SEO: Voice Search Guide

person using voice search
Alex Corral
Alex Corral
June 24, 2019
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Search Engine Marketing
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With the rise of Siri, Alexa, and other AI assistants in our homes, cars, and everyday lives, it’s not surprising that Google’s investing significant efforts into SEO voice search. And as business owners and marketers, so should we.

If you’re not clear on the details, don’t worry.

Our guide is here to teach you everything you need to know about voice search, and search engine optimizing your site, so you get even more traffic.

What Is Voice Search?

In a nutshell, voice search is every search you perform using your voice, as opposed to text.

The first time many of us have encountered this was with iPhones and Siri. Even today, voice searches are most often done by using voice assistants like Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and others.

When we look at the historical rise of voice search, 60% of smartphone users who are using voice search started using it in 2015.

In addition to taking your phone in your hand and saying, “OK Google, does my favorite store work on Christmas?” or “Siri, point me to the nearest CitiBank ATM,” home voice assistants also make up for a sizeable chunk of voice search queries.  

But how does voice search work?

We have to understand how voice search works to SEO for voice search and get benefits from it. According to one eloquent Quora answer, voice search consists of:

  1. Voice recognition

Voice assistant recognizes your voice and turns your words into text/code.

  1. Text analysis

The voice assistant analyzes your speech turned to text for commands, queries, and other factors for the search.

  1. Connection to search engines

Once processed, the text is sent to search engines to find the results for your query.

  1. Success

The information is then translated and given to you.

The entire process is hefty, but it typically takes 1-2 seconds. Any longer, and we might cancel our searches as we’ve grown accustomed to getting information fast.

To be able to provide us with information as soon as possible, Google primarily optimizes these search results differently.

Pages which are used in Google Home search load much faster than most pages. Search result pages in voice searches usually load in 4.6 seconds, while most pages take 8.8 seconds to load.

Page speed and security protocols are factors that have always been important for SEO, but they’re even more critical when it comes to SEO voice search.

Benefits of SEO Voice Search for Your Business

Even though it may take us some time to adjust, the benefits of SEO voice search for our businesses are clear. Your audience and your customers are using it, and it improves their satisfaction with the search. It’s a no-brainer that Google is going to put even more effort into perfecting the voice search.

You can do the same. Here’s how.

Voice Search SEO Strategies

There’s a lot you can do to start improving your voice search results right now.

We’ll list plenty of solutions which are tried and true, from easy ones that can get your page positioned as a featured snippet on Google search, to full-blown strategies that guarantee long-term results.

SEO Voice Search Featured Snippets

The primary prerequisite of your pages being a part of voice search results is getting “position zero,” or being a part of featured snippets/answer boxes.  

To do that, you can create content that answers questions directly. Create content that provides useful and straightforward answers. You can also mark the question with H1 or H2 tags and state the answer below them for even more clarity.

This also helps with NLP (Natural Language Processing) aspects of the new Google algorithms. It’s essential to understand not only what your audience is asking, but how they’re asking it.

This semantic search aspect of algorithm updates is becoming even more pronounced, even in traditional search.

Additionally, a voice search query typically includes more conversational words, and it’s much longer than your typical search query. This means that long-tail keywords should also be a part of your strategy when implementing SEO for voice search on your pages.

Improve your local SEO

According to BrightLocal, 97% of consumers use search for online reviews of local businesses. Additionally, 22% of voice search queries are for local content.

The number of “near me” searches only rose with the popularity of voice search, which means that having a Google My Business page is indispensable. If you own a local business, make sure you’ve created and optimized your GMB page.

You can optimize your voice search SEO results by:

  • Filling in important information about your business, uploading photos, and getting good reviews
  • Responding to questions
  • Use phrases people use when talking about your neighborhood
  • Add "near me" to your title tags, meta description, and other technical SEO parts
  • Mention notable features around your location in the content you create

Because Google wants to provide their searchers with the best results, they create local business directories which serve as featured snippets and directly influence the results of your positioning.

In turn, this can help elevate your search engine ranking even in voice search, and bring in more customers if you’re in the Local 3 Pack.

However, the prerequisites are the ones we’ve listed above, as well as making sure that the rest of your online activity follows suit. If you have reviews enabled on Facebook, Google can include those into the search results.

Use Schema Markup

We usually say that there are two sides to SEO: creative, and technical.

Schema markup is the technical side, and it consists of you giving the search engines more information and context about your content.

This microdata helps search engines organize your content with more ease, as you’re essentially providing them proof that you’re working from 8 am to 4 pm, instead of leaving them to guess.

