Siri, Alexa, Google — they’re three names you might find yourself saying on a daily basis for getting directions, finding the closest restaurant or even getting the weather forecast for the day. These virtual assistants have become integral parts of our daily lives.
From the business side of things, you want to be ranking for voice search as much as you want to rank for text search results. Optimizing for voice search isn’t too different than optimizing for traditional search. To help break it all down, we’re taking a closer look at the world of voice search SEO so you can best optimize for this new "word of mouth" type of search... so to speak.
The Fundamentals of Voice Search
Voice search is another hands-free way of performing a search. Virtual assistants like Siri and Google Assistant rely on machine learning and algorithms to interpret your question and retrieve the information you want or need. This can be remarkably helpful if, say, you need to look up directions while driving.
As far as voice search adoption goes, 48 percent of users perform general web searches using voice. Local businesses can benefit the most from voice search, as users tend to search for things like directions, quick facts and nearby businesses most often with their digital assistants. For local business owners, voice search is one of your biggest chances to attract more web traffic.
How Is Voice Search Different from Text Search?
Voice search and text search have a few key differences beyond how you perform the search itself. Voice search relies on dictation to perform the search, which makes it a great option if you really need answers quickly and don’t have time to type out your whole query. Virtual assistants are able to recognize your voice and understand your question in order to come up with an answer.
Voice search relies on the natural, more conversational tone of a question. Just like how you’d ask another person a question, voice search queries tend to be much longer than text searches. This mimics our natural speech patterns, which Siri or Google needs to understand in order to give you results.
How Popular Is Voice Search?
Just how popular is voice search compared to traditional search? Well, a whopping 59 percent of searches on mobile are voice searches, for one. While it makes sense to ask for directions to the closest Italian restaurant through voice search while you’re on the go, it has a much broader use case.
Machine learning has improved since virtual assistants first came on the market, which means voice search results have become more accurate. For example, Google’s RankBrain algorithm finds the best match for your query, even if it doesn’t really “understand” the query itself. This machine learning allows RankBrain to better learn for future searches.
As machine learning becomes ever more sophisticated, voice search adoption will continue to accelerate. You really can’t ignore voice search SEO if you want to dominate online.
5 Ways to Optimize for Voice Search
With voice search on the rise, you want to make sure you’re covering all of your bases for optimization. You risk losing out on first-page rankings if you ignore voice search’s potential for your business. Here are five strategies you can put into play to optimize for voice search.
1. Claim and Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
A Google My Business listing is one of the most important parts of optimizing for search, be it voice or text. A Google My Business listing is what puts your business on the map for local queries, like the closest Italian restaurant or dry cleaners. If you don’t have a Google My Business listing, you need to claim one ASAP.
Your Google My Business listing should have your business name, address and phone number (NAP) so search engines can recognize your business. Your NAP needs to be consistent all across the web. For example, if your restaurant’s name is “Tony’s Pizzeria,” you’ll need to use that everywhere and not variations like “Tony’s Pizza” or just “Tony’s.”
Remember: Consistency is key with your NAP!
2. Use the Right Schema Markups on Your Website
Schema structured data helps search engines better read your webpages. Using schema markups on your website can help your business rank for featured snippets on the search engine, which voice assistants use to help retrieve results.
Google and Bing both use schema and take it into account for rankings, so using markups isn’t something you should overlook for website optimization. If you use markups, there’s a higher chance your website will rank for rich snippets, which in turn helps with voice rankings.
3. Optimize Your Website for Mobile With AMP
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are webpages that are specifically built for mobile devices. Having a mobile-friendly website serves two purposes: the first being increasing site speed and the second being that it helps with voice search.
Since voice search primarily happens on mobile devices, your site has to be mobile friendly. AMP pages can drastically increase site speed, which is an important factor for search rankings. In fact, a Google case study found that using AMP pages improved load times by 88 percent. If you want to go even further with mobile friendliness, make it easy for users to contact your business from your phone by making phone numbers click-to-call and enabling email addresses to send a user to their mail client with “mailto” tags.
4. Consider Questions for Keyword Research
Voice search primarily answers questions, so tailoring your keyword research to questions can go a long way for optimization. The way we ask questions and the way we type them into Google are quite different. For example, you might ask someone “What is the Eiffel Tower’s height?” but may type “Eiffel Tower height” into Google. Leaving out “the,” “is” and “what” are just one example of how language is influencing search.
Instead of trying to force awkward keywords into your content, you can instead optimize around questions that people are more likely to ask. Instead of optimizing for “best pizza restaurant,” you can optimize for “where is the best pizza restaurant.” Not only are you more naturally reflecting how people speak and ask questions, but you can also potentially see better results by optimizing for long-tail keywords.
How we speak can be much different from how we write. Research your keywords accordingly!
5. Tailor Your Content to User Questions
As we stated above, how we ask a question is much different than how we type out a query. When you write your content, tailor it around a long-tail question rather than something truncated to help with voice search optimization, as well as to offer a better experience for your user.
Another thing to be mindful of when creating your content is keyword stuffing, as this bad practice can net you a hefty penalty in your Google rankings. Keyword stuffing is when keywords are more or less forced into a piece of content as many times as possible to try and rank higher on search engines. Google’s algorithm judges on the quality of your content, not how many times a keyword appears, so there’s really no reason to be forcing your keyword into every other sentence. If you focus on providing your users with answers to their questions, you have a better chance of ranking higher — not just for voice search, but for search in general.
Bonus Strategy: Gather Local Citations
Citations are a great way to contextualize your business for local voice search. A citation is a reference to your business’s NAP, so gathering as many relevant citations as possible will benefit you. Your Google My Business listing is technically a citation, but you can go further. Adding citations from Yelp, social media and industry-specific platforms can go towards your local citations.
Citations are the prime reason to make sure your NAP is accurate across all of your listings. After all, you don’t want to have an outdated address or old phone number floating around to confuse your users!
Voice Search: Good for Businesses, Great for Local SEO
Voice search is especially important for local businesses and their SEO because of how specific and in-the-moment queries can be. A user may want an answer to their question right away, like finding directions to a nearby business, or they may be looking for the best kind of product to buy online. These in-the-moment queries have a lot of intent and immediacy behind them and shouldn’t be discounted.
You can capitalize on voice search and think of it as one part of a larger SEO strategy — one that will better position your business to bring in more web traffic. Even if you’re just looking for local traffic, optimizing for voice search can be a great way to market your business to potential customers.
Don’t count voice as a niche or hyper-specialized kind of search. It can do a lot for businesses, especially for local SEO. Even if you’re not using a virtual assistant to find the best restaurant in town, you can still use it to research products, check up on quick facts and even contact businesses. These are just a few examples of how versatile virtual assistants can be, and moreover, how much voice search matters as part of an overall SEO strategy.
Stick to the best practices of optimization and the tips we’ve outlined above, and you’ll be one step closer to dominating local search online.