a Thing, which is the most generic type of item. To move onto a more specific item, we select the next thing that applies to your website. Let’s take the business path, for instance. It should go something like this:
- Organization (or Place)
- Opening hours
- Telephone no.
- Organization (or Place)
As you can see, if you’re a local business, you could pick a more specific type, making it easier for search engines to know what kind you own.
How to implement structured data
Now we move on to the more technical stuff in using structured data. It may seem daunting, but don’t fret. The goal is to make the process a whole lot easier for users and search engines to work together for a better understanding of what they need to do to hit their objectives.
RFDa and Microdata
The old way of writing structured data involves directly embedding the code into your HTML. This made the process inefficient and prone to error, which is the reason why this method wasn’t quickly adopted by Schema.org. Moreover, writing and maintaining your structured data through RFDa or Microdata can give you a headache.
With the need for itemprops to function, everything has to be inline encoded, making Microdata hard to read, write, and edit.
You can always use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to help you mark up your website to rank, look, and do better in SERPs. It’s a useful and easy-to-use tool where you simply go through a step by step process to have it automatically churn out the code you need to add to your website’s HTML.
Once you’re done, the Structured Data Testing Tool can be used to find out what your page will look like after the added markup. So instead of analyzing your published webpage, you can analyze the code that the tool generated for you. And once you hit “preview,” the testing tool will show you what the article will look like in Google search results.
Gunning for a rich snippet spot may seem quite comprehensive, but it won’t be much of a coveted spot for voice SEO if it’s easy to achieve. But with a complete understanding of what it takes, you’ll be able to know the importance of structured data on your website.
Surprisingly, only a few businesses and websites are aware of this, so you have the advantage of being a step ahead with this knowledge. If you want your website to have a competitive edge on voice search, now’s the time to implement structured data to rank better and hit that featured snippet spot.
With the way structured data helps search engines understand your website, and with the continuous increase of mobile usage, it looks like it’s here to stay. If implemented correctly, it can do wonders for your website and your business in terms of voice search. And even if search engines develop new ways to present search results, the way structured data affects voice SEO can still make us look effectively towards the future.