There are few things in life that are certain: death, taxes and the fact that when you search, ‘voice search,” the top result will be some SEO or marketing publication proclaiming, ‘THIS is the year that AI assistants will shatter everything we know about search!’  While the impact has been less than sudden, there’s no denying voice search and the mobile revolution have left their mark on the SEO industry.  But what is voice search and how exactly should we respond to it?

The fact remains that voice search is on the rise and is becoming an integral part of a comprehensive SEO strategy. And as the browsing and searching habits of online users are changing, businesses must adapt their approaches or risk missing out on lucrative opportunities to gain additional traffic streams.

What is Voice Search

Before we can move onto the specific tips on how to use voice search optimization for your business, we must first understand what it is.

Voice Search is a method of speaking a query as voice recognition software converts your words to text, then launches a search. Results are typically returned as a spoken answer, accompanied by a solitary paragraph or a limited set of webpage results.

Since the launch of Google Voice in 2008, webmasters have pondered, “Is voice search the future of SEO?” The short answer is yes. Speed to knowledge has always been the primary goal of search engines, and with voice search proving to be the most convenient and hasty way to find answers, the real question becomes what can we do as SEOs to tailor content for voice search queries?

Why Does Voice Search Matter

While voice search has been around for more than a decade, marketers have only recently started to pay attention.

That’s because as of late, it became impossible to ignore the sheer volume of voice searches that happen every day – it’s a search method that’s trending up and is going to continue to rise in popularity for years to come.

Don’t believe us? Then look at these stats.

31% of smartphone users worldwide use voice search at least once per week. What’s more, 55% of households are expected to own a smart speaker device by 2022.

This clearly shows that search voice technology and use isn’t just a fad. It’s becoming a mainstream way to seek information, so companies that want to tap into this growing audience need to adapt, and quickly.

But as you can imagine, both the results that are displayed (or spoken, as it may be in this case), as well as the specific search queries, will differ.

People write and talk differently, so the queries are changing as well, presenting plenty of opportunities for savvy businesses to rank for keywords that have virtually no competition.

So whether you’re asking Siri or Google for the weather, want to learn about current traffic, or are looking up a local business, whenever you give a vocal command to your device, as marketers we need to consider the impact of SEO.

Sandbad has you covered with these 7 simple techniques for voice search optimization.

Keyword Research and Voice Search 

The Experts Say:
Featured snippets are especially helpful for mobile search users. ~ Google
More than 40% of voice search answers come from featured snippets. ~Backlinko
37% of voice users in 2018, prefered this method of search because “it’s faster” than traditional methods. ~ Higher Visibility  

1. Identify Featured Snippet Opportunities

The first step is similar to most other SEO campaigns – you need to perform thorough keyword research and identify the keywords that are the most likely to be searched for using voice searches.

That requires you to have a solid understanding of what types of searches are the most common for voice results. One distinguishing feature of voice search is that it usually involves some sort of question. Therefore, the query is likely to start with words like “what,” “does,” “how,” “who,” etc.

When looking for services, people may also search for “best service provider in the area,” which is another type of query you should consider.

Also, when speaking, people tend to formulate full sentences, while in text searches, the queries are much more fragmented.

No matter what method you choose to conduct your keyword research, it typically results in a set of relevant terms you plan to incorporate a piece of content. The first step to winning answer status for voice search is to win a featured snippet. Featured snippets (primarily answer box and ‘people also ask,’) are designed to provide succinct answers to common queries, much like voice search. Therefore, you should always assess your set of keywords for featured snippet opportunities. Plug each keyword into your favorite search engine and survey the results page. Is there an answer box present? Is that snippet in the form of a list, a paragraph or a table? Document your findings in your research and create content to match your findings. This ensures your content is in the proper format to win a featured snippet, and subsequently place as the owner of a voice search answer.

