If you're reasonably up-to-date with the ever-evolving world of SEO, voice search is probably on your radar. But if you're overwhelmed by the emerging field of voice search, you're certainly not alone. Voice search an entirely new beast, with rules all its own. That's why we've compiled all of the best statistics and strategies related to voice search to create this simple, straightforward guide of voice search best practices. Follow all of these rules, and soon Alexa will be quoting your website in search results!
- Voice is the future. - There's a reason everybody's talking about it: Voice is poised to take over the search engine game. In fact, voice is expected to constitute an estimated 50% of all searches by 2020, according to ComScore predictions.
- Voice has become increasingly integrated into users' online activity - Indeed, 55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults use voice search more than once a day in search of everything from directions to the mall to help with homework to accurate movie times, according to a Google survey. Their reasons for using it range from efficiency to multitasking to just thinking "it's cool."
- Voice meets mobile, falls in love - Users love using voice on their mobile devices, whether they're with friends, cooking, or even in the bathtub. According to Google, 20% of mobile queries are voice searches. That means it's more important than ever to make your website mobile friendly.
- Voice change isn't going anywhere, so it's time to pay attention - For the SEO newbie, regular desktop SEO poses its own series of challenges and complications, and it's easy to be overwhelmed at the thought of incorporating additional voice SEO strategies. But voice isn't going anywhere, and is only going to become more important, so it's time to learn how you can make voice work for you.
What Voice Searches Sound Like:
- Voice searches are longer and more conversational - While typed questions are typically short and to the point, voice searches tend to be slightly longer, averaging about 4.2 words or longer, according to research from Google and Cortana. Think the difference between typing "Best Lunch in Charlotte" versus asking "Which restaurant has the best lunch in Charlotte?"
- Voice searches are questions - Voice searches are far more likely to take the form of a question, with common questions starting with the words "What," "Who," and "How."
- Voice searches are local - People using voice search are frequently looking for a store, product or service in their area. That means it's very important that your website prominently features keywords related to your city and neighborhood.
How Google Answers Voice Searches:
- Efficiency is king. - The typical answer to a voice query is short, concise and to the point, totaling only about 29 words.
- Instant results matter. - The percentage of instant results to voice queries is on the rise, and as the technology improves, more and more voice searches will yield instant results.
Which SEO Factors Matter, Really?:
- PageSpeed - Page speed should be your priority, above all else. Users employ voice search because they want results - fast. Your website must offer the right answers, at the right speed. On average, a Google voice search results page loads in 4.6 seconds. That's 52% faster than the average website. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to speed up your website.
- SSL - Back in 2014, Google announced that HTTPS would be used as a ranking signal and given priority in searches. That's because Google tries to lead users to the most secure websites, and HTTPS is currently the industry gold standard for security. Luckily, getting an SSL certificate for your domain is easier than ever
- Schema Markups - You should be marking up all questions and keyword-rich headings with a heading of <h2>. Beyond these markups, SEO schema might not matter all that much to voice search rankings: Indeed, only 36.4% of voice search results actually come from pages that use Schema. Still, better to use schema than to ignore it.
How Snippets Can Help:
- Voice search frequently yields snippets - Google tries to disseminate correlating answers to user questions as quickly as possible. Frequently, that means using rich snippets. You should be incorporating rich snippets into your website for each important answer.
- We spoke to Buzz Carter from Bulldog Digital Media Media and he had this to say: Usually on a voice search, if there's a featured snippet ranking, that will be the result provided on a home device such as an Alexa. So with voice search being more focused on the featured snippets, it is imperative to be in the featured snippet if you want your brand to be tied to consumer results through voice search.
- Being in a Featured Snippet is a huge boost - If you're able to appear in a Featured Snippet in desktop search, your voice search ranking gets a major boost. Indeed, studies have shown that anywhere from 40.7-87% of all search results come from Featured Snippets. However, being featured in a snippet does not guarantee that your answer will make it into the automatic voice responses.
How to Use Questions:
- Q&As are your new best friend. - As much as possible, segment your content into a Q&A section, with short answers and expanded explanations that go into greater detail. Both your question and answer should be rich in keywords. Do some Google searches and see which results show up in snippets, and then model your content after those results.
