Schema and other structured data are becoming more vital to the future of Voice Search, especially on Google Home and Google Assistant enabled devices. Google’s latest major structured data related announcement voiced support for a new schema.org itemProp called Speakable, which carries a wide array of Voice Search implications.
What is Speakable Schema?
According to schema.org, the speakable itemProp “[i]ndicates sections of a Web page that are particularly ‘speakable’ in the sense of being highlighted as being especially appropriate for text-to-speech conversation.” Webmasters can markup sections of content on their site’s pages which are most relevant in the context of being read aloud as answers to direct user queries.
Theoretically, content marked up with speakable structured data will have a better chance of earning more consideration from Google’s algorithm for inclusion in Voice search results. This would result in ranking for more Quick Answers and other Universal Results, establishing the page in the coveted “position zero” on search engine results pages (SERPs) — above all other organic links. These snippets are usually spoken to users by digital voice assistants and typically cite the source website (e.g. “According to example.com…”).
Once your site is aligned with search intent and behavior, Schema, especially Speakable Schema, can amplify your Voice-optimized text better than Google’s learning artificial intelligence (AI) alone. The first blocks of content marked up with Speakable Schema should be bulleted lists and other passages which have previously been engineered to target Quick Answers results, as these are known to be read aloud by digital voice assistants from Google already.
Supported Speakable Content
The first wave of support from Google will afford English language News articles with Speakable specifications more of a chance of being read aloud by Google Assistant and Google Home. Rollout for additional language support and for users outside of the U.S. is forthcoming, pending significant adoption and tests on the initial collection of eligible sites.
At present, it seems that non-breaking news related content will not receive a similar bump or consideration from digital voice assistants in terms of comprehending established Speakable parameters. However, there is significant reason to believe that this is a test by Google. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) were rolled out and supported for news articles during a test period before its wider release and adoption across a diverse spectrum of industries. As such, there is an opportunity to get ahead of the curve by considering Speakable Schema on your site’s relevant pages.
Structured Data, Technical SEO and Winning in Voice
While many best practices dictate that your site’s context is sufficiently established by the content and keywords used, structured data, including schema.org markup, as well as technical SEO are often even more important to signal your site’s intended audience and usefulness to search engines. Without being visible through technical SEO (crawlability, following redirect best practices, utilizing sound code, etc.), you cannot be seen in SERPs!
In the past, meta keywords were used to send signals to search engines about the context of pages. Schema is a more robust and practical method of redoubling the signals your content already outputs. Especially in the era of Voice — users are interacting with the web through verbal, colloquial queries — and the ceiling for context has never been greater or more valuable. For example, structured data is an opportunity, not unlike Amazon’s Hidden Keywords, to utilize additional keywords and language that could not be used directly on the page without resorting to ill-advised black hat tactics. Not all users will utilize industry-specific keywords, for example, so speaking their language and signaling it as uniquely Speakable will help your site stand out to search engine crawlers and users alike.
As Google continues building support for various schema markups, the case for structured data strengthens. Support for Dataset Schema was announced by Google, enabling sites with vast amounts of facts and figures stored in .csv or other tables on site to be coded with Schema, strengthening their ability to be read correctly by search engine crawlers and displayed prominently on SERPs.
Overall, structured data, especially Schema, is a powerful technical tool. Be sure to follow all best practices and implement correctly for the best organic results.