Voice Search Optimisation

Posted by David Buckle

Voice-enabled services really have taken on a life of their own over the past few years with Google revealing that 1 in 5 of all searches are now conducted by voice. With virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa here to make our lives easier, voice services are becoming integrated into our lives. In fact, according to another survey from Google, they have revealed that 41% of people who own a voice-activated speaker describes their voice assistant as talking to a friend or another person.

In a relatively short period of time, voice-activated speakers and services have become part of many people’s daily routines. With daily habits such as checking their commute, setting alarms, creating reminders and searching for the ‘best, local pizza restaurant’ is now completed by virtual assistants. 72% of people that own a voice-activated speaker use their device as part of their daily routine. Just like email and smartphones, voice search will continue to install itself in our daily lives.

Voice Search and Featured Snippets

A featured snippet is the selected search result that appears in its own special box at the top of the search results page. They are what Google perceives to be the best answer for a search query, they’re easy-to-read and they’re the go-to for virtual assistants. Obviously, this reveals the impact that featured snippets have on voice search, bad snippets or no snippet and Siri isn’t coming back to their user with an answer.

Anyone that has conducted even basic keyword research will know that often suggested keyword phrases are missing many of the connective words, making them difficult to slip into copy that we’re attempting to optimise. However, as search engines have evolved, so has their ability to understand natural language patterns and the intention behind queries, Google’s Hummingbird update back in 2013 has helped this evolution. This algorithm rejig has allowed Google’s search engine to understand the whole query, even without all of the words that make up a sentence, moving away from exact keyword matching to a more conversational rhythm.

This move towards conversational understanding by virtual assistants is what allows voice services to integrate themselves into our daily lives.

Why is it important to optimise your website for Voice Search?

Obviously, the impact of voice services on consumer’s habits and the way we search is huge. But what does it mean exactly for our marketing strategies?

Less Web Traffic

In the future, people using voice search will only be offered one response, the featured snippet and they won’t be shown alternative answers or links such as the second, third result etc from the search results. Therefore, if you’re not number one for that query, you won’t even appear in the search results through voice search.

Smoother Customer Journey

Potential customers will be given one answer, before then being offered actions to act upon that information. For example, if they look for local pizza restaurants, after responding with the featured snipped answer, the voice search result will also offer additional aspects like ‘book table’, ‘get directions’, resulting in customers making more impulsive decisions.

A Personalised User Experience

The results from voice search will be the most relevant to that search (according to Google), directly answering the question. Thereby creating a user experience which feels individually tailored to the user.

Long Format Content

Optimisation for voice search requires both long and short format answers, so answering your customers’ questions will become part of your content strategy. Short form answers will typically be FAQs; whilst long format will be blog posts and guides that answer the questions that your customers are asking.

How to Optimise for Voice Search: Tools and Searching for Keywords

Structured Data

Your website’s schema mark-up or structured data, is an important factor to consider when optimising for voice search. Whilst it doesn’t affect your rankings directly, it can give you an edge over your competitors. Essentially your structure data is your site’s metadata, which is the data about the information on your website which goes into your site’s source code. Whilst users will not see this information, this data helps search engines to organise and classify your content. In order to appear in voice search results, your site has to be fully optimised for search engines.

Loading Speeds

Your website needs to load fast in order to appear in voice search results. According to research, 31% of smartphone users worldwide use voice technology at least once a week. In addition, since most voice searches are conducted through mobile devices, it’s important to concentrate on your mobile loading speed.

Is Your Content Mobile Friendly?

Since voice search mostly happens on mobile devices, along with having a speedy loading speed, your website should be responsive and have a mobile-friendly design.

Claim Your Google My Business Listing

According to a report by Search Engine Watch, mobile voice searches are 3x more likely to be local-based than text search. These voice searches consisting of ‘near me’ queries are often easily answerable through optimisation of your Google My Business page, allowing you to appear in local searches.

Short Format Content

The best way to optimise your website for voice search is through your Frequently Asked Questions pages. By optimising your FAQs with each answer kept to roughly 40-50 words, you’ll be able to directly answer the questions that your customers ask.

Long Format Content

Create blog posts, how-to guides and articles that answer your customers’ questions.

Long Tail Keywords

To optimise your content for voice search, you’ll need to find conversational keyword phrases that customers use when searching through voice search. A great tool for finding the best long tail keywords is SEMrush. Since voice search and questions are most likely to bring up featured snippets, you need to answer how, what, when, where, why or do, which
means researching questions based on long tail keywords.

Often, question-based keywords are grammatically incorrect or are missing the connective aspects of the conventional phrasing, however this is the whole point of using conversational language! When creating your keyword strategy, make sure you stay focused on the monthly searches and the competitive density. You can either target the most used keywords or focus more closely on a few keywords that have smaller numbers of searches but also a lower competitive density, which means that you can rank higher more easily as you’d have less competition.

We all have our own unique perspectives on the world, meaning that often some very random or unusual questions that you might not think of will come up, such as ‘can you live in a self-storage unit’. SEMrush helps you find these more particular questions and answer them.

Tools and memberships can be expensive, before rushing into any decisions, make sure you take advantage of any free trials, which SEMrush does offer. If your budget doesn’t stretch to SEMrush, you can also use Google Suggestions or related questions which is free!

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