SEO Tips: Optimizing for Voice Search
Voice Search is arguably one of the hottest topics in digital marketing right now – and for good reason.
While the technology has been used on mobile devices for more than a decade, there’s been a dramatic increase in the volume of voice search queries over the past few years.
According to Timothy Tuttle of MindMeld, voice search rose from zero to 10% of all global searches in 2015. That equates to roughly 50 billion searches each month.
If this exponential growth is any indication of its anticipated impact on SEO, voice search is going to play a prominent role in 2018 and beyond.
In other words, voice search is here to stay.
And if voice search optimization isn’t already part of your digital strategy, it’s time to rethink your approach.
Voice Search Trends and Statistics
With the advent of AI assistants, many experts are predicting we’re on the verge of a complete voice search revolution.
In fact, ComScore predicts 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.
While web-based search will never fully disappear, voice search technology is something you can’t afford to ignore.
As voice search continues to grow at an exponential rate, here are some statistics you need to know:
– According to Google, 20% of all searches on mobile devices are now made using voice search.
– “55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search more than once per day” – Google Mobile Voice Study
– “There are over one billion voice searches per month. (January 2018) – Alpine.AI
– Nearly 50% of people are now using voice search when researching products – Social Media Today
– According to Google Webmaster Trend Analysts, voice searches are 30 times more likely to be action queries than text searches.
Understanding Voice Search
Before we dive into optimization tips, it’s important to understand the unique characteristics of voice search queries.
Voice Search Uses Conversational Language
There’s no doubt virtual assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home are changing the way we search.
When people use these types of devices, they speak in a natural, conversational tone and their queries tend to begin with the 5 W’s: who, what, where, when, and why. For example:
– What do I need for a home gym?
– Where is the nearest coffee shop?
Not only are voice search queries longer than typical text-based queries, they also contain more keywords.
If you want to rank for these types of phrases, you need to modify your keyword research strategy to focus on long-tail keywords and conversational phrases.
Voice Search and Featured Snippets
Some data suggests there’s a direct correlation between voice search and Google’s featured snippets (the quick answers that appear at the top of the search results page).
“40.7% of all voice search answers came from a featured snippet.” – Backlinko study
Google pulls the answers for featured snippets from sites that rank on page 1, but it doesn’t necessarily come from the #1 result. Google chooses the page that contains the most relevant, concise, and simple answer to the query.
Getting your site into this highly coveted spot can help boost your visibility and improve your chances of ranking for voice search queries.
You can achieve “position zero” if you pay close attention to the questions users are asking, and structure your content to answer those questions in the most succinct and straightforward way.
Voice Search is Often Local
Local searches and “near me” searches have exploded in popularity over the past few years.
More and more consumers are relying on their smartphones to find nearby businesses, products, and services while they’re on-the-go.
According to Meeker’s Internet Trends Report 2016, mobile voice-related searches are 3X more likely to be local-based than text.
This means it’s crucial to set up your site correctly for local search – especially if you’re a business owner. If you haven’t already, register with Google My Business and ensure all details are up-to-date (including hours of operation, address, phone number, etc.).
How to Optimize for Voice Search in 2018
By now I’m sure you’re probably wondering, “So, how do I optimize my site for voice search?”
The good news? If you’re currently implementing SEO best practices, there isn’t much else you need to do differently.
You will, however, need to make a few subtle changes to ensure success in the world of voice search.
Bear in mind: there isn’t a simple one-size-fits-all solution to rank for voice search. Just like any SEO strategy, you have to optimize your website and its content on every front.
With that said, here are four simple steps you can take to increase your chances of ranking for voice searches.
1. Optimize for Long-tail Keywords
As we touched upon earlier, one of the most effective strategies to implement when optimizing for voice search is targeting long-tail keywords.
It’s also important to think about how people actually use voice search. While text-based queries are typically truncated and robotic-sounding, voice search queries mimic how people speak in everyday life.
When searching for a restaurant, a user might type “Restaurants Toronto Yonge Street.” But if they use voice search, they’re likely to ask something along the lines of “What are the best restaurants in Toronto near Yonge Street?”
These spoken queries contain more words and keyphrases than a typed search query, and you should be using them to your advantage. You’ll notice searchers increasingly using terms like “best” or “nearest” – so be sure to include them in your content when appropriate.
Develop questions that searchers – or your customers – may ask and build your content around them. To figure out what people are asking, think about the FAQ’s you receive about your product, service, or business.
You can also use tools like Answer The Public to find questions users are searching for around a specific topic.
2. Focus on Traditional SEO Best Practices
When it comes to voice search, you shouldn’t throw traditional SEO best practices out the window.
Factors like page speed, mobile responsiveness, site navigation, and site authority all play an important role in voice search results.
Well-optimized sites that focus on user experience generally rank highly, and voice search results are pulled from those top-ranking results.
Ultimately, Google still relies on its core ranking factors to determine which of the relevant, top-ranking results should be chosen as the voice search answer.
3. Use Schema Markup
Simply put, schema markup is code that you can put on your website to help search engines better understand your content.
Not only does schema markup tell the search engine what your data says, it also tells it what it means. In a sense, schema offers the search engine additional context so it can provide users with the most relevant content.
But why is schema markup so important when it comes to voice search?
Using schema markup can boost your website’s visibility and indirectly lead to better rankings – and websites that rank higher are more likely to appear as a voice search answer.
4. Create Concise Content That Answers Users’ Questions
Easy-to-read informational content that answers your audience’s most common questions should be at the forefront of your SEO strategy.
The only difference when it comes to voice search? You’ll also need to answer simple questions clearly and concisely.
“Google prefers short, concise answers to voice search queries. The typical voice search result is only 29 words in length.” – Backlinko study
A common format you’ll notice among voice search answers is:
– A webpage containing a headline that asks a common question
– A short, succinct answer to the question immediately following the headline
– Additional content below the answer that provides further detail and clarification on the subject
“Think of voice search like mobile. Every year since 2005 or so, people would predict, ‘this will be the year of mobile.’ When mobile actually did take off, we realized it wasn’t the year of mobile, but a seismic shift in audience behavior. That will happen in voice search too – but not this year.” – Tony Wright
Whether or not 2018 is the year of voice search, there’s no denying it’s going to change the landscape of online search as we know it.
Is your content ready for voice search?
If you need help creating an SEO strategy for your business, we’ll work with you to create a data-driven approach that yields results.