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Hey, Alexa: How to Optimize Your Site for Voice Search in 2019

When you make a search online, how exactly do you do it?

If you type your query into Google, that’s a text-based search.

If you use click-to-speak, or enlist the help of a smart speaker, that’s a voice search.

Thanks to the rise of smart speakers—like Amazon Alexa and Google Home—combined with the advanced voice recognition software in our cell phones and tablets, it won’t come as a shock to learn that almost 50% of people are now using voice search when researching products.

What does that mean for your business?

In short:

No matter what you’re selling through your online store, your site needs to get a grip on voice search SEO if you want to capture those who are flocking to voice-assisted devices. Fast.

OK Google: The Proof That Voice Search Is On the Rise

It’s true: The number of searchers opting to use their voice to search for information online is increasing.

As many as 35.6 million Americans used a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month in 2017. That’s a year-on-year increase of 128.9%.

I know—it’s pretty shocking stuff.

…But why is this switch in search habits happening—especially when almost half of those who use voice search only started to do so in the past six months?

 

voice-search-seo
 

Well, there’s the obvious answer:

Tablets, cell phones and smart speakers are a catalyst for voice search. Features on these devices—such as Siri—make it quicker than ever to ask the world’s biggest information database a question that’s plaguing their mind.

What does that translate to? Convenience.

Think about it: To do a text-based Google search from your iPhone, you need to:

  1. Unlock the device with a passcode or fingerprint.
  2. Find the Safari app.
  3. Type your query and hit “Go.”

The process to make a voice search is notably simpler:

  1. Say “Hey Siri,” followed by what you want to search.

It’s no surprise to learn that 43% of mobile voice searchers do so because they say it is quicker than going on a website or using an app.

That, my friend, is why the voice search revolution is coming—and could affect the way potential customers find your business online.

Hey, Alexa: How to Optimize Your Site for Voice Search in 2019

Fancy learning something cool?

Understanding how voice search SEO works—and the techniques you’ll need to implement to optimize for it—isn’t the trickiest task in the world.

Unlike SEO tactics that could take months to complete (like removing a nasty Google penalty), I’ll bet you’re able to use some of these voice search SEO tactics on your lunch break, and start seeing the results within a matter of weeks.

Ready? Let’s go.

1. Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

Let’s do a mini-experiment to kick things off. When are you most likely to do a voice search?

Chances are, your answer is “on a cell phone” or “when I’m busy.”

If your answer was along those lines, you’re not alone. One in five mobile users don’t like typing on their mobile phone, which is why voice searches account for between 20-25% of all mobile searches:

 

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You want to be shown on the first page for these mobile queries, and give mobile visitors a positive experience on your website, right?

That’s why your entire website needs to be mobile-friendly.

If you’re frustrating mobile visitors with slow load times and dodgy designs, people will turn away. Their user experience has been destroyed. Since user experience is a known ranking factor in search engine algorithms, that’s not going to help you reach the top spots for mobile organic results.

Plus, Google now runs on a mobile-first algorithm. Their spiders judge (and rank) a page depending on how well their site performs on a mobile device—meaning your overall SERP positions could tank if you’re not focusing on a mobile-friendly design.

Luckily for you, making your site mobile-friendly doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

You’re able to delight mobile visitors by:

  • Using pre-made responsive web design, or asking your developer to make your current theme responsive.
  • Opting for bigger buttons (instead of small buttons) for larger fingers.
  • Compressing images before uploading to reduce page loading speeds.
  • Making text clear and easy to understand—especially if a searcher is using a smart speaker that reads your page back to them.

Still not sure? Grab a notebook and pen—here’s a great video that can help you to understand whether you’re ready for Google’s mobile-first update:

 

Are you Mobile First ready?

Are you prepared for Google's Mobile First update? Our Operations Director (and veteran technical SEO) Chris Smith tells you all you need to know.

Posted by Custard Online Marketing on Friday, January 26, 2018

 

Just a quick reminder:

