Dennis Shiao

Managing Content for Voice Search (and Whatever the Future Brings)

By: Dennis Shiao | September 11, 2017 | 
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Managing Content for Voice SearchRecently, Gini Dietrich published a very informative post on how to manage content that appears in voice search.

Gini’s post focused on how to optimize websites to gain more favorable results in voice search.

I left the following comment:

Great advice, Gini. Regarding the FAQs on the website, and all website content in general, let’s store them as structured content elements in the CMS, so they’re accessible to not only search engines, but home assistants [today] and the other devices that surface in the future 🔮

In this post, I’d like to expand upon my comment.

A Whole New World

I agree with the advice Gini shared and applaud the experimentation performed by Ed Maguya.

On-page optimization for typed queries must now take into account the dynamics of voice search.

As of this writing, Alexa (Amazon), Siri (Apple), and Cortana (Microsoft) all use Bing as their default search engine.

When these devices don’t know the answer to a question, they turn to Bing to find the answer.

That’s why, as Gini’s post points out, you should optimize your site for these voice searches.

In the future, devices such as Echo will source their information less from conventional websites and search engines and more from emerging systems.

Let me explain.

Manage Content for Voice Search Beyond Websites

Home assistants and smart speakers are the beginning of a trend: We’ll ask for and acquire information with no websites or search engines involved.

Amazon provides a free Software Development Kit (SDK) to build applications that interact with Echo.

They call these applications Alexa Skills:

A collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation, and code samples that make it fast and easy for you to add skills to Alexa.

According to Amazon, more than 15,000 skills have been developed to date.

Many of these skills do not interact with website content, so other systems must manage the content accessed by that skill.

A colleague developed a proof-of-concept skill to access restaurant menu items stored in a content management system (CMS).

When used with the right invocation name (e.g. “Alexa, ask [NAME] for…”), he could ask Alexa a question about the restaurant’s daily special.

Alexa queries the CMS via the skill, then provides the answer without having to ask Bing.

For this model to work, one needs to implement intelligent content and use a CMS that’s decoupled from websites.

Apps and the Internet of Things

If you think about your digital consumption habits, you’ll be amazed at how little time you spend using browsers these days.

A sampling of my own app use: I check the news via Twitter or Facebook, read long-form content in Flipboard, find a new restaurant in Yelp, and hail a ride in Uber.

Today, your content can find its way into Twitter, Facebook, and Flipboard via your website or blog.

Tomorrow, you’ll need to manage and format your content for new apps, especially those used by your customers.

The Internet of Things (IoT) devices rely on content to function and be useful.

Will your content appear on these devices?

Yes, if it’s one of these:

  • Watches
  • Kiosks and billboards
  • Car dashboards
  • Home appliances
  • Fitness devices
  • Augmented Reality apps and devices
  • Whatever new thing we dream up next

Hint: If all of your content is inside the HTML of your website, then it’s nearly intractable to make it ready for these devices.

Take an Intelligent Content Approach

As Carrie Hane noted in a related Spin Sucks post, an intelligent content approach results in better user experiences.

It structures content to facilitate a publishing model of “Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE).”

According to Carrie, to get started with an intelligent content approach, you need:

  • A shift in mindset, as in, “you must rethink how you create, connect, and manage content.”
  • People to plan and instrument intelligent content (g. marketing technologist, content strategist, etc.).
  • People (or a team) to manage the content creation and process.

I know some of you are thinking, “I don’t have those roles on my staff, so I’ll consider this down the road.”

You don’t need a fully staffed team to get started!

Instead, begin with quick wins, which start with “chunking” your content.

Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has an insightful article on how you can “chunk it” to create content that’s more usable and reusable.

My biggest takeaway from this CMI piece comes in the concluding paragraph, where they suggest:

Determine your most commonly used information types and consistently chunk your content according to those types.

Be Excited, Not Scared

When looking to the future, some of us get excited, while others get scared. I’m excited!

While preparing your content for multiple channels is important, don’t expect to tackle it all right away.

Devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are getting a lot of buzz, but what percentage of your customers would use them to interact with your brand?

Probably not many (yet).

Customers will use devices like these to interact with your brand in the future, so the best thing you can do is prepare yourself (and your content!) by taking an intelligent content approach.

This way, your content will be ready to travel beyond your website and can be retrieved by Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and others.

With content structured the right way, it will be ready for whatever else the future brings.

Personally, I can’t wait for the future.

About Dennis Shiao


Dennis Shiao is director of content marketing at DNN Software , where he manages the creation of blog posts, web content, eBooks, webinars and more. He uses content to drive awareness and consideration of DNN’s Content Management System (CMS) software. Dennis holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, but is far more comfortable in HTML and CSS than C# and Java. Feel free to connect with Dennis on Twitter .

  • Liz Reusswig

    I’m still a little scared…but this post is awesome, Dennis! Great info on this upcoming trend of voice searching.

    • Dennis Shiao

      Thanks, Liz! Technology is changing quickly and the entire concept of human-to-computer interaction is shifting. So I can understand why you’re a little scared.

  • I’m very excited about the future too. We live in amazing times.

    Sound advice, Dennis. Thank you!

    • Dennis Shiao

      Thanks for the kind words, Corina!

  • Dawn Buford

    “Alexa, open the holodeck.”……Shoot! It still doesn’t work (but it’s coming trekkies!). Great post Dennis. I am totally excited about these advancements in voice-activated search & commands and look forward to the day when I can say, “Computer, send my grocery list to Whole Foods for delivery on Friday at 10am, and pull my Tesla around front while you’re at it!” : )

    • Dennis Shiao

      @dbuford:disqus Thanks! Regarding the scenario you describe, I think it’s right around the corner 🙂

    • Um…minus the Tesla, you can do that! I add things to the Alexa shopping list and then order it from Prime and select delivery date and time. All with my voice. It’s pretty nifty!

      • So cool! Can’t wait for Europe to catch up!

  • THIS is the stuff that makes our jobs so exciting. We have to be constantly learning, adapting, and on the edge of innovation….and that’s so fun. This is a great overview.

    I’ve recently signed up to be an Alex skill developer, not because I have any idea about what I’m doing, but because I wanted to poke around a bit, so I can start to really imagine the potential. And it’s huge…..add in the other devices you’ve mentioned here and the game changes as we play it!

    • Dennis Shiao

      That’s great, Laura! Let us know how it goes.

  • It’s my new favorite topic! Thanks for expanding on what I wrote about and giving our readers more fodder to consider.

    • Dennis Shiao

      My pleasure, Gini. Thanks for the opportunity.

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