OK Google, why should I be optimizing my website for voice search?
Whether your potential customers are asking Google, Siri, Cortana, or Alexa, trust me—you want to be the answer. Google says that 20% of all searches are voice searches and I’m certain that number will only continue to skyrocket in the coming years.
Are you ready to claim a spot in that 20%? Are you even convinced that you should be doing whatever you can to benefit from that 20% statistic? Or perhaps—even if you’re already convinced of the importance of getting in the voice search game—you don’t even know where to start.
Let’s talk it all out. Let’s talk the what, why, and how of voice search SEO.
What Is Voice Search & How Does It Work?
As far as SEO jargon goes, voice search is probably the easiest to understand. Voice search is simply any search a person performs on the internet using a voice command instead of typing or text.
But you probably knew that. Heck, you probably already do it yourself. Maybe you’ve even performed a voice search today. (“Hey Siri, is it 5:00 yet?”)
Even if you do know what voice search is, I’m guessing that—like most people—you’re not entirely clear on how it works.
I don’t want to get too far into it, but I do think a basic breakdown of how things work will be handy before we dive in. Put simply:
- A user initiates a voice search by pressing a button or addressing the device’s voice assistant with a pre-programmed voice command (“Hey Siri”, “OK Google”, “Alexa,”, “Hey Cortana”)
- The user asks a question or gives a command, such as, “When Does SEO The Movie Come Out?” or “SEO Movie Release Date”
- Depending on what kind of technology the voice search system uses, it’ll pick up on little packets of sound—whether those packets are individual syllables, words, or entire phrases and sentences
- The voice search system will then translate these units of sound into text (using at least 1 of 4 methods) and then initiate that search just like it would a text search.
Whew! The good news is that we don’t need to worry about that too much. But isn’t it cool to know what goes on behind the scenes?
How Voice Search Affects SEO
Voice search is changing the way we use search engines in huge ways.
In short, voice search makes search inquiries way more conversational in nature. Which makes sense, since so many of the digital assistants who aid in voice searches make it feel like we’re talking to actual people sometimes.
This affects our voice search strategy in a number of ways, but we’ll get more into that below.
But that’s not all—voice searches also tend to change the nature of keywords themselves, including question words like what, how, when, and why.
Oh, and one last thing we should keep in mind: most digital assistants answer voice searches solely with—well, their voices. With the spoken word. Which means—for those of us in industries of a more visual nature like art or fashion—we’ll need to get clever about how we’re creating and describing our content.
Let’s get into it!
Use These Tips For Your Voice Search SEO Strategy
So how do we take advantage of the search landscape that’s resulted from an explosion in voice search? With these 5 tips, of course.
1. Use Microdata
Adding microdata like location, phone number, pricing, menus, and operating hours for search engines was crucial before, but it’s even more crucial now with voice search and SEO. Microdata helps search engines understand what is on any given page which is key for Voice Search.
How do digital assistants find this information from your site? By you having an organized and easily readable sitemap. Include all this information in pages labeled on your site map to make sure search engines know exactly where to find your microdata. You can also test your microdata with Google’s handy Structured Data Testing Tool.
Not sure what microdata you should cover or how to implement? Check out this guide from Search Engine Land.
2. Talk Like Your Customers Would
It’s not just about keywords anymore (not that it has been for some time anyway). It’s not just about robots and algorithms anymore, it’s about people and how people actually talk (Natural Language). That’s what Neil Patel recommends when it comes to voice search: “Think like a human.”
People aren’t searching for “Amazon Echo” anymore.
They’re searching for “where to buy Amazon Echo near me”, and “best prices on Amazon Echo”, and “Google Home versus Amazon Echo.”
The trend is shifting from short and stiff keywords to more human, more specific, and longer-tail search terms.
In short: phrases and longtail keywords are the way to go. Keep this in mind when you’re creating content and using keywords on your site pages. We’ll have to be mindful now more than ever to be genuine and specific in our keyword use.
3. Ask The Questions Your Target Customers Would
Again, it’s all about keeping language natural here.
It’s not enough to just figure out what your target keywords are and match them up with their longer-tail counterparts. You’ve got to make sure you know what kinds of questions those keywords will be hidden in, too.
What questions will your customers need to ask to find you? That’s what we need to figure out, and those are the key words and phrases (or actually, questions) we need to include in our site content. (FAQ pages are great for this.)
How do you figure out what questions your target customers are asking? I recommend by starting with a tool called Answer the Public, in which you can type in short and simple keywords and get back data on how those terms fit in with search queries around the web.
4. Make Sure Your Website Is Mobile Friendly
Image SourceWay to go Wikipedia! Isn’t it nice to know that Google really just wants to help you succeed, and at no cost to you? Their free tool will grade your site and even point you in the right direction for how to go about improving your scores.
I mean, you should be doing this already. But the rise of voice search makes having responsive web design more important than ever.
That’s because more voice searches are initiated from mobile devices than from desktop computers, and that’s probably because—well, what do you usually carry with you wherever you go? Right—probably not your laptop.
Your first step is to find out just how mobile friendly your website already is, and you can use Google’s free tool Test My Site for that.
The report you get back will help you be able to hone in on exactly what you need to do to improve your mobile friendliness. If you’re really starting from scratch on the mobile responsiveness front, I recommend tackling the basics first.
5. Dive Deeper With Semantics
Semantics may sound like this big, abstract thing, but all it is is the deeper “why” behind what searchers are saying.
For example: you may just be asking Alexa how much Nike Flyknits cost, but Alexa won’t just answer your question with a price tag and leave it at that. She’ll also probably be thinking about your question and learning things about you, namely that you’re in the market for shoes and you’re willing to pay a premium price for them.
Another way search engines use semantics is by making inferences when you ask questions, which is demonstrated fantastically by Wordstream’s in-depth study on semantics in voice search.
To take an example from their study, using semantics in search is like asking, “What planet is Gamora from?” without first having to let your digital assistant know that you're referring to Zoe Saldana’s character in Guardians of the Galaxy.
What does Google’s focus on semantics mean for you? It means that you should not only be focusing on the literal content of search queries, but also on the intent behind the search inquiries.
Why are people searching what they’re searching? It’s not enough to know what questions they’re asking—we also have to ask ourselves why they’re asking the questions they’re asking.
If you can dive deeper into this why and weave it into the fabric of your website, you won’t have to worry as much about keyword use. Because—if you can offer valuable content that’ll answer your readers’ questions with authority and a genuinely helpful attitude—Google will recognize that your site is the answer on the most organic level.
Hey Siri, We’re Ready To Win At Voice Search Now
Do you have enough to add to your SEO to-do list now?
I know it sounds like a lot, but trust me—the dividends you’ll get back over time are totally worth the upfront work. If you can, try adding just one of these 5 tips to your to-do list each week and tackle them one by one, starting with the least advanced and abstract (using microdata) and ending on the more complicated stuff (responsive design and semantics). And then cheers yourself with a drink.
On that note, let me wrap us with one final question—a question not for Siri or Alexa, Google or Cortana, but for you: Hey Reader, how will you make voice search SEO a priority this week?
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* Adapted lead image: Public Domain, pixabay.com via getstencil.com