Voice search is an important aspect and an actively developing function on large global platforms and sites with worldwide recognition. The modern generation is increasingly using voice commands, especially coupled with the increased use of mobile devices. Huge companies even create their own special voice assistants that make life easier and deliver with their skills and abilities to recognize the needs and requests of users. 

Voice search allows you to find information on the Internet without using a keyboard. According to GlobalWebIndex, the use of voice interfaces in the world in 2019 grew by more than 9%. The share of users aged 16 to 64 who use voice commands is also growing. That is, if you want to stay on the top, you need to adapt your website to the peculiarities of voice search. In this SEO guide, we will talk about existing voice assistants, programs, and gadgets that support voice search, and how to tune your SEO strategy to the innovations.

Why is voice search so popular today?

People are less and less fond of typing, many prefer short audio messages. This trend has moved from interpersonal communication to everyday life. Using our voice, we control home appliances, issue tasks to our phones or laptops, and so on. It’s no surprise that more and more people are starting to use voice search.

There are several objective reasons why people switch to voice commands. First, it is faster and more convenient than typing on the keyboard. Second, with voice search, one can formulate a more precise and detailed request. It also saves time and effort and is much more convenient on-the-go. 

graph showing use of voice searchSure, the increasing popularity of voice search in different countries impacts SEO. Any business that wants to get more traffic, needs to start working on the quality of voice search results right now, not waiting for the full adoption of this technology. 

How do we use voice search?

First, you need to understand the features of smart gadgets, voice assistants, and how people actually use them.

Voice assistants

These are artificial intelligence-based programs that perform certain actions in response to the user’s verbal command. The number of languages understood and functionality differs depending on the manufacturer. The most advanced assistants are able not only to execute commands but also to conduct a dialogue (the first such device was Apple’s Siri in 2011).

Machine learning technologies help voice assistants recognize the language and context of a request and find a relevant answer. An automatic speech recognition system (ASR) converts the voice request into text through several stages:

  • filters extraneous sounds;
  • digitizes sound waves, and translates them into code;
  • highlights and analyzes speech constructions;
  • compares the words in the query with the templates available in the database.

The voice assistant understands commands in natural language (that is, formulated in a conversational style) and takes into account the context in order to better understand the user – accesses history of previous requests and/or location.

If the program does not recognize the meaning of the request, the assistant will ask the user to rephrase it or clarify details. The recognition accuracy of the main players in the voice assistant market (Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft) is close to 100%.

The most popular voice assistants right now are:

  • Google Assistant;
  • Apple’s Siri;
  • AliGenie by Alibaba;
  • Alexa by Amazon;
  • Cortana by Microsoft;
  • Samsung Bixby.

On the graph, you can see how the global voice assistant market is divided by popularity and number of users.

graph depicting voice assistants by market shareTo find information on the Internet, voice assistants use data from search engines. With Google Assistant, the choice of the search engine is obvious. Siri also uses Google search, Alexa and Cortana use Bing, and Bixby uses Samsung’s own Kngine search engine. AliGenie can’t yet look for information on the Internet, its functionality is limited to managing smart home systems, media, and ordering products from the T-mall online store.

Smart speakers with built-in voice assistants

These are multifunctional devices that perform various voice commands of their owners, including searching for something on the Internet. The world’s first smart speaker, Echo, with voice assistant Alexa was introduced by Amazon in 2015.

Popular smart speakers are as follows:

  • Apple HomePod;
  • Google Home;
  • Amazon Echo;
  • Samsung Galaxy Home.

Note that the very concept of search results is absent for smart speakers since they just read out the most relevant answer to the user’s query.

Voice search option in the search bar

Voice input can be activated by a special function in the search bar. This is what it looks like on Google:

google voice search optionVoice search forces search engines to recognize the meaning and intent of a query, not just the meaning of particular words and phrases. The semantic search in Google is managed by the Hummingbird algorithm and the artificial intelligence system RankBrain.

In the real world, it looks like this. Receiving a query “where to buy an iPhone near me”, the search engine algorithm focuses on the phrase “near me” and gives relevant results, taking into account the user’s geolocation (if it is active and configured correctly).

Note that the search results for the same request using voice input on the desktop and on a mobile device may differ.

Which businesses need voice search optimization the most?

  1. First of all, sites that provide useful and relevant information should think about optimizing voice search. Be prepared for conversational inquiries from customers to be larger and more granular.
  2. Websites of local venues – shops, bars, and restaurants. Usually, words like “nearby”, “close to”, “near me” and so on prevail in the search queries. In addition to such venues, this also applies to various repair services, dry cleaners, beauty salons, clubs, hotels, and more.
  3. Delivery and taxi services should also pay attention to voice search optimization as their services are often requested on-the-go and from mobile phones.
  4. Websites of cinemas, galleries, and other places of leisure, where clients can find event schedules, specify the date or place, dress code, or any other nuances.
  5. Online stores and e-commerce platforms are gaining momentum and customers want to constantly monitor the status of their purchases and orders.

     Whether you recognize yourself in the list above or not, you may think about optimizing your website for voice search. In this case, our detailed guide below will be very useful to you. 

What SEO tasks should be done for optimizing your site for voice search?

