Speakable Markup for Voice Search on Audio Assistants

December 20, 2018

Bailey Chancellor

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Speakable Markup

Background on Speakable Markup and Voice Search

Google has announced support for a new schema called speakable markup. This feature is designed for eligible publishers to markup the sections of their news articles that are most relevant to be read aloud by Google Assistant-enabled devices using TTS (text-to-speech). The speakable specification is part of the official Article type or NewsArticle type.

Publishers with speakable structured data on their webpages can use Google Assistant to distribute content through new channels and reach a wider base of users. When a person searches for news on a particular topic, Google Assistant will read aloud a speakable section, credit the source, and send the full article URL to the user’s mobile device through the Google Assistant app. In addition, it will ask the user if they’d like to hear another news article on the same topic.

Of course, simply marking up content will not guarantee that it becomes a speakable result – just like with regular search results, there are many articles competing for the same topics and queries and Google’s algorithm is designed to choose what it deems the single most relevant result. To improve the potential of being chosen as the speakable result, it’s important to ensure content is both relevant and engaging, webpages are technically sound from an SEO perspective, page speed and mobile friendliness are prioritized, and advanced tactics (like structured data) are utilized to help search engines understand content at a deeper level.

At this time, speakable markup is in beta and is subject to change. Google is currently developing this feature and there may be changes in requirements or guidelines over time. For example, as with other Google releases, this markup is expected to open up to brands outside the news industry following the beta period. It is currently available only for English language users in the US; however, Google says it plans to open it to other countries in the near future.

Guidelines for Speakable Markup

Content Guidelines

  • Content indicated by speakable structured data should have concise headlines and/or summaries that provide users with comprehensible, useful information
  • If you include the top of the story in speakable structured data, we recommend breaking up information into individual sentences so that it reads more clearly for TTS
    • Short sentence structures tend to be easier to understand than long sentences with complex content and a complicated structure
  • Rather than highlighting an entire article with speakable structured data, focus on key points

Technical Guidelines

  • Do not add speakable structured data to content that may sound confusing in voice-only and voice-forward situations, like datelines (location where the story was reported), photo captions, or source attributions
  • The speakable specification only tells Google Assistant which part of the article to read and is part of the Article type markup. Therefore, it’s important to get the associated Article type markup specifications and properties correct
  • You can currently implement the Schema.org markup as HTML and JSON-LD. Microdata and RDFa will be available soon
  • For an optimal audio experience for users, it’s recommended that marked-up content be approximately 20–30 seconds, or roughly two to three sentences

Eligibility Requirements & Getting Started with Speakable Markup

To be eligible to appear in news results, your site must be a valid news site. Make sure you submit your news site to Google through its Publisher Center to check eligibility and gain approval.

To check your website’s eligibility, follow the steps below:

  1. Verify ownership of your website, if not already claimed in Google Search Console
  2. Go to Google Publisher Center
  3. Find the domain for which you’d like to add speakable markup and click “request inclusion in news index”
  4. Fill out the form:
Speakable Markup
Speakable Markup

Note: After your inclusion request is submitted, the “Inclusion Request Submitted” status will display while your site is reviewed by the Google News team (this process usually takes 1–3 weeks). Website owners can check the Publisher Center periodically for updates on their inclusion requests.

Once Your Website is Accepted

If your website is accepted, the status will change to “Included”, and if your site submission is rejected, you’ll see “Review complete: Site rejected.”

Upon successful submission and approval of your site as a publisher, add speakable data to your web page(s).

  • Identify sections of your webpage that are particularly ‘speakable’ in the sense of being highlighted as being especially appropriate for text-to-speech conversion
  • Assign one of the three kinds of possible ‘content-locator’ values and other necessary structured data for the Article or NewsArticle type
  • Test and validate your structured data
  • Submit your content to begin the onboarding process. After you submit your content, the review can take up to five business days. Once complete, Google sends a notification to let you know whether your content is eligible or not
  • Submit a Google News Sitemap through a Search Console account after your site is reviewed and approved (recommended)

What Speakable Markup Means For Marketers and Voice Search

Voice search is rapidly growing and has been for some time. In fact, it is estimated that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020 (comScore), and smart speakers will be a major driver of this change.

  • 18% of Americans 18+ (approximately 43 million people) own a smart speaker (The Smart Audio Report, NPR & Edison Research)
  • 73% of smart speaker users are interested in listening to ‘News and Current Affairs’ on their devices (The Smart Audio Report, NPR & Edison Research)
  • 37% of smart speaker owners listen to 2+ hours of news on their smart speakers each week (The Smart Audio Report, NPR & Edison Research)
  • It is estimated that 76.5 million people in the United States (approximately 23% of the population) will use smart speakers at least monthly by 2020 (eMarketer)
  • While Amazon is the market leader for smart speakers (approximately 52% vs. Google Home at 32%), Google Home is expected to rapidly increase in adoption rate (predicted to hold 48% market share by 2022 vs. Amazon at 37%)
  • Google Assistant is now available on more than 400 million devices, according to Google

With the screenless interface of a smart speaker, marketers need to consider more creative ways to reach searchers when they are unable to physically select a search result. This is one significant reason to consider speakable markup – it can help reach searchers through a new medium outside of physical, text-based searches.

In addition, Google is closing the gap on available organic search “real estate”thanks to changes in paid advertising and universal results saturation. In fact, according to a study by SparkToro and Jumpshot, approximately 61.03% of mobile searches result in no clicks to a website at all. For this reason, “on-SERP SEO” tactics (or strategies for reaching searchers in creative ways directly within search results), such as implementing speakable markup, are very important considerations in our field today. A few years from now, we could see the vast majority of searches ending on Google’s results pages instead of clicking through to a brand’s website, so we need to continually learn how to influence searchers without necessarily earning the click.

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