2. Include Long Tail Keywords In Your Research

Local search, voice search, niche markets and more – however longtails are making it into the keyword collective, they are growing in number and are here to stay. Incorporating these long phrases into your content increases the chances you’ll provide a succinct, direct answer to whatever question that keyword is asking or answering.  In addition, targeting question keywords in your research is an easy voice search win! Anytime you are observing a search engine results page, survey the, “People also ask,” section to find out what Google is reporting querents are seeking. When possible, include these questions with clear, direct answers in your content.

3. Local Searches – Plan for “Near Me”

As briefly mentioned before, a significant percentage of voice searches are based around looking for local services, so you must make the most out of your Google My Business result and optimize it to give it maximum exposure.

We can help your GMB results, as well as the organic results, rank for the most relevant local queries in your niche so that every time someone performs a voice search looking for services like yours nearby, your results come up first.

Content and Voice Search

The Experts Say:
71% of users prefer voice search over written ~ PWC
Voice interactions with technology are becoming a key part of our lives ~ Google
41 % of people who own voice activated speakers report it feels like talking with a friend. ~ Google
“In order to generate the optimal audio response, we use a combination of explicit linguistic knowledge and deep learning solutions that allow us to keep answers grammatical, fluent and concise.” ~ Google

4. Keep Your Content Conversational

The gold standard of SEO has always focused on optimizing for your users (human, that is). After all, machine learning is pushing virtual assistants to behave more like one everyday.

When it comes to voice search, try to present information in a question and answer style format.

Use FAQs and inquisitive headers to present information in this fashion. Keep your word choice and sentence structures simple to encourage eloquent AI responses. Keep your answers direct and clear to allow effortless understanding by your audience. Finally, weave natural language keywords into your content.

I once worked for a publication where a colleague discovered the keyword, ‘my poop is too big to come out and hurts.’ A debate ensued over if this keyword should be worked into a particular piece of content.  If you search this keyword today, you’ll see the highly respected John Hopkins University is seizing this natural language keyword opportunity. That’s voice search!

Voice Search and Technical SEO

The Experts Say:
Marking up your Q&A page helps Google generate a better snippet. ~ Google
The average page speed for a voice result answer is nearly 4 times as fast as an average webpage ~ Backlinko
If you make a website such that the information is easily accessible and useful for search engines and for users as well, then you don’t need to do anything special for voice. ~ John Muller

5. Implement Q&A and Voice Schema

An important part of search engine optimization is expressing to meta robots what your content is all about. Think of schema like a canonical tag or a meta description. Digital assistants do not always latch on to keywords, header tags, or questions to provide answers for voice searches. However, when it comes to meta tags, it’s always a best practice to point search engines in your desired direction. Q&A schema allows content creators to signal both questions and their respective answers to meta robots. While speakable schema was released with news publishers in mind, the greater SEO community has taken to using this code to highlight content segments meant to be spoken.  If optimizing for voice is your goal, you definitely want these mark-ups on your page.

6. Optimize For Page Speed

If the mobile revolution wasn’t enough motivation, voice search should be your final signal to get your website up to speed. Remember, search by voice prioritizes speed to knowledge more than any other method of surfing the web. Ensure your images are compressed, your site architecture is orderly, and your pages are mobile-friendly!

7. Double Down On SEO Best Practices

At the end of the day, voice search for all its nuances, is still just…well, a search! Each point outlined in this article is grounded in SEO fundamentals. Search engines are turning to sites they see as authoritative, with fresh, informative content to provide voice search answers. Whether you want to rank on page 1 via traditional search or own as many voice answers as possible, it all starts with focusing on the basics. After all, SEO is built on the principle of finding the right answer to the right question. Voice search is just a means of getting that answer faster.

Voice search offers amazing opportunities to businesses who will be able to rank for the newly appearing search queries first.

But optimizing for voice search requires in-depth knowledge about SEO, user habits, Google My Business, and various other aspects that are all important for success.

Luckily, when working with Sandbad SEO, you don’t have to worry about any of that – we know exactly how to get your website ranked for the most relevant voice search keywords in your niche and can help set everything up from start to finish.