5 Tips to Optimize for Voice Search

Search has taken many forms over the years: It started out on desktops and laptops, then mobile devices became more important. One thing has remained constant until recently: The searches were all written out.

However, as virtual assistants have integrated with people’s’ daily lives, voice search has become increasingly important, and businesses will need to adapt to it.

The Growth of Voice Search

According to Google, there are 400 million Google Assistant-enabled devices, including Google Home, phones and tablets. That’s more Google Assistants than United States citizens. That’s not even counting other popular virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced in his 2016 Google I/O Address that 20 percent of searches on its mobile app and Android devices were voice searches, according to Search Engine Land. Link-Assistant reported 55 percent of teenagers and 40 percent of adults use voice search every day.

These numbers continue to increase: Behshad Behzadi, Principal Engineer of Google Zurich, noted the ratio of voice search is growing faster than traditional type searches. ComScore predicts by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be through voice.

Search queries are no longer just a few keywords: They’re conversations.

Not only is it growing, but it’s getting better and more useful as well. In her 2017 Internet Trends Report, Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers reported Google’s voice recognition software can now understand human language with 95 percent accuracy, allowing it a greater understanding of spoken queries to provide more helpful responses. These search queries are no longer just a few keywords: They’re conversations.

‘Alexa, How Can I Optimize for Voice Search?’

Is your site is optimized for spoken queries? Do you know how you rank when people ask industry-related questions? Follow these tips to prepare yourself for the growth of voice search so you can benefit from this shift.

1. Write How Your Audience Speaks

One of the main differences between voice and written searches is that voice searches rely on more natural, conversational language. If you’re looking up where to find the best tacos in the Boston area, you’d probably just type “Boston tacos” or even just “tacos” since Google can tell where you’re located.

However, you probably wouldn’t just say “tacos” to your phone and expect to get the same results. Voice searches are typically worded like actual questions: “OK Google, where’s the best place to get tacos near me?” Likewise, you wouldn’t need to type all of that into a search field on your phone or computer.

You also need to think about how your audience would word such a query. What’s the age and education level of your buyer persona? A teenager looking for a taco stand is probably going to be less formal than a middle-aged parent looking for a real estate agent. On the paid search front, you’re going to want to target and bid on long-tail keywords.

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2. Think Local

Voice queries are often related to the user’s surrounding area. Businesses with brick-and-mortar locations can benefit a great deal from voice search optimization.

For brick-and-mortar locations, make sure to claim any Yelp and Google My Business pages for their respective areas. Keeping this information up-to-date will show the web crawlers you’re providing helpful information for anyone who could potentially be interested in your services. Think of your Yelp and Google My Business pages as extensions of your website. If a potential customer is asking about your industry, these pages could be the first things that show up.

This may sound obvious, but make sure your address, phone numbers and contact information are up-to-date on your site. Many voice queries are about how to find a location or when a store is open, and having this information readily available can improve your ranking for voice search.

For paid search, there are a few ways you can think local to improve voice search outcomes. One is to add location extensions to your Adwords campaigns. Another is to use Google Maps local search ads.

3. Add an FAQ

Voice search optimization is all about answering questions your audience may ask. That’s why adding a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section to your website can improve your hits from voice search.

As voice search queries are more direct questions, write your FAQ page in the same type of language your buyer persona would use. Incorporate long-tail keywords in your questions and answers to improve your chances of showing up in voice search results.

Voice search optimization is all about answering questions your audience may ask.

4. Use Structured Data

The information that shows up in a search engine results page (SERP) is important to any kind of search optimization, but it’s particularly important for voice search. Whether the response is a direct answer from Siri or Alexa, or it’s a SERP from Google Assistant, applying structured data that covers relationships between entities and actions.

This makes it easier for search engines to understand the context of your site and find answers to voice queries from your content. If your site features movies, jobs, recipes or courses, use Google’s Rich Results Test to see how your structured data holds up.

5. Don’t Overlook Written Search

One important point about written versus spoken search is that, while voice search is growing at a faster rate, traditional typed search isn’t going away. In fact, written search is still growing as well. Think of voice search optimization as an add-on for your holistic SEO strategy.

Voice search is still relatively new, and it’s not clear how dramatically it’s going to change over the next few years. However, as more consumers use voice queries and search engines become smarter, proactive businesses should focus on buyer intent and engagement.

Right now, it’s mainly used for directions, calling people, and questions about the surrounding area. Yet as searches become more conversational, the context of your website becomes more important. When customers have questions, be prepared with the answers.

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