The way of searching information online has significantly changed over the past few years, with increasing numbers of people using voice search and personal assistants.
Not sure this concerns you? Here are some stats that should convince you about optimizing your site for voice search:
- ComScore reported that by 2020 50% of all searches will be by voice
- Google Trends reported that that 20% of all queries on Android were made by voice
- According to Think with Google, 72% of owners of voice-activated speakers say they are often used as part of their daily routine.
For marketing professionals, it is essential to take into account that voice search has an impact on SEO. It differs slightly from traditional SEO, so we need to use slightly different strategies to optimize for voice search.
Create voice search-friendly content
The direction of search has shifted from traditional keyword-value pairs to long tail phrases or even sentences. Why? Simply because voice searches prefer to use natural language. The way we talk differs significantly from the way we type. It is essential to consider this important aspect of the nature of voice search for content optimization.
In most cases voice searches include phrases and long tail keywords. These have more than 5 words. When you optimize your content, you’ll need to find out which keywords and phrases real people use around the topic.
Google’s John Mueller says that it has became useful to provide short and concise answers to voice search queries. The typical voice search result is about 29 words in length. So, if you want to give the best answer to the user’s request, your content should be in the question and answer format and should give an accurate answer.
Incorporating a detailed FAQ page can be also great for voice search. This will help Google define your website’s relevance with the queries. If you don’t have a FAQ page, the best way to start is to ask your customer service for the questions your clients ask the most.
This is how an answer looks in Google:
Citywide blog creates quality content around long-tail keywords and conversational phrases to answer their most asked questions. In the same way, you can research what kind of topics your customers are inquiring about and create content based on those queries. It’s a great way to show answers in the form of high-quality blog posts.
Use keywords based on the questions you see people are asking, and make content that provides clear answers to these questions.
You can use the following tools to discover the questions people are asking in their searches:
2. Optimize for Local SEO
According to the annual Internet Trends Report, 22% of voice searches look for local information. Keeping this in mind, online businesses need to maintain and update their profiles and contact information. Try to provide accurate and consistent data and verify your profiles for local listings.
To increase your local visibility, add your phone number, opening hours and precise directions to your location. Integrating AMP pages on your site is a great way to get local visibility on mobile pages.
As voice search has a high number of searches with local intent, you can include local keywords into your SEO strategy and provide your full business information on your site. The footer and the header are good places to put contact information as typically that's where people would look for this.
The Kostopoulos Law Group, LLC does a good job of showing relevant info on their site.
Google has reported “near me” searches increasing 130% YoY, and Google Trends also shows how “near me” searches have increased exponentially over the past few years. To increase your local business visibility, you can use “near me” factors in your anchor text, title tags, internal links and meta description. Specify and describe your location, including with landmarks making you easy to find.
People searching for local businesses may specify the geographic area in which they’re interested, such as “barbershop in New Orleans”. Using local keywords gives you a chance of appearing in the local search results for this kind of query.
Alternatively, their query might be "barbershop near me", and Google will then show the nearest barbershops based on user's geolocation. That's why it's important to add your company to Google Business listings, so your site can be shown in the results for these queries.
3. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly
In most cases voice search happens on mobile. So, it goes without saying that mobile optimization should be a priority if you're focusing on voice search.
Use Google's Mobile Friendly testing tool to see how your site performs. Just type in your URL and Google will tell you if there's something you need to fix, and help you with resources on how to do this.
Being mobile-friendly is about more than having a responsive web design, however. Another crucial factor is page speed and Google recommends a loading time of 5 seconds or less on mobile, noting that:
"a one second delay in mobile load times can impact mobile conversions by up to 20%."
A Backlinko study on voice search ranking factors reported that PageSpeed appeared to play a major role in voice search SEO:
"The average voice search result page loads in 4.6 seconds (52% faster than the average page)."
Add to this Google's confirmation that page speed would become a ranking factor for mobile searches from July this year and it's a no-brainer to make sure your mobile speeds are up to scratch.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool will tell you how your speeds stack up and will help you improve your load speed and figure out which elements slow down your site. Here is the report for SlideModel:
See how Wordtracker improved site speeds in this case study.
Your mobile content should be scannable and easily digestible, with short and simple sentences. Create attention grabbing headers, divide the content into small paragraphs and use sub-headings. White space is important on a small screen and helps direct people's attention to the areas you want them to focus on.
It should be as easy for mobile users to scan your site with a finger as it would be using a mouse on desktop. Using clear, clickable elements such as links or buttons is crucial to helping your visitors navigate your site easily. Make sure you have enough space between elements so clicks are clean and easy.
Find out more about responsive design, and how to avoid common mistakes, on Wordtracker's blog post.
You can check out your mobile versus desktop performance with Google Analytics. Their detailed reports on mobile and desktop performance will to help you track how successful your efforts are.
4. Add structured data
At Pubcon in Las Vegas in November 2017, Google's Gary Illyes encouraged publishers to add structured data to websites, saying Google would be releasing new features in 2018 that would take advantage of this.
John Mueller also suggests using structured data to help communicate what a webpage is about:
“From Google’s side, what we try to do is to understand your page... and to figure out which type of voice queries match those pages. So that’s something you can help us with using structured data on the pages, if you tell us a bit more about what this page is about.”
Source: Google hangout
Schema markup or structured data may not play a key role in voice search rankings. Backlinko reported that 36.4% of voice search result pages used Schema markup, which is only marginally more than the average webpage at 31.3%. However, it helps Google to crawl your website and understand what the page is about and so may give you an advantage over competitors.
Why do we need to use structured data? People often look for general information, or local businesses, their addresses, opening hours, directions, contacts, etc. For SEOs it’s an important factor in optimizing content for voice search.
Structured data helps search engines classify the content and so helps them determine the best results to display on the SERPS. Let’s say you need to find out the population of China. The World Bank's markup makes their data an excellent result for Google to display.
Make detailed sitemaps available to Google, and ensure structured data pages are not blocked using robots.txt.
The great thing about voice search is that optimization means employing user-friendly strategies for visual appearance and content. With voice search the focus is on natural language, and your SEO tactics should reflect this, making it less robotic than some traditional SEO strategies.
If you focus on a natural way of searching and make it easy for digital assistants and search engines to understand your content, you’re on the right path.
Have you optimized your site for voice search? What strategies have you already integrated into your campaign? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!