Since the rise of voice activation technology, the average consumer has mastered the use of Siri to do everything from find music lyrics to ordering Chinese food. It’s no surprise then that in an average month there are over 1 billion voice searches performed. These searches save busy individuals a great deal of time. By allowing them to search for the weather conditions while they are dressing their kids or to look up directions hands-free as they’re driving along, voice searches have truly changed the way consumers navigate the online world.
The Rapid Growth of Voice Search
The number of voice searches continues to grow rapidly, 41 percent of adults say they only started using voice search in 2017.
Google estimates that by 2020 this transformation will be in full swing with over 50% of searches being completely done via voice technology. This means that the new decade will herald a big change in SEO strategy.
How is Voice Search Different than Traditional Search?
There are many ways that voice search and traditional search are different, but here are our top 5 ways users use it:
• Use conversational speech
• Queries using location
• User intent
• Featured snippets
• Personal assistance
How Successful Companies can Implement Voice Search SEO
If you start optimizing for the future now, you should be able to maintain—and even get a jump on—your upcoming Google VEO ratings. So without further ado, we present the top 5 ways to optimize for voice search.
Back in the old days before SEO was around, the greatest way to get traffic to your website was through keyword stuffing. Google’s highest rankings went to websites which introduced a keyword so many times, simply because Google’s algorithms were only coded to identify words and not content.
As technology has grown more sophisticated, however, this practice was deemed bad, causing sites which keyword stuffed to be shoved onto the nosebleed pages of Google’s search. The only people who actually go to page 127 of results is the 10-year-old kid with nothing better to do, or the conspiracy theorist desperately searching for proof of their hypothesis. Either way, the latter pages of Google’s search engine is not where you want to be.
Improving SEO became about relevantly plugging keywords into quality content. This content not only needed to be relatable to the keywords in the search but also needed to come from a credible source. This practice is still widely in use today and likely will not be changing any time soon.
However, the use of keywords is on the cusp of changing once again.
While the main words in a user’s query will remain the same—i.e. ”hot dogs”—the composition of these words will likely be different.
When a person uses voice recognition technology, they tend to take a more conversational tone. This tone results in full questions being asked rather than just 2-3 keywords. So instead of saying, “hot dogs near me,” the query becomes, “Siri, what are the best hot dog places near me?”
The added words allow for more specificity in the searches. This is good for marketers who optimize their SEO and voice search as it will draw more people within their niche to their site. The more you draw in your target market, the more likely you will be to gain loyal customers. So optimizing your site for specific questions rather than keywords alone will transform your digital marketing efforts.
The best way to do this is through creative content. Blog posts, YouTube videos, and even FAQ pages are an easy way to write in questions to get your message across. How will your web content measure up in this new era?
For example, we named this post, “What are 5 Ways to Optimize Your Voice Search Standing in 2019?” The keywords in this question roughly matching what you originally searched. We have captured our target audience by answering a question we predicted they would have—almost word for word. It was a quick and easy change which brought you to our site. Not only do you have the answer that you’re seeking, but you’re likely coming up with ideas of your own.
Concentrate on answering questions that might be asked by people if they picked up the phone and called your company. One study looked at over 1,000 voice search queries and found that what and how-to questions were the most popular followed by when, where, who and why questions.
2. Location, Location, Location
Speaking of keywords, the phrase, “near me,” is a goldmine for voice search SEO optimization. It creates relevancy to the search. More than likely—if you are a local business—the majority of your sales comes from local business. Shocker.
While your internet presence is important, as a local business, driving people to your location is the most important aspect for your sales (I mean if you don’t do sales online). Therefore, using your location in your optimization process is crucial for showing up in local searches.
Brick-and-mortar businesses should be making specific pages for their physical location, including local landmarks, popular attractions, local schools etc. A keystone to the local aspect of SEO is to claim, verify and optimize your Google My Business listing. Aside from the obvious NAP information, optimizing your Google listing can be as simple as adding photos, writing a detailed, keyphrase focused business description and adding services.
Mention your neighborhood, your city, your county or really any relevant location information to your FAQ, contact, home, and product pages. This will help your site to rank for relevant queries. So if you are the hot dog vendor from our earlier example, by marketing your location as the shop near the stadium on your website, your chances of being flooded with business after the big game just went up.
Another thing I would highly suggest you do to assist showing up in local search queries is to prioritize the visibility of secondary information for better SEO context. Try embedding schema markups into your data. This provides context for search engines to understand your business better and list you in relevant queries. It ensures accurate, specialized search results. There are hundreds of data types you could use (check out the full list here), but for voice + local SEO, I would recommend looking into speakable, review and local business markups.
