SEO for voice search: how to leverage long tail keywords amid the AI boom

SEO for voice search: how to leverage long tail keywords amid the AI boom

The increasing use of voice search has created a demand for content tailored to complex queries.

Vast improvements to voice search tools have led to fresh search behaviours for content writers to leverage.

Much like the trend towards video search, rapid technological advancements are making voice search a more viable and efficient method of retrieving information.

Now, the implementation of generative AI in search engines is set to act as a catalyst for that shift towards conversational queries.

What is voice search?

What is a long tail keyword?

Voice search SEO

Why is long tail SEO becoming more crucial?

Voice search and AI SEO: How to adapt

Final thoughts

Voice search is the use of an automatic speech recognition system to make a search query using only a verbal prompt.

Users of smartphones, smart speakers, or other devices can save time and effort by exploring search engines with their voice, instead of using a keyboard.

Technology evolving at pace

Voice search technology is becoming more and more common. An Amazon Alexa or Google Home is now a typical kitchen appliance, Apple users have Siri as a trusted companion, and ChatGPT is now threatening to embed itself into everyone’s lives.

Machine learning, which allows AI systems like ChatGPT to act without being explicitly programmed, and natural language processing enhancements mean spoken commands can now be better understood.

The outcome of this increasingly effective technology is a surge in the use of voice search. According to Statista, more than a quarter of individuals in Western countries were using digital voice assistants in 2022. The number of these devices is expected to outgrow the world population this year.

Voice search will grow exponentially over the coming years – increasing use will lead to more feedback and therefore improved products, and younger generations will be more comfortable utilising the technology.

The outcome

So, how does this burgeoning use of digital voice assistants impact SEO?

Essentially, typical search queries are becoming longer and more complex. As users become more confident speaking to the technology, their queries will be more conversational. For content writers and SEOs, these are known as long tail keywords.

What is a long tail keyword?

A long tail keyword is a highly specific query which has a lower search volume.

These keywords are more niche and better reflect how people make queries in the real world, featuring a more conversational tone.

Long tail keywords get their name from their position on a search demand curve – they are covered by the ‘tail’ at the end of the curve.

Voice search SEO

While long tail keywords may not boast the search volume that content writers and SEOs crave, they offer a different kind of value.

They provide the prospect of high intent traffic because they’re more specific to a user’s intent. These users are actively searching for a product, service, or answer, and are ready to convert.

While typical SEO enhancements will obviously improve the chances of your content featuring as voice search results, there are several actions you can take to optimise for these queries.

Long tail keyword research

As is the case for any worthy content writer, carrying out thorough keyword research is vital when optimising for voice search.

However, instead of targeting on the high-value terms with high search volumes, focus on the longer, more specific queries.

More often than not, voice search queries will be a question. For example, a voice search user may ask ‘what are the best running shoes for marathons’, while a more traditional searcher would simply type ‘marathon running shoes’.

Consider ‘who’, ‘what, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’, and ‘how’ questions related to your chosen topic and use an SEO tool like Semrush to see if there is any search volume for these queries.

When you have identified suitable long tail keywords, work them into your content naturally – using them as H2s subheadings, for example – and provide a concise answer.

Adding a frequently asked questions (FAQs) section can be a simple way to integrate long tail keywords if it doesn’t feel natural elsewhere on the page.

Analyse search features

Take some time to look at search engine results page (SERP) features for your chosen long tail keywords.

Take note of the content that appears in these features – a study by Semrush revealed that 70% of all answers returned from voice search occupied a SERP feature.

Look at featured snippets, which are the short pieces of content displayed at the top of Google SERPs. If these exist for your keyword, it will likely be used as the response to a relevant voice search.

It’s also worth looking at the ‘People also ask’ section, which appears as a block of questions and drop-down answers for certain queries.

Model your content on the answers that appear in these features but see if you can improve it to make it more valuable and useful for a user - this is what Google underlined the importance of in its March 2024 Core Update.

Use conversational language

It’s important that your content matches the conversational tone of the queries it is addressing. A less formal writing style feels more authentic and is seen as more relevant to voice queries.

Use conversational words like ‘I’, ‘you’, and ‘we’, and don’t use overly technical language. However, while your language may be casual, it’s crucial that your content is still providing value and insight.

Local SEO

Local SEO improvements are a great way to optimise for voice search. There’s a strong chance that someone using a voice search is on the move and looking for a service that is nearby.

It’s vital to create and optimise a Google Business Profile, which will provide users with a business’ location, contact details, opening hours, directions, and other useful information. These details can then be utilised in local voice search results.

Why is long tail SEO becoming more crucial?

Since the launch of the Amazon Alexa just under a decade ago, optimising for long tail queries has become an ever more common and effective practice.

However, it’s another, more recent, technological breakthrough that has put a greater emphasis on these queries; generative AI.

The emergence of generative AI tools, and their integration with search engines, has added a completely new dimension to the search landscape. With AI Overviews, formerly known as Search Generative Experience (SGE), now appearing on Google SERPs, there is a renewed thirst for content that satisfies long-tail queries.

Google’s AI Overviews are far from perfect, but they’re a strong indication of the direction search is heading. If AI can accurately produce streamlined answers to complex queries on a consistent basis, Google’s traditional SERPs will soon feel inadequate.

With such processing power at their disposal, users will become more comfortable throwing more complicated, conversational queries at search engines – whether that’s with their voice or other means.

Voice search and AI SEO: How to adapt

With generative AI further opening the door to voice search and long tail queries, it can be difficult to keep pace with content best practices.

But instead of trying to hang onto the coattails of AI, which has already shown itself as an unpredictable beast, consider how the technology can be leveraged against itself.

For example, you may be struggling to make your content feel less formal in order to optimise for voice search and AI Overviews. Plug your copy into ChatGPT (or another AI tool) and ask it to make it more conversational. In essence, you’re asking AI to edit your content to make it more suitable for AI – there's no one better to ask.

While you should never solely rely on AI for your content writing, it's great for sub-editing.

Another potential use of AI to fuel your voice search optimisation is through a chatbot integration. The vastly more effective AI chatbots of recent years are fantastic for improving user experience and freeing up customer service assistants.

But what they can also do is provide you with insight into the questions your customers are asking once they reach your website – what is it they really want to know? People tend to communicate with chatbots more freely than they would when typing in a search engine, using more conversational language.

By collating these queries, you will have a ready-made list of long tail queries that are highly specific to your brand and will likely aid your voice search optimsation.

Final thoughts

With AI tools rapidly maturing and being integrated on SERPS, and voice search capabilities advancing at a similar pace, there will be a wave of change for content writers and SEOs to ride.

It’s a situation that is constantly evolving, and experimentation will always be to key to discovering the most effective techniques.

To discover how our SEO and Content Marketing experts can help you optimise for long tail queries, get in touch with our team today.

About the author

Olly Green

Olly Green, Content Lead

Our Content Lead graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a BA in Sports Journalism in 2020. Olly gained his grounding in content over three years as a professional sports journalist before joining Herd to utilise his wide-ranging writing skills in a marketing environment.

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