Optimizing for Voice Search: What You Need To Know

Voice Search SEO

Voice search technology helps users navigate the internet through a voice command. Using speech recognition technology and artificial intelligence, voice search tech understands what a person is saying and provides them with meaningful results. This technology first entered the public imagination with the fictional HAL 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and became commercially available in the 1980s with the rise of consumer-grade voice recognition products like BellSouth’s VAL and Dragon NaturallySpeaking. However, it was not until 2011 that voice technology went mainstream.

The release of Apple’s and the Google Voice Search App made voice recognition technology more efficient. The Google Assistant was the foundation for the future of voice recognition. By 2011, Apple had perfected voice-assisted technology. Their AI-driven personal assistant, Siri, used cloud computing to improve predictive technology. Their sparkling new product with an aggressive campaign strategy made the idea of a voice activities personal assistant the new normal. And with the rise of the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod, people are now able to use smart speakers in their homes.

Person using Apple Siri
The rise of virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri represent a paradigm shift in voice search.

 

Why Is Voice Search Vital?

Every day, more people are using voice chat to help them juggle several tasks simultaneously. According to research, 55 percent of consumers use voice search on their phones. Furthermore, 20 percent of Google mobile queries are through voice searches. People are using voice searches to look for restaurants, products, and shows. In 2019 alone, people used Google Home to search for 16 million recipes. This statistic makes one thing clear: voice search technology is here to stay.

Voice search also has global mobility, as it allows people to search in different languages. Apple and Google are offering more than 100 language options for voice searches. Plus, voice searches are excellent for mobile searches, since asking a question is easier compared to typing it.

While early ancestors of voice search technology were merely amusing, new products like the Apple HomePod offer precise and lightning-fast results. Consumers prefer voice-assisted searches for the same reason. According to Bing, Voice search is 3.7 times faster than manual searches, making it convenient.

Amazon Echo device
Smart speakers are becoming more common in households across the United States.

 

Consumers are buying voice assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Echo to simplify their lives. According to one estimate, more than 50 million people own a virtual assistant. And these consumers cannot imagine life without a voice assistant. People are becoming more familiar with voice searching. So, the demand for voice search will increase in the future.

Most voice searches are for either local or hyperlocal results. And in 2019, more than 55 percent of consumers searched for local companies through voice searches. So, not only are more people using voice searching technology, but they are also using it more frequently.

How Voice Search Has Affected SEO

As voice search increases in popularity, companies are renewing their efforts to fine-tune their SEO strategy for the technology. Google already has a 95 percent accuracy rate for voice search, and the company reports that 27% of the online global population is using voice search on mobile. So it’s clear that voice search is here to stay.

Voice search statistics
Image source: Oberlo

 

Businesses have to keep this factor in mind when planning their SEO strategy. But searching with your voice is not the same as typing. There are three fundamental differences between voice searches and typing:

How people search: Voice searches have more words than text-based searches. On average, people use long-tail keywords during voice searches. Another fundamental difference is that the queries are more specific and conversational. So, voice search SEO must use natural language. For example, let’s say you want to search for sparkly shoes in your size. You will type sparkly shoe size 10. But, when you do a voice search, you will ask a natural question. Something like, “Hey Google, where can I buy sparkly shoes in size 10 for myself?” So, voice searching SEO is a different ballgame.

When and where people search:  The rise of voice search, along with the ubiquity of mobile phones, means that people have started using “near me” searches more and more. Between 2016 and 2018, “near me” searches saw a 150 percent growth rate. Users also searched with hyper-specific terms like “tonight” or “open now.” 

Which search results people get: Google is fast becoming our source for a quick answer to our burning questions. Innovations like Featured Snippets are making finding an answer more convenient. People no longer have to go to another page to get their answers. They can see it in a snippet on the search results page. The same is true for voice searches. When you do a voice search, your voice assistant answers you within a second.

So, your content must give answers when people ask direct questions. But, don’t worry. You won’t have to start from scratch. Here are six ways you can optimize your content for voice search.

How to Optimize for Voice Search

Focus on your keywords

Like any project, this one begins with research. You have to look for natural and conversational keywords for your content. More people will use long-tail keywords for voice searches. So, look for keywords with four to five words. But, do not go overboard with long-tail keywords in your content. Keep it balanced between long-tail and short-tail keywords to increase traffic. Question keywords (keywords beginning with “how” or “what”) are your friends. However, researching question keywords is a little challenging. You can use a keyword research tool to help you look for similar keywords.

Keywords research concept

 

Include answers in your content

Google answers queries with detailed answers, most of which are 29 words. So, your answer should be 30 words or less. But it is impossible to write a 30-word long post to answer common questions. So, use your FAQ pages to improve your voice search SEO. With these sections, you can organically add question SEOs to your website. You can also provide short answers to different questions. A lot of voice search results are answers from FAQ pages, and adding an FAQ page to your website can help improve your chances of ranking for voice search queries.

FAQ Example from Microsoft

 

Work on the tone

Conversational language is essential for SEO. Users want to read and hear answers that sound natural and authentic. So, avoid using robotic language in your content. Using a conversational tone will also help you answer verbal questions and anticipate query styles. Offer valuable content instead of bloated posts. You can also run your content through the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scale to measure readability. Use simple language to improve readability (Pro tip: Content with an 8th Grade Level ranking is your best bet)

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
Image source: Readable

 

Get in featured snippets

Featured snippets are the holy grail of SEO. Most users get their answers from featured snippets and they are more likely to find voice search answers from these sections. Voice assistants usually just read out the featured snippet when people ask them a question. Furthermore, some voice search devices, like Google Home and Alexa, only give one answer. So, featuring in snippets can make you visible on several devices.

featured snippets

 

Optimize for local search

People are using voice searches for local information. So, you have to optimize your content for local searches. Local searchers are more likely to visit your store to make an immediate purchase. Therefore, brick-and-mortar businesses should optimize for local searches. All you have to do is consistently remind your base that you are a local business. Use keyword research tools to get ideas about local keywords.

Local SEO
Learn more about local SEO in our detailed guide.

 

Become mobile-friendly

Most people use their mobile phones for voice searches. So, you have to make your content mobile-friendly. The only way to show up in results on mobile devices is by improving the user experience. Not only does a better mobile experience affect voice search SEO, but it also improves your ranking. Choose a responsive web design that prioritizes mobile-based searches.

Mobile friendly example

 

The Future of SEO

In these unpredictable times, one thing is sure, that voice searches are the future. In fact, during the pandemic, more people used home assistants to order items safely from their homes rather than venturing outside. They also relied on voice-activated assistants to get reliable data about the situation. Voice search technology will soon be everywhere, from our cars to our hospitals. It’s time you incorporate it into your business and SEO strategy, too.

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