There’s no denying that voice is the future.
- According to the spring 2020 Smart Audio Report, 24% of the U.S. population now own a smart speaker. Moreover, 34% of survey respondents who didn’t currently own a smart speaker said they are likely or very likely to buy a device in the next six months.
- A July 2020 report by Gartner found that 39% of the U.S. population uses voice assistants on their smartphones and 26% use smart speakers at least once a week.
- In their November 2020 report, eMarketer shows that while Millennials are the heaviest voice search users, adoption is rising among all age groups, including Gen X and Baby Boomers.
The concept of voice search started with smartphones back in 2011. It gained momentum in 2014 with the rise of smart speakers like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod. Now voice technology is finding its way into a host of everyday devices, such as smart TVs, cars, wearables, appliances, and more.
The growing popularity of voice search is largely because it’s faster and more convenient than typing – especially when on the go. There is also strong consumer interest in hands-free tech in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Gartner, 32% of consumers are interested in hands-free technology that would limit touching or contamination.
What is Voice Search Optimization?
Voice is transforming our approaches to the internet and is requiring businesses to rethink their approach to search engine optimization (SEO).
Voice search optimization is of particular importance for both small businesses and franchises looking to optimize for local presence. According to a 2018 study over 58% of consumers were already using voice search to find local business information. This number has only gone up. People often use voice search while on the go, asking questions about business locations, store hours, phone numbers, etc.
Traditional (i.e. typed) search and spoken searches will yield different results because the two modes use different rules. As such, while optimizing your website for voice search is largely similar to optimizing for typed search, they do differ in a few key ways. Fortunately, if you focus on the SEO essentials, all you need to do is pay a little extra attention to the following elements to get your website ready for voice search.
6 Ways to Optimize Your Website for Voice Search
1. Aim for Featured Snippets
A Featured Snippet (otherwise called Answer Box) is a brief answer to a user’s search query. The information is pulled from a third-party source and displayed at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) with attribution to the original source. According to research by Ahrefs, 99% of the time Featured Snippets come from web pages that already rank in the top 10 results for the search.
Featured Snippets matter a lot in voice search. A voice search study from SEMrush found that “70% of all answers returned from voice searches occupied a SERP feature (with 60% of those returning a Featured Snippet result).” Getting selected as a Featured Snippet is especially important for search results on smart speakers. Unlike smartphones, smart speakers don’t show SERPs. These devices only give users one, verbal, answer. So, if you don’t rank as a Featured Snippet you’re going to be invisible in those searches.
There’s no way to guarantee you show as a Featured Snippet, but there are things you can do to increase your chances. Most critical is to add structured data (also called schema markup) to your website. Structured data is a collection of tags that you can add to your HTML to improve the way search engines index and display your page. SERP “Rich Answers” (like Featured Snippets) depend on the information contained in this structured data.
2. Create an FAQ Page
A large percentage of voice search queries start with question words like who, what, when, where, why, as well as how, or adjectives like “best” or “easy”. People are looking for an immediate answer to fulfill their needs. You can capitalize on this tendency by creating an FAQ page that begins with these adverbs and provides useful concise answers. Doing so makes life easier for your audience and further optimizes your website for voice search.
You can get semantic help with how people are wording their questions by looking at Google’s search field. Start typing your keywords, such as “hire roofer” into the search bar and see what it suggests. These suggestions are some of the most popular searches related to your keywords. Having a well-structured FAQ page that answers your target search phrases will also increase your chances of showing up as a Featured Snippet.
3. Target Long-Tail Keyword Phrases
One difference between traditional SEO and voice search optimization is the keyword research process. Quite simply, the way people speak is different from how they type when performing a search. When typing a search query, people tend to use short-tail keywords such as “home contractors”. However, when performing a voice search, they tend to use conversational long-tail keyword phrases, i.e. “who are the top-rated home contractors near me?”
To optimize for voice search, you need to make sure your content includes natural phrases that incorporate target long-tail keywords. As mentioned previously, voice search queries contain a lot of question words, so make you include them in your keyword research. Also include prepositions and other “filler words” (such as “I,” “the,” “on the,” “for,” “to,” “of the,” etc). These serve to make the keyword phrase more conversational and human.
4. Improve Content Readability
A primary characteristic of voice search is how conversational it is, so you can benefit hugely from using natural language on your website. A good way to test this is to use a text-to-speech tool to read an existing web page content back to you. Is it easy or difficult to understand? Does it provide clear, concise information or ramble on until you lose interest?
Write for your audience, not a search engine. Think about what they want to learn about, not what you want to say.
According to one voice search SEO study, the average voice search result is written around grade 8 on the Flesch Kincaid readability scale. You want to follow this example on your website. The more you use robotic, jargony language in your content, the less likely you are to appear in voice search results. By aiming for grade 8 on your website content, you help ensure that your content will be understood by 80% of Americans.
5. Ensure Your Website Is Mobile Friendly
The majority of voice searches take place on smartphones. So, to optimize for voice search results, you need to ensure your website is designed for mobile devices. For example, make sure your images and video windows scale for different screen sizes. Use short media titles that are easy to read on mobile devices. Focus on improving your mobile page load times and make sure that your mobile website is indexed correctly by search engines.
Google provides a free tool to test if your website is mobile friendly and where there is room for improvement. It is particularly useful because if it encounters a problem, it lets you know what the issue is, where it’s located, and how you might fix it.
6. Include Local Information
As previously discussed, a large percentage of voice searches focus on finding something locally. As such, you want to make sure your website is optimized to show up when some asked “hey Google, find __ near me”. Start by having a dedicated “Contact Us” page on your website that includes all of your contact information and an online submission form. Also include your NAP information (business name, address, and phone number) in the footer of each individual page. Other ways to help boost your ranking for “near me” searches is to target local keywords (such as place names) and include your business details in your structured data.
In addition to optimizing your website, make sure to claim your online listings – in particular, Google My Business, Yelp, Bing, Apple Maps, TripAdvisor, and Yext. According to a 2020 study by SEMrush, these are the primary data sources Google, Siri, and Alexa use for local business information.
Optimize Voice SEO with the Surefire Local Marketing Platform
Surefire Local provides the industry’s most complete marketing platform designed around the needs of small and medium-sized businesses. With our AI-powered solutions, you can easily implement the above recommendations to get your business ready for voice search. Contact us today for your free demo!