- Set up an FAQ page - A thorough, keyword-rich FAQ page is one very effective way to tap into the questions and searches voice users are looking for.
- Answer both localized and general questions. - Optimize your FAQ page for both local searches and more general ones. Think about what questions a local potential customer might have, and what questions a general-interest customer might have. For instance, a massage parlor in Reno would want to answer "Q: Where is your massage parlor located? A: Harry's Massage Parlor is located in Reno" as well as the more general "What is a Swedish Massage?"
- Markup important language: Questions should be marked up to <h2>, with the answer following in a <p> tag directly after the question.
Your desktop SEO strategy is still important:
Good desktop results translates to good voice results, usually- Overall, if you are successful in desktop SEO, chances are you will do well in voice search. In fact, approximately 75% of voice search results rank in the top 3 for that same query in desktop searches.
- Overall authority still matters - Your website's overall SEO ranking, particularly its authority within its niche, still matters. Indeed, the average Ahrefs Domain Rating of a Google Home result is 76.8, meaning that your website's overall standing and trustworthiness is still paramount in achieving good voice results.
- A strong social strategy helps, too - Content with high levels of social engagement tends to be more successful in voice search. In fact, the average voice search result has 1,199 Facebook shares and 44 Tweets.
Other Content Strategies:
- Keep your content fresh - You should be updating your content frequently with new, user-friendly explainers, Q&A's, and more.
- Be conversational - Your content should be simple and easy-to-read, with a conversational tone. The average Google voice search result is written at a 9th-grade reading level.
- Think tangentially - Don't think of your website's content as a direct means of promoting your products. Rather than explicitly promoting your product or service in each article, keep your topics more general and useful to a wider audience.
How to use keywords and phrases:
- Identify which questions your users have: Tools like Answer the Public can help you identify common questions that users have about your range of topics and keywords. Then, make sure you answer all of them thoroughly.
- Optimize for long-tail keywords - If you've kept up with desktop search strategies, you've probably optimized your content for short-tail keywords. However, with voice search, long-tail keywords become paramount to your success. Use tools like KWFinder or SEMrush to identify these keywords
- Use questions, phrases and keywords in all your content: Before preparing a contest order for a voice search-search-friendly content piece, be sure to complete all of the above research. Remember: Content made without a proper SEO strategy can actually harm your rankings, rather than help.
How Google My Business Factors In:
- Don't leave questions unanswered - If you have preexisting questions on your Google My Business Questions and Answers section, go ahead and answer them with thoughtful, conversational and pertinent responses.
- Generate new questions - Create compelling questions about your products and services that users might be searching for, keeping your questions and answers rich with keywords.
- Optimize your profile - Optimize your Google My Business Profile for "near me" questions. "Near me" tags on your website are ignored in voice search, so you need to phrase the questions and answers specifically for local customers.
Remember: Voice is new and ever-changing:
- All SEO is in a constant state of change, especially voice. - In the past, desktop SEO results have changed as frequently as Google decides to update its algorithm. As the newest and most revolutionary form of search, voice is a brave new terrain even for SEO experts.
- Be open to experimentation - That means it might take some time and experimentation to figure out exactly what voice strategies work best for you. Be proactive, and test voice search functions frequently to see how your content stacks up. Be open to trying to new strategies, and above all, don't give up!
How to Test-Drive Voice Search:
- Try different devices - Voice search is conducted on a wide variety of devices, and it's important that your content be successful on all of them. Test common queries in your niche on Smart Speakers, Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana and Siri.
- Examine the results - See which results are generated on each device. Which websites are commonly being served to users? How many listings does each device/assistant offer the user?
- Study the rankings. - Determine where your website is ranked for these most common questions. Compare your standing to that of your competitors, particularly those with savvy SEO strategies.
- Take a step back. -You can also take more of a bird's-eye view by going straight to the source - download Search Query Reports (SQRs) from your Bing Ads or Google AdWords account and identify common search terms, keywords and motivations. Then, you can form your shiny, new FAQ page based on these results.
As you can see, voice search functions quite differently from desktop searches. While overall SEO authority and keywords still matter, voice searches tend to be more conversational and more question-and-answer based. Think of optimizing your content for voice as an evolving process, and a fun ongoing experiment. Good luck!