What are the Most Effective Ways to Optimize a Website for Voice Search?

What are the Most Effective Ways to Optimize a Website for Voice Search?
As the era is changing, every second person using Google voice search on their phone or laptop. According to a survey from ComScore, a marketing analytics company, 50% of all internet searches will be done via voice by the year 2020. Along with voice search gaining prominence every day, several consumer purchase trends like wearable tech, smart speakers, and other IoT devices are on the rise as well.

It means that time is not far when we will turn into a voice-first world when it comes to searches like we have become a mobile-first world. And, the way consumers search is changing (yet again), this means the time has come when everyone needs to re-optimize their content, businesses, and websites to cope up.

Even PWC report suggests that around 71% of respondents would preferably use a voice assistant to search for something rather than self typing their queries.

Now what one needs to focus on while including voice search in their websites are the SERP Results. That's because the spoken and typed queries may cause different SERP results, which means, your competitors’ voice search optimized websites have better chances of engaging your potential subscribers or viewers.

So, let’s start with the definition of Voice Search to understand its evolution better.

What is Voice Search?

Nowadays people are practicing their voice via a device, usually on a phone or home assistant for making a quick search on search engines or digital assistants.

And, now with the introduction of ‘smart speaker’ devices, such as Google Home, Amazon’s Echo, and Apple’s new HomePod Voice, search growth statistics have exploded. All such devices have proved to be wildly popular.

It simply means that voice search is not only a fancy toy that you use several times when you get a new one, and then neglect it. Yes, it made its way into our homes, and by looking at the trends, we can surely say that it’s here to stay.

Voice Search Evolution

There was also a time when voice search needed calling a phone number from your mobile device and speaking your search query. However, it was long ago in the year 2010. And, surprisingly, some people even used it. From that time only, voice search has improved significantly.

Plus, in June 2011, Google announced that they were starting to roll out voice search on search engine Google.

At first, there was only one language choice that is English. But now, there are several choices like we have around 60 languages supported by Google Voice Search.
Further, in 2013, as the Hummingbird update came, the notions of typed and spoken search varied a lot.

The renewed algorithm was aimed at considering the users’ intent and the context of the query and also emphasized natural language processing. Since then, sentences-based search questions have presented more relevant answers.

Also, people typically ask a long question as they would normally speak with voice search. Therefore, the Hummingbird update gave a huge push to voice search optimization.

The Reason We Need to Optimize our Website for Voice Search

When it comes to voice search optimization, many experts differ in their opinions. And, most of them do admit that it’s an essential element of the SEO process now.

In an interview, speaker and consultant on SEO Jenny Halasz and the digital marketing strategist Shane Barker expressed their insights on voice search optimization for 2019.

Jenny says,

“While voice search is certainly the future of how we will do most searches, there’s not really too much you can do to optimize for it that is different than regular SEO optimization.
Because Google’s goal will always be to return the best result based on the person, location, and history, it’s hard to guess exactly what the right answer for a query will be.”

Likewise, Shane explains,

“Facilitated by the launch of voice-based digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, voice search now constitutes a significant part of all online searches. And its share is only going to rise to a level that SEO experts can’t deny its importance.
The question is, who will be best prepared when voice search takes up a majority share of all searches? And the answer to that is SEO experts who are devoting their time to it now.
However, there is another side to it. Though voice searches are likely to be a really important part of SEO in the future, it is not the case now. While my advice would still be to start preparing for it, I would advise against allocating a substantial part of your budget to it.”

Ways to Optimize the Website for Voice Search

Now, the question arises how to go about voice search optimization. Therefore here we will discuss the ways to optimize the website for voice search.

As we already mentioned earlier, typed and spoken searches will output different results, it means that optimizing your site for voice search doesn’t always look the same as optimizing your site for a traditional search.

Moreover, people using voice search on mobile will get only one top result; this is one of the most significant concerns about voice search. And everyone wants that one result is affectionately dubbed “position zero.”

As we mentioned before, half of the searches will be conducted by voice by 2020. So it implies that by 2020, the majority of your potential customers won’t even see your website even if you’re fourth in the SERP.

So, it can be understood that securing position zero —  or Ranking number one — will be the main aim for every business owner.

Consequently, the essential factors for you to consider optimizing for voice search are:

1. Featured Snippets

There is a slight possibility that you’re not familiar with the name “featured snippets,” but you surely know what they look like, as you have already seen it several times.

Generally, “Featured snippets” emerges at the top of the SERPs. Whenever one searches for something, Google pulls the most relevant content and places it in a box at the very first of SERPS.
Look at the picture below for better understanding:

Up to 30% of the 1.4 million tested Google queries contain Featured snippets; therefore, they matter the most. Hence, all you need to know is that if the results include featured snippets; the voice assistant will automatically pull its answer from there.

Hence, you should try focusing on providing such quality content that Google displays it in the featured snippets if you want to rank in voice search results.

2. User Intent

It is very important to understand what the user is looking for when they are typing. For example, when somebody searches for your website, do they only look for information or want to buy something?

Learning about the user intent assures us about the reason someone typed their query into a search engine in the first place.

There are times when people clarify their intent with words like  “buy,” “how-to,” “price,” “what is,” etc. But the rest of the times, users hide their intent and keep it in their mind only.

So, regardless of the intent, it may or may not be expressed: thanks to the Hummingbird update that now Google itself delves into the context of the search query. They examine sites’ content and present you with whatever answer is deemed most appropriate.

For instance, a person may search for “Grammy winners.”

So, it is first thought that they are interested in the most recent awards ceremony. In the most likely scenario, they are not looking for results from 20 years ago.

At the bottom, search engines understand this and take it into course.

Therefore, to improve the significance of your pages to specific search queries, you should consider user intent while making content.

Also, your main aim should be understanding user intent and giving your audience an immediate answer, especially if you want to optimize your page for featured snippets.

Regarding this, Jenny Halasz says-

“Try to match your customers’ intent with your content, seek to answer questions, and provide details wherever possible. The same steps you take now to optimize for answer boxes are going to help you in voice search too.”

3. Page Speed

The term ‘Page speed’ signifies the time needed for your page to load. This is one major factor which decides whether or not your page will appear in voice search results.

Imagine a person — they’re likely on the go and in a hurry  —  using voice search.

So, undoubtedly, page speed optimization is a high priority to reach those searchers. 

Hence, analyze your current website speed with PageSpeed Insights as a first step.

It will look like this:

So, by this method, you will get to know whether your site’s current loading time is fast enough, and also ideas to make it even faster.

Moreover, it is very important to check that mobile speed is more important than desktop for voice search optimization. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly — this goes for the overall design as well — as a bulk of voice searches occur via mobile devices.

4. Long-Tail Keywords & Questions

It can be seen that people behave as if they’re talking to a human whenever they are searching for information via voice assistant.

And, most of us won't even use short, choppy keywords. All we will do is asking questions by using long phrases.

As Shane Barker says,

“Use more conversational keywords and phrases that people use while speaking, not while typing. Essentially, these will be long-tail keywords but phrased in the way people speak.”

By the way, for both voice search optimization and traditional SEO, using long-tail keywords is one good practice.

As a fact, it is believed that the key phrases which carry more than two words stand less difficulty (or competition) and give higher chances to rank at the top.

As mentioned above, people use questions for voice search along with long phrases. As an example, a person will likely use the most relevant keywords when typing a query, and write something like “the best tea in LA.”

On the other hand, Voice query sounds much more natural.

First of all, you would start with, talking to your voice assistant, “Hey Siri…,” or “OK, Google,” or something else. Use of such phrases makes you believe that you’re not just conducting a keyword-based query but communicating with your device. So, you’re most likely to ask a question, when looking for the best coffee: “Hey Siri, where can I drink the best coffee?”

Further, Shane Barker suggests all to ensure that the answer is easily understandable for every question. He continues saying,

“Answer your customers’ common questions on your website or blog. Use a conversational tone for phrasing these questions, to rank well for voice queries.”

In all, while you select the questions you’re writing in your post, try adding them to the pages around your site.

Apart from that, one can also create H2 headers using these queries and present answers in the body text. Make sure while answering that, the main idea is stated briefly, and it also answers the questions concisely.

Besides that, you can also cover other related search questions, but only after you answered the question directly. This boosts your rank for as many variations of questions as possible.

Most importantly, keep your content fresh and update it regularly, to not lose your position in featured snippets.

5. Structured Data

Let’s first define what Structured data is. It is code added to HTML markup and used by search engines to better understand your site’s content.

Moreover, you can help search engines crawl and read your content efficiently by using structured data. 

Apart from that, by using schema markup, you can fully manage the way you present information about your brand, and also the way machines interpret it.

That is because executing structured data results in rich snippets, which are known to drive traffic increase click-through rate and bring you competitive benefits.

You can check the below image how the rich snippets differ from normal ones, specifically the parts highlighted in red:

So, it could be said that holding this data can also help your pages appear in featured snippets and, respectively, in voice search results.

More importantly, to present better information to mobile devices about your website and its content, you can use structured data markup.

So, if you produce content interpreted by the search engines as highly relevant and do everything correctly, your snippet will become featured:

As a tip, use Schema.org vocabulary to find out how you can implement structured data to your site because they have a set of schemas which allows SEO experts to markup their websites.

However, you should remember it’s easy to become spammy when elaborating structured data. Therefore, use the data which is appropriate or important to the content you provide.

And as everything tends to be constantly changing, so make sure you keep updating your markup.

6. Local SEO

According to a report from BrightLocal, it is found that 58% of the customers use voice search to find local businesses. And, one more thing came to the fore that most of the people use voice search when they’re driving or walking somewhere. For instance, they mostly use the voice to discover where they should go.

Also, most people mention locations. Yes, people who look for “best cakes in NYC” are searching to discover donuts near them.

That implies you need to include your city when optimizing keywords if you own a cake shop in NYC.

Make sure that this also stays true for neighborhoods, states, and even countries where your business works.

Moreover, on voice search, people are likely to use the phrase “near me.” Say if one decides to eat some cakes, they’re more likely to say “OK Google, cake bakeries near me” than “cake bakery in NYC.”

So, the search engine will catch the user’s location to understand which bakeries are closest to them at that moment.

Well, of course, you don’t add the actual phrase “near me” to your content.

Jenny Halasz describes:

“Keep in mind that “near me” queries are simply adding a location intent to a search. It’s not necessary to actually use the words “near me” on your site anywhere. If you want to rank for “pizza near me”, then, by all means, track that keyword’s performance on your ranking tools, but don’t worry about putting “near me” in your actual site code.”
Apart from this, several search robots use Business Listings information.

So, you would need to go to your Google My Business page to optimize for Business Listings information.

And do add all the required information, such as brand name, opening hours, address, etc.

Shane Barker says:

“Optimize your Google My Business listing and provide accurate and updated contact information. A lot of voice searches are for local queries and listing your business there will help you rank better for such queries.”

The Bottom Line

So, from the above points, we can conclude that not only people are now using voice search widely, but also in the coming years, its popularity will only grow dramatically.

And, as voice search results in increasingly narrow results to only top pages, so those who already take voice search optimization into account in their SEO will improve their content visibility significantly.

It is certain now that the future with voice search is bigger. Plus these steps will help you prepare and stay on top regarding voice search optimization.
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