Optimizing Your Site for Voice Search In 2019: Everything You Need To Know
When voice search was first introduced in 2010, a user would have to literally call Google. When they did, they were prompted with a message that read: “say your search keywords”. After the user had verbally entered the keywords, they would be then sent a link, which will lead them to the result page of the relevant keywords.
Since then, Google has spent a considerable amount of time and money in improving the speech recognition abilities of their platform, and integrating them in their most popular products.
Rise Of The Digital Assistants
They’re new, they’re useful, they’re as close to JARVIS as we can get, digital assistants are the beginning of the future. More importantly, in a few years, the number of digital assistant equipped devices will soon surpass the global population.
The number was sitting at 3.5 billion back in 2016. While most assistants currently reside within smartphones, with the rising popularity of smart speakers and better technological connectivity in cars, voice powered computer interactions will soon become an indispensable part of daily life.
As a result, the scope of voice powered search is only bound to increase, and early adopters can start reaping the benefits of this awesome new technology immediately.
Why Voice Search?
Thanks to the convenience it offers, voice search is here to stay. Voice commerce sales have seen exponential growth, and the trend is expected to continue:
It is expected that by next year, 50% of all searches will be powered by voice.
The reason the increasing popularity of voice search is pretty obvious, it is simple (a lot) more convenient. A survey conducted by KPCB narrows down the reasons users prefer using voice search:
Google’s Hummingbird Update
In 2013, Google rolled out the Hummingbird update. This update completely changed the way marketers optimised their websites for search engines. The most talked-about feature of this update was the semantic search.
The semantic search feature focuses on the intent behind a search, and not just the keywords. While this was great news for the users, marketers could no longer stuff their webpages with keywords and expect them to rank.
Instead, the algorithms started placing value in high-quality content that would solve a users’ query efficiently. But why are we talking about semantic search here? That’s because semantic search and voice search technology go hand in hand when it comes to improving the user’s experience on Google.
Understanding the importance behind the intent of relevant search keywords is the first step in optimising for voice search.
What Is Voice Search Being Used For?
In order to really understand the intent behind a search query, it is important to first understand where voice search is finding applications in your user’s life.
According to a 2014 study by Google, usage of voice search differs between different age groups. This is what the study revealed:
According to the study, the usage patterns differ greatly between teenagers and adults. There are, however, common features of voice search that users across age groups are using, such as looking for directions and making calls.
So now we know how voice search works and how the users are using the technology. It is time to talk about how marketers can optimise their websites to make the most of this technology. Let’s jump right into it!
Optimising Your Website For Voice Search
Optimising for voice search is not a complex task. In fact, it’ll not take you more than a few minutes if you already have an SEO strategy in place. That’s right, optimising for voice search requires only a few proactive tweaks to your current SEO strategy.
- Schema Markup
Everyone knows that when it comes to good SEO, content is king. However, great marketers know search engines look at a bunch of other factors while ranking websites. Structured data, also known as schema markup, is one such factor.
Anyone that is familiar with SEO will tell you all about the importance of structured data. Present in the source code of your website, Schema Markup is core information of your website that is used by search engine crawlers to organise and classify your content.
While this part of your website may not be visible to the users, it is important from a SERP performance point of view. When a user conducts a local search, the most common business information that they seek are operational hours, directions, contact details and addresses.
Update this information in the Schema Markup of your website to make it easier for the search engines to classify and present this data to relevant users and potential customers.
For stellar results, it is advisable to create and submit a detailed XML sitemap to Google. This will help further enhance the visibility of your website.
- Long-Tail Keywords
When a user makes a search using their voice, the search query is a bit more conversational. “near me” searches are a good example of the same (more on these in a bit).
Conversational search terms rarely make use of exact keywords. Instead, they make use of long-tail keywords, which many marketers often ignore. Optimising for long-tail keywords not only ensures a better performance in voice powered search results, but have a few other benefits, such as:
- Long-tail keywords have relatively lower competition.