The central point for adapting your site for voice search is in the findings of Brian Dean from Backlinko, who analyzed the results of using 10,000 Google Home smart speakers. According to him, Google search results for voice queries have the following characteristics:

  • High speed of loading pages (4.6 seconds on average).
  • Most of the results are picked from secure sites with the HTTPS protocol.
  • Concise and precise answers to questions asked, prevail. But this does not mean that pages from the top search results contain only brief information. Google prefers to show answers from detailed content (the average page contains 2312 words).
  • High domain authority and rating.
  • A significant advantage may be content virality (sharings in social networks).
  • The answers are formulated in simple language that even a teen can understand.
  • The answers to voice queries are often contained in the featured snippet –  a special feature of Google’s “zero” position. 

However, the factors below do not have or have a small effect on getting into the results of voice search:

  • availability of Schema.org markup;
  • an exact match of the query in the title tag.

In order to achieve all of the above criteria, it is worth adhering to certain steps, and you will definitely succeed. Consider a phased SEO strategy for adapting to voice search.

Technical optimization

Google has announced that it will consider page experience signals starting May 2021. This new algorithm will evaluate whether users are satisfied with the site’s performance. So, here’s what you should do to follow the new algorithm:

  • work on increasing page load speed, adjust caching, script compression, lazy load, and reduce the size of images.
  • Use reliable hosting.
  • Install an SSL certificate.
  • Implement AMP or Turbo Pages technologies to speed up content loading.
  • Adapt the site for mobile devices. You can use a free service from Google to check if your website is mobile-friendly.
  • Eliminate outdated technologies like Flash.
  • Although research does not support the impact of microdata on rankings in voice search, we still recommend implementing it. In particular, an organizational scheme would definitely do no harm: contact information and working hours will be easily accessible to search robots, and users often search for this data by voice.

Working with the semantic core

Using keywords has become even more important – and long-tail queries just got longer. Answers to voice queries are literally spoken out loud as people actually speak, so identify 5-7 words around which to start optimizing your site for voice search.

SeoClarity has done the research and created a list of voice search trigger words that people use. When creating content for your site, be sure to use these trigger words. To maximize your SEO goals, it is best to add them to the title, meta description, headings, paragraphs, and words in bold.

list of voice search trigger wordsSo, here’s a list of SEO keyword guidelines for voice search:

  • Extend semantics with long-tail keywords. High-frequency keywords sound unnatural and are not suitable for voice searches. Compare: “winter tires buy” and “where can I buy cheap winter tires.”
  • Use LSI phrases, slang words, colloquial language.
  • Choose keywords that have questions that you can answer in-depth and in detail.
  • When people ask something through voice search, they usually start with the words “who”, “which”, “where”, “when”, “why”, and “how.” Collect all available question word semantics in your niche. You can use SE Ranking to collect such keywords.
  • Use trigger words – more than 20% of recommended snippets appear due to the presence of words from the list above.
  • The answers to the questions should be at the very top of the pages – ideally, in the first paragraph (approximately in the first 29 words).
  • Use long reads and short article formats.
  • Use tools, services, and Q&A sites to expand semantics: Google Trends, Quora, Buzzsumo, AnswerThePublic, Ubersuggest, and more. 

Optimizing content for voice search

Add a section with frequently asked questions and answers. This format is ideal for voice searches because the page contains conversational questions and short, comprehensive answers that the device will display or readout. Try to collect more questions, use information from the sales department, call center, from managers, messages in chats, and emails. This will allow the page to meet the completeness criterion.

Structure your content: use subheadings, bulleted and numbered lists, and highlighted paragraphs with important thoughts. Such content is more often included in featured snippets above the search results.

In the previous step, we mentioned collecting semantics with question words. Distribute such requests among landing pages, use the most frequent ones in subheadings, and scatter the rest throughout the text.

Create voluminous, detailed content that answers several related questions at once. Writing a separate article for each key phrase is a bad idea.

Write in simple language, don’t use complex syntax. Try to be short and clear. Your task is to convey information in a form accessible to a wide range of users.

Pay attention to the request intent, try to solve the user’s problem on the page, and not hide the product advertisement in an informational article.

Local SEO

Local SEO work also matters for voice search. Nearly half of voice search queries have strong local intent. “Google, what restaurants near me are open right now?” – here is a classic voice query with local intent. This means that voice search is suitable for promoting local small businesses.

Optimize the dashboard of your company by filling in all the proposed fields. It is the amount of information in your Google My Business card that determines whether Google chooses it as a search result.

Don’t ignore the “Questions and Answers” tab in Google My Business. This section is often left blank by entrepreneurs, but it can have an impact on voice searches as it creates a great user experience. Here the user will find the answer and learn all they need about the business and services directly from the search results.

Also, write local content that will answer the questions of your potential customers. For example:

  • create individual pages with answers and questions for each category;
  • brainstorm with your team;
  • talk to sales specialists;
  • interview customer service representatives.

Find out what your users are really asking and answer their questions in an article format.

Summary

Although the share of voice search users is still not very significant, this is a trend for the near future. More and more people use voice search in their smartphones and smart speakers. Therefore, if you want to stay ahead of the competition, you should consider optimizing your SEO strategy now. 

Aside from the technical advice we’ve provided in this article, the main idea you should do is put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Content in the era of voice search, is content that provides the most precise and helpful answers to various questions that users have. To satisfy these requests, you need to think like your user, use the language your customers speak, and present the information in a way they can understand.

Rukham Khan
Author

Rukham is the Content Lead at Mailmunch. He believes trust should be the basis for all marketing communications.