In a nutshell, voice search optimization is the practice of integrating voice assistant search query phrasing and user behaviour into content that delivers a helpful, relevant answer.
Why should your business care? Let me be your real-life example.
I recently drove my best friend nuts with my voice assistant. We were watching Netflix, and the usual questions about actors and shows came up. Every time my friend whipped out their phone to Google it, I calmly said, “OK, Google,” and my phone narrated the answer while they were still trying to type out the words.
Within two hours, I’d configured Google Voice Search on a tech-resistant person’s phone. They saw the efficiency of being able to simply speak a query and get instant, relevant results.
From asking “where can I get tacos right now?” in a foreign city to “what kind of oil does my Subaru Forester take?” while standing in the automotive fluids aisle (yes, these are in my history), voice search is changing the way consumers interact with search engines and business websites — and the way search engines interact with your content.
- There are over 1 billion voice searches per month (Alpine.AI voice search trend report)
- Over 40% of adults conduct at least one voice search per day (Location World voice search report)
- By 2020, voice searches are expected to make up 50% of online queries (comscore voice search study)
- The Echo Dot was the best-selling product on all of Amazon in the 2017 holiday season. (Techcrunch)
- Even desktop has a share in voice search traffic: 25% of Windows 10 taskbar searches are voice. (Purana Virji, IBM)
- Popular reasons for using voice search include searching while driving (ex. “what time does the store close”), speed of speaking compared to typing, integration with a device (ex. Amazon Echo with Prime), and just disliking having to type things out on a mobile device
How do I optimize for voice search- voice search optimization?
Here are five easy steps to get started:
- Do your user research. Identify your 2-3 audience personas, and conduct online or even in-person research into the questions they’re asking to find your products or services.
- Test it out. Ask those same questions to your own voice assistant(s), and see how the featured results are answering them.
- Build out a content strategy. Choose the top “how”, “what”, “where”, and “when” questions that users most commonly ask to reach you, then plan page optimization and new or updated article copy around those questions.
- Integrate conversational copy. Keyword stuffing, be gone! Write copy for voice search-optimized content as if speaking to a customer or friend.
- Use free tools for help. With latent semantic indexing, you’ll want to find different ways to phrase the same thing. Hop onto thesaurus.com for synonyms, and use a free keyword tool to find related keywords and phrases.
User research should be a constant in your digital marketing strategies. If your business doesn’t already have target audience personas, spend time building them out. Identify their age, gender, occupation, income, interests, favourite social platforms — anything relevant to how and why they need your product or service to solve their problem.
Once you know who is looking for you, find out how they’re doing it. You can get some search query data from Google Analytics or the Google Search Console, but the majority of this juicy data is protected. My personal favourite tool for identifying popular searches by specific keywords: answerthepublic.com.
Consider the mobile reading environment when optimizing articles for voice search, and be sure that your content is created and formatted for maximum readability on mobile devices.
Need help finding related keywords beyond the thesaurus? Free versions of tools like SEMRush, AdWords Keyword Planner, or Moz Keyword Explorer will do the trick. Free accounts do put a cap on how many results you can see, or how many searches you can do. An SEO expert might be a good partner to work with for such a crucial piece of your strategy.
Bonus voice search optimization SEO tips!
Who doesn’t want to be a star? Google often shows the user a top result in a featured snippet or ‘answer box’. How do you get your content into a featured snippet?
No one knows for certain. The content that is deemed ‘result 0’ is what appears in that nifty little box, and experts are still trying to crack exactly how it’s decided. However, there are a few agreed-upon ways that you can compete for that spot:
- Use the question as a headline
- Answer the question in one concise paragraph (two or three sentences max)
- Answer the question in a bullet list, which can be easily featured, then go into more detail about each point below
- Create a table that features the data the user requested
- Create a video optimized around the query
Local Voice Search
Mobile voice-related searches are three times more likely to be local-based than text. (Search Engine Watch voice search study)
If your audience is the type to ask “where” or “when” questions, you need to be on top of your local SEO game.
Google takes into account the user’s location when delivering search results, which is why if you ask about the nearest tacos while on vacation, it won’t suggest taco trucks close to your home. And if you ask when Value Village closes, you’ll get the hours for the nearest location.
Make sure your business has a fully populated Google Business page, and that your website is sending proper location signals from an address in the footer as well as onsite local keyword SEO.
Having a responsive mobile website is crucial to even rate with Google’s algorithm. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly will definitely not be shown in results for voice searchers.
If your business website is older and has a slow, broken, frustrating mobile experience, you can forget about voice search traffic. Google picks up these signals from your page load times, as well as your bounce rate and other key data. Sounds like it’s time for a redesign?