- As a result of the low competition, the bid for ranking on these keywords is usually lower.
- Long-tail keywords perform better on semantic search parametres.
The best way to understand how to cope with the semantic search revolution is to understand that people don’t type the same way they speak.
- Question Keywords and FAQ Pages
Since voice assistants practically know everything known to humankind, many people use them to ask simple questions such as:
This content was obviously pulled from a website. With that knowledge, consider this example:
When a user searches for specific information relevant to a product or service, the information will again be pulled from a website. Google prefers to display (or speak) answers that are, on an average, 29 words in length.
Now you cannot go around creating 29 word blog posts to answer queries. In such a scenario, FAQ pages work really well. By creating one FAQ page, you can optimise for multiple question keywords.
Even if you have to create separate pages for certain queries, the traffic benefits will far outweigh the effort that goes into creating said pages.
- Optimise For ‘Near Me’ Searches and Local Searches
50% of local searches end in a store visit within 24 hours. When most voice searches are local by nature, the importance of optimising for local search is critical.
When you look at the usage patterns of voice search, finding directions is one of the two most common features that are finding their use in the day to day life of the users.
This means, with voice search, prospects will be looking for specific stores that house a specific products. Search queries with the terms “near me” combined with “buy” or “can I buy” have seen a 500% volume growth. Recently, “near me”, when combined with “today/tonight”, saw a 900% volume increase in mobile search queries.
Optimising for local search will ensure your business is visible to the right prospects, that are already looking for your business.
- Google My Business Listings
Voice searches conducted on mobile are three times more likely to be local as compared to text-powered searches. As mentioned earlier, most local searches are enquiries about business information.
For this reason, in order to ensure visibility to relevant users and potential customers, it is important to update your correct business information of Google’s My business listings.
Further, it is important to ensure your listing is as detailed as possible so that it is easier for your prospects to find your business online.
It is also a great idea to not stop at just Google’s business listings, and update your NAP (name, address, phone number) information across all relevant business directories.
- Be Mobile-Ready
Since most of the voice assistants are available on mobile devices, it implies that most voice searches take place when a user is on the move.
This fact makes it ever important to have a mobile ready website. If you have a WordPress site, chances are it is already optimised for mobile. If you don’t, a responsive website is worth all the effort.
In their bid to improve user experience, Google offers a free tool which you can use to check the mobile friendliness of your website.
Since most searches happen on the go also means that loading times of your website should be lightning fast. Most website load times are way behind 2 seconds. And every 1 second delay can potentially bring down conversion rates by 7%. Just by improving your site speed, you can probably outperform a substantial portion of your competition.
Optimisation for mobile is not just limited to how your website looks on a mobile device. Your content also needs to be mobile friendly.
When a mobile user lands on your website, it is a great idea to greet them with a video that may answer the most common queries while inducing them into your conversion funnel. Don’t forget, just like fast loading websites, those that use visual content are getting preference in SERPs. Google has also recently rolled out video featured snippets that get preference in voice search results.
- Optimise For Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are an advance Google SERP feature that gives the user a direct answer to their query, instead of making them sift through a collection of blue links. Here’s what they look like:
There are several benefits of getting featured- better authority, more organic traffic, beating the competition. However, one very important benefit of optimising for featured snippets is that when the search query is being answered in voice, the device reads the featured snippet back to the user.
In fact, 40.7% of all voice search answers came from featured snippets. While there is no surefire way of getting featured, it is advisable to optimise your pages for the same.
Employing the strategies mentioned earlier, such as targeting long-tail conversational keywords, question keywords, and creating succinct content that answers users query is a good place to start.
Voice Search is rapidly gaining traction, and only those marketers that are able to adapt will be able to reap the benefits. While the future of Voice Search is still pretty unpredictable, it sure seems bright.
Voice search is not the ‘next big thing’, it is already here and has become a part of our day-to-day life. So pull up your pants and start modifying your SEO strategy to jump on the Voice Search wagon early on.