7 steps to optimize your site for voice search
SEO for voice search demands a different way of thinking
Voice assistants used to be an interesting novelty. Now they're beginning to become the norm in day-to-day life. Research shows that 65% of 25- to 49-year-olds use voice search daily. And they're not alone. Among the 18–24 set, 59% use voice search at least once a day, while 57% of people over 50 use it daily.
Smart speakers are gaining market share as well. In the United States, there are 74.2 million smart speaker users, accounting for 26% of all internet users. It's estimated that voice search commerce will hit $40 billion USD in the US by 2022.
Smart businesspeople are already thinking of ways to optimize their site for voice search. They understand that voice searches operate differently than traditional search. If you put these tips into practice, you'll put your business ahead of the curve.
1. Think about the way people talk
Voice searches are conversational. People use natural speech patterns to query virtual assistants, and virtual assistants are becoming better and better at understanding them. A 2018 study by Loup Ventures found that Google Assistant understood 100% of the queries asked of it, and answered 85.5% correctly. Siri had a 99% hit rate understanding queries and answered them correctly 78.5% of the time.
These numbers will only rise as the AI behind smart assistants becomes more effective. They focus on understanding natural language. That means your SEO strategy has to focus on natural language as well. Write content that's conversational and focuses more on long tail keywords. Most voice searches are at least 3–5 words, meaning your SEO should focus on longer keyword phrases.
2. Think about intent
The intent behind voice searches is often different than traditional web searches. According to Milestone, Inc. founder and president Benu Aggarwal, voice searches generally fall into one of three user intents. They're navigational, meaning the user is looking for a location or contact information; they're informational, meaning the user is looking for a guide on how to do something; or they're transactional, meaning the user is looking to compare or learn about products or services.
The intent behind a voice search has a lot to do with how it's phrased, and most voice searches are phrased as questions.
3. Think in questions
This brings us to our next tip. Optimize your voice search content around questions. You can do this by researching the most common questions in your topic area and then creating an FAQ page to address them, and perhaps even producing standalone pieces of content for each question.
If you don't know where to start with your research, Answer the Public is a great resource. It allows you to type in a topic and then generates a list or related questions.
4. Think local
Voice search is incredibly well suited to local SEO. In fact, 58% of consumers say they've used voice search to find local business information within the last year. Among smart home speaker users, 76% say they conduct local searches at least once a week, while 53% say they perform daily local searches.
If you're a local business, you definitely need to leverage voice search to your advantage. It gives you the opportunity to grab the attention of high-intent customers in your area.
The best way to optimize your local business for search is to make sure you're registered for Google My Business, and that all your information is accurate and up to date. You also need to check your citations to make sure your business is listed in all relevant local guides.
5. Think about your structured data
Structured data is absolutely vital for voice search optimization. Structured data markup allows search engines to understand and contextualize the information on your page, and they serve this information to users in answer boxes like Google's Featured Snippets.
These Featured Snippets are often the results served up to voice search users. Optimizing your site for Featured Snippets by using structured data markup will also optimize your site for voice search. Two birds, one stone.
6. Think mobile-first
Remember that many voice search users are accessing the web via a mobile device. This means your site must be mobile friendly. This is crucial for a couple reasons. First and foremost is user experience. If a user lands on your site through voice search and finds it's a terrible mobile experience, it's likely they'll be turned off by your site and your brand and end up bouncing back to the search results. Second, Google has announced it will move to mobile-first indexing, meaning it will crawl a site's mobile version before it crawls its desktop version. If a site isn't mobile-friendly, you can expect it to suffer the consequences in the SERPs.
7. Think fast
Users conducting voice search want results immediately. Many of them are looking to fulfill an immediate need. Many of them are using voice search because they're in a situation where they can't conduct a normal search. For example, they could be driving a car and hoping to find a local business. In other words, they know what they want and they want it now.
If a voice search user lands on your site and finds it loads slowly, they're likely to bounce back to the search results in frustration. Page load speed is a major ranking signal for search engines, and if your site is slow you may not even appear in the SERPs. Site speed is important for any area of SEO, but the user intent behind voice search makes it even more important.
Bonus Tip: Think about getting some help
If these steps sound too difficult to put into action, you should consider hiring an SEO expert to help you. A freelance SEO expert can optimize your site for voice search, for local search, for mobile and desktop search and they can identify and fix any technical issues that are keeping your site out of the SERPs.