This is connected to voice search because using Schema markup makes sure that the search engine is classifying the information your customers are commonly looking for.

This gives you a competitive advantage over competitors who aren't using a specific markup system to signal (with red laser dots, if need be) to search engine robots that yes, this is the information people are looking for.

Other things you can do to improve SEO voice search are:

  • XML sitemaps – submit structured sitemaps to Google Search Console
  • Improve your site structure to reflect how users typically use it
  • Make your meta description digestible to robots (proper markup) and attractive to people (engaging copy)

When approaching your site’s SEO, don’t think just creative with content – make sure the material is appropriately marked for robots, as well.

Improve Your Site Speed for SEO Voice Search

Site speed has always been huge in search engine optimization, but with voice search, it’s a priority.

Firstly, voice search is used most often on mobile searches, so optimizing your pages for mobile is the first thing you should do.

Mobile users don’t have as much time as desktop searchers to wait, which is why mobile bounce rates are 9.56% higher than on desktops.

If you need to make your pages faster, take a look at Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

The goal is to improve your page speed as much as possible, as that’ll make it more favorable as a voice search result.

Improve Your FAQ Page

Voice search is all about getting quick answers. That’s why featured snippets and schema markups matter when it comes to SEO voice search.

FAQ statements are great for targeting long-tail keywords and providing quick answers.

Again, remember that voice search queries are semantically different from desktop and mobile searches. This means that there are a lot more words in them due to NLP, and the central importance is placed on long-tail keywords.

You can use the following tools to help you understand the way searchers process language and optimize the keywords you use:

Keep your answers concise and easily readable, as Google search may just read them to your future customers.

Use Google Search Console

Another thing you can do to improve your understanding of context is to use Google Search Console.

Even though it’s a hefty tool best used for the technical aspects of search engine optimization, it will also show you how users reach your site in the first place, and by using which keywords.

This is very important in light of SEO voice search changes, so log into Google Search Console and make it your homepage. It can tell you a lot about your site.

You can do it by:

  1. Going to Search Analytics Report
  2. Choosing Mobile as the device type
  3. Exporting the spreadsheet

From there, select the cells with 3 or more terms as they’re the ones that will give you long-tail keywords most commonly used in voice searches.

Again, Google hasn’t added voice search information as separate information (as they’ve done with desktop and mobile search differentiation), but you can still reach it by going for long-tail keywords your audience uses.

Content Marketing for Voice Search

Brian Dean of Backlinko recently did a research based on 10,000 Google Home voice searches.

One of his first findings, when it came to content and SEO voice search, was that the average word count of a Google voice search results page was 2,312 words.

This might mean that voice search algorithms prioritize long-form content.

Whereas we once liked to create separate pages for separate queries, the way that Google is currently approaching search results makes this obsolete. You should instead focus on producing in-depth content that answers multiple voice search queries on a single page.

This gives a signal to Google that your page is authoritative, and is more likely to provide the searcher with accurate results.

Your usual page SERP also plays a significant role. Pages that ranked in the top 3 desktop results dominated voice search results in Backlinko research.

This is a good thing, as it means your previous SEO efforts weren’t wasted. If you’ve established your domain authority previously, this can be great for your voice search results.

Another critical thing for voice search SEO is understanding how your readers process the content.

For example, most people scan text – they don’t thoroughly read it.

This means that you can adapt your content format to:

  • Include white space
  • Use shorter sentences and smaller paragraphs
  • Use interesting headings and subheadings that help the readers orient themselves in the text

It's also essential to adapt your tone and style to your customers since that's precisely what Google has been doing.

Create engaging and informative content, and make sure searchers click through as your CTR rate also factors into your search engine ranking.

To do this, it’s crucial to optimize your meta description. Don’t focus on keyword stuffing or paraphrasing what you stated in the title. Engage visitors from the get-go, as that will show Google that you not only provide information on a topic but that visitors are getting value from reading your content.

SEO Voice Search Optimization

Voice search may be new, but remember that we’ve already faced this with mobile search.

When we look at Google’s new strategy, we can see that it’s not new at all.

Google’s priority is serving results that are useful to searchers, and our websites should strive to do the same. While domain authority and keywords/topics still play an essential role, context is the new star of the SEO game.

It's in all of our best interests to not only understand what words our potential customers use but how they use them.

And once we understand how our customers speak and behave, that won’t just make our search engine results better. It’ll make our marketing better, and consequently, it’ll help our businesses thrive.

It’s only technology that changed. Our business and our customers still have the same demands:

Quality first. Everything else comes later.

In life, and in SEO.

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