Voice technology is a hot topic nowadays, and one you’ll frequently come across when reading practically any digital agency’s enterprise web development services page. In fact, voice search is one of the digital marketing trends your business should maximize on.
Spurred on by our love for our smartphones that allowed smart digital assistants like Siri, Alexa and Bixby to come to life, voice technology empowers us do virtually whatever we want with a simple command.
Case in point, search. Search for a restaurant near you, search for a recipe for the new spiralizer you bought on Prime Day, or search for an agency to take on some of your workload.
Whereas we previously needed to either swipe, tap or biometrically scan to open our phones, open an app and finally start Googling, we can now tap a button and ask, hey Siri, what’s the best digital agency NYC has to offer?
This seamless interaction, getting something done without expending any effort, is a hallmark of today’s rapidly digitizing society that prizes smart technology and artificial intelligence that combine to make life easier.
Our Love for Voice Search
Whenever we’re driving around and choose to act safely by asking Siri if there are any gas stations nearby, or whenever we’re holding too many groceries and need to know if we forgot something for the dinner date we have later, voice search is there to help us out. When you consider the utility of voice search, it’s easy to see why there are over one billion voice searches per month, and why it’s predicted that 50% of all searches will be done with our voice by 2020.
There’s no getting around it — the world of search is changing and our voice is quickly becoming the new keyboard.
As someone’s who’s spent a lot of time and probably money trying to rank high on Google’s coveted first page, you now have the added challenge of modifying your SEO strategies to take voice search and all its intricacies into account.
You have to get into your audience’s mind and figure out why they would even choose to do a voice search over their text counterpart. Not just why, but how — is it the same or different than a classic search?
Add Google and their ever-changing algorithms into the mix and you have a challenge on your hands: how to rank for voice search. Thankfully, what makes voice search different is also what gives you an upper hand when trying to rank for it.
For example, when using Siri instead of Safari, you’ll most likely ask the question as if you were speaking with a real person as opposed to a search bar.
You’ll also most likely be someplace outside of your home and far from a desktop or laptop, and therefore are wont to be searching for something with a geographic component. Because of these and similar things, you can build a solid ranking strategy for voice search optimization with five easy tips. Let’s get started!
#1 Get with the Times and Optimize for Mobile
The emergence and of voice search can be attributed to the smartphone’s rapid increase in popularity. The more time we spent with Siri, the more comfortable we felt turning to her for help.
At first, it was a simple question here, maybe a direction there, but now, it’s the only way to search; we’ve become so dependent on the simplicity of voicing a question that spending an extra couple of seconds typing a query is out of the question.
Again, all thanks to the smartphone.
As such, if you want to start ranking for voice search, you have to think with a mobile state of mind, i.e. that your users will be on-the-go and want fast answers and seamless experiences.
To this end, there are a few things you can do.
For starters, Google is now using a mobile-first index, so if you want to start ranking in general search, you need to get a responsive website that resizes content for all devices, regardless of screen size.
In doing so, you’ll also ensure your mobile users, AKA the ones coming through voice search, have optimized landing pages and positive experiences.
Once you’ve done that, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to make sure you’re mobile-friendly and, by extension, voice search friendly.
Apart from this, you also have to think of speed — they’re expecting a fast experience, so don’t load too many things on a single page. Otherwise your pages will load too slow and Google will lower your rankings.
Instead do things like:
● Enable compression to reduce the amount of time to download resources
● Avoid landing page redirects to speed up load time
● Avoid plugins to avoid stalled pages
● Use asynchronous scripts so pages render faster
This time around, use PageSpeed Insights to get into the nitty-gritty of your site’s speed and how to improve it.
#2 Include Local Search Optimization in Your Strategy
If your users will be out and about when they use voice search, you definitely want them to find you.
This is especially true for those with physical locations, as the chances of them finding you increase the close they are to you. For this very reason, you need to include local search optimization in your voice search strategy.
To start, claim your Google My Business, Bing Places for Business and Yahoo Small Business listings to secure your physical space in the online world.
This is important because Google uses relevance, how well know a local listing matches a search query, distance, how far each SERP is from the searcher, and prominence, how well-knows a business is, to determine who comes up on a search (and whose business Siri suggests).
By listing the same NAP (name, address and phone number), logo, description, hours, etc. on various listing websites, you’re declaring your relevance, stating your distance and increasing your prominence.
For better results, branch out to listing sites other than the big three, such as Yelp. Yellow Pages, Better Business Bureau, Manta, Citysearch, and the many others out there.
Once you’ve listed your business, make it easy for search engines to know what information is what by structuring your site with schema markup.
As a side note, using structured data markup also makes your content become eligible for two categories of Google search: Knowledge Graph Carts and Rich Results.
Anyway, structuring data entails using code that makes it easier for search engines to crawl, organize and display your content. For example, it’s what will tell crawlers that (212) 555-5555 is your phone number, Best Pizza Place is your name, and so on.
#3 Think and Write Like a Person
Finally, like its name states, this is voice search. That is to say that we’re voicing queries, not typing them out.
And because we’re saying them out loud, we tend to speak more naturally.
In the same vein, we often speak to our digital assistants as we would a real person, which leads to conversational search queries that not only mirror how we speak, but also provide more intent.
On the former, we tend to speak more straightforward and simple than we type. For example, Backlinko found that the average Google voice search result is written at a 9th-grade level, meaning that the simpler the language, the higher your chances for appearing on voice search queries.
On the latter, because they’re conversational, voice queries contain more information than text, i.e. information that provides intent by asking who, what, where, when, why and how:
● Normal query: pizza place nearby
● Conversational query: where is the best pizza place near me?
Because of this, search engines can better match queries to answers; they now have an idea as to what the searcher truly wants, not only what they think they want based on one or two keywords.
Going off of this, natural and conversational queries also mean that the shorthand keywords that dominate text-based search are replaced by long-tail keywords that also contain more information and relay intent.
As Neil Patel wrote in a post about integrating long-tail keywords in blog posts, “[l]long-tail keywords are actually more important these days, because user intent can only be determined by the keywords they’re searching with.”
Intent, again, is the buzzword here.
Even the addition of an extra word or two can make a huge difference on what the searcher really wants. For example, consider the difference between buy heels and buy luxury black heels when shopping for designer heels.
The shorthand keyword presents results from online stores like:
Long-tail, on the other hand, looks more like this:
As you can see, the inclusion of “luxury” and “black” completely changes the SERPs and leads to results more closely aligned to what the searcher wanted: designer black heels.
Additionally, Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz, points out that “[long-tail keywords have] very low competition, because not a lot of people know about these keywords. There's not a bunch of sites targeting them already.”
Voice Search Ranking Made Easy (Sort of)
Ranking, whether you’re talking about general search, local search or voice search, will never be easy. There will never be a simple fix for climbing from page 5 to page 1.
With that knowledge, though, comes the realization that there are definitely many things you can do to aid you in the uphill battle to the number one spot. For example, the three things we covered today:
1. Get with the Times and Optimize for Mobile
2. Include Local Search Optimization in Your Strategy
3. Think and Write Like a Person