Along with schema markup, make sure your NAP (name, address and phone number) consistency through citations/listings. Maintaining NAP consistency throughout citations is important and any inconsistencies can decrease your local SEO value.
3. User Intent
Playing by the rules of SEO and voice search is really a test of honesty. Google wants to use VEO (voice engine optimization) to ensure consumers are getting results within the context of their search. While adding questions to your keyword optimization process allows consumers the luxury of greater context, there is still a danger of keyword stuffing.
When you ask a question, you must provide consumers with a relevant answer. Do not say, “What is the best way to check my dog for ticks?” and then proceed to tell the consumer all about your tick repellant. You have to give the consumer the practical process for how to check their dog BEFORE you offer them the preventative solution.
Remember the reason why your consumer is asking the question in the first place and make sure that yours is the site that provides the complete answer.
4. Answer Box – Securing Position ZERO
This is the summary that makes consumers either enter your site or say, “next”. So when you are answering your question “What is the best way to check my dog for ticks?” be sure that yours is the site that provides the best answer in the market. And think “tweetable”. Keep your answer to a list form or a paragraph under 45 words. A summary is meant to captivate the reader’s interest—not with shock value, but with value plain and simple.
In January 2018, Google announced that 80% of Google Home answers came from featured snippets. Since most featured snippets come from pages that rank in the top 10 places, it is important to use white-hat search engine optimization methods to make sure that you are one of the top-ranking websites. Another reason to try to get into a featured snippet or answer box is because of “Zero-Click Searches”. Zero-click SERPs are where the answer can be found at the top of the search results. This is where the search intent of the user is answered without having to actually click on a search result. Common zero-click searches are:
• Database searches around dates, time, currency, age and names of celebrities etc.
• Dictionary searches around “what is” and “definition of”.
• Map direction searches around “near me”, “best Mexican food”.
You might be shocked to find out that over 30% of desktop searches are zero-click and over 60% zero-clicks on mobile. These stats continue to grow, so your business should start growing too. Show Google (and potential customers) that you know your stuff, and show them simply.
- 5. Personal Assistance
As we stated in a previous blog post, “Siri, Echo, Alexa and Google Home are all programmed to remember important facts about the user.” People like to feel remembered when they are working with the internet rather than feeling like they’re working against it. Businesses that provide their consumers with loyalty rewards are often those that are most successful. Advertisements that are tailored towards individuals’ interests, hobbies, and personal needs are more likely to be clicked on and browsed.
Even though consumers are growing more and more agitated with their data being mined by advertisers, they do appreciate when advertisements and search results are tailored to their preferences. So voice-activated technology and personal devices—devices we consent to give our information to—are programmed to remember personal preferences to make searches relevant.
While these systems are not perfect in any manner, the personalization is a feature that all consumers enjoy. Therefore, when a consumer is making a purchasing decision through voice activation technology, it is important for business owners to ensure that their product or service is available for purchase in that medium.
Quite simply, if a customer is grocery shopping while they are driving, they don’t want to have to pull over to put in their credit card information.
Therefore, sites that are going to be voice friendly need to have on-call personal shoppers who will assist consumers in their verbal purchasing requirements. This can take the form of verbal chatbots to answer basic questions or having a call function built into the website to connect users with a sales representative. Creativity is key here.
Searchers are hungry for the fastest answers they can get. Voice search is an attractive alternative to the average search. Not only does it improve rankings on the SERPs, but it improves UX, which is one of the most important signals that Google has emphasized for rankings. The best way to find out if voice search will impact your business and website is by trying it out. Play around with it to effectively do a competitor analysis.
Ultimately, voice activation technology is on the rise and it creates a unique opportunity for those businesses willing to take the leap and optimize their SEO to fit it. While many businesses are still trying to play catch-up from the “mobile first” movement, voice and SEO provide a brilliant opportunity to get a jump on your competition. Your ROI will be well worth the time and effort, the key is simply to start doing something. Here’s a quick voice SEO checklist to get you started.
⭕ Focus on long-tail keywords and synonyms surrounding it in your keyword research.
⭕ Create a list of local attractions around your business and use it to spruce up your location page.
⭕ Think like the customer you’re targeting – how would you find your own business?
⭕ Want to be featured in a snippet? Incorporate this schema markup.
⭕ Make sure your product or service has the ability to be purchased through voice assistants.
⭕ Improve your UX by answering simple questions on your website.