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Optimizing for Voice Search

Dec 1, 2018, 13:52 PM | Published under Search Engine Optimization by Chris Wallace

Voice Search

In the past years, voice searching has become a popular method to discover information. For this reason, making sure your SEO is optimizing voice searching is important. The voice-detecting Artificial Intelligences of Siri, Alexa, and Google have gone beyond just mobile devices, with Microsoft integrating Cortana into Windows 10 for PCs, phones, and Xboxes.

But why the increase in use? The major reason is convenience. Users find it easier to speak instead of type what they want. Many people have opted for voice searching, as it is easier than typing on a phone screen. Voice queries are faster as well, with the average person being able to speak around 150 words per minute, as opposed to typing 40 words per minute. With the ability to speak over triple the amount of words they can type, users can more easily specify their search terms.

With these ideas in mind, it is important to know how to optimize voice-based SEO.

Search by Questions

When you’re typing search terms, it is likely you will use computer language. Computer language is trying to make your search result specific to find what you want, such as “coffee shops San Francisco.” With this, your results are sure to reflect coffee shops in San Francisco. These searches are what most SEO strategies are focused on, and while it is not wrong, it does not optimize voice search SEO.

Optimizing computer language searches is still important, but voice searches require a different set of needs. If you were to voice search the same query as above, it is likely you would say, “Which coffee shops are near me?” Notice the way it was phrased is a question.

Voice searches tend to be a question starting with ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’, or ‘how’. Depending on these keywords, it is possible to tell what stage of searching the user is in. ‘What’ and ‘who’ questions tend to be researching-based questions, and ‘Where’ questions show they’re ready to buy. Keep in mind, this is not universal. Searching ‘What price’ has more buying intent than someone searching ‘What is’.

The questions above are established as the conversational voice, a natural way of interacting with a machine and getting information. Voice searching is more mobile and focused locally based on past searches. This allows voice search queries to replace ‘near me’ or ‘close by’ with your location.

Optimizing for Voice Search

Optimizing for voice search

With voice searches, keywords are changing as well. Instead of focused with long tails to help climb rankings, the keyword strategy for voice needs to be conversational and mimic how people talk. A good way to start with this is listen to what customers on the phone ask you, and document not only the question, but how they ask it. Using these, either content pages or an FAQ can be built to help with ranking. For newer websites trying to get on the first page of results, content pages with detailed descriptions are more useful. An FAQ is better for websites that are already ranked and do better with photos that are titled the question people search for or a short answer to the question.

When adding keywords, try adding ones involving local landmarks. Tourists to San Francisco might ask Siri or Google “where are restaurants near the Golden Gate Bridge?” If your business is near the Golden Gate Bridge, having those terms will help a new customer find your business.

Another step is to claim your Google My Business listing. This is one that is heard a lot, but with voice searches it becomes more important than ever. Voice searches rely on local results often, so not having your address or opening hours available can hurt your business. While Google’s engine is thorough, the easier it is for Google’s spiders to find the information desired, the more likely it is your business will show in search results. This extends to having the information in images as well. While it may look eye-catching, Google being forced to parse the image content can hurt resulting visibility.

While claiming your Google My Business is important, it’s also important to keep it updated. If someone is searching for your business, having an old address or old store hours can hinder sales. This is worse if there is no information at all, as searches like “store hours” peak when a user is heading to the store.

A new feature that is a good idea to aim for is the Featured Snippets. These are sections that appear above even the ads and provide relevant answers to a user’s questions. A bonus is Google Home and Google Assistant will read the featured snippet out loud. There isn’t a sure-fire way to land the snippet box, but with plenty of research a list of guidelines has been created to help:

  • Answer specific questions your consumer might want information to. This is a good spot to use the research from phone support. FAQs will fare better in receiving the featured snippet, especially if the answer is in a list or numbered format.
  • Answer the question in a simple, but easy-to-read format. Currently, the average results from Google voice searches are written at a 9th grade level.
  • Almost all snippets come from a top 10 page, so having your content pages optimized for computer language is still important. It should be engaging, with optimized meta data.
  • Ensure your website is secure. Google prefers HTTPS websites, so ones secured with an SSL certificate will show higher in search results. And if you or your customers use a Chrome browser, Google has started marking unsafe websites with “Not Secure”.

It is important to make sure the questions are written how people would ask them out loud. Instead of “hot chocolate recipe,” try “How do I make hot chocolate?”

These are not the only steps that can be taken to help improve and retain users. For mobile users, finding websites that are responsive and easy to navigate on their phones is just as important is finding the product they need. Voice searches are here to stay, but can your website keep up?

About the Author

Chris has been in the internet marketing industry for almost two decades and experienced the internet revolution known as the dotcom boom. She developed her first website in 1999 programming straight HTML code and realized she was hooked on this newest innovation, the World Wide Web. She has provided successful SEO and web design consulting both independently and as a part of SEO marketing agency teams for the past 18 years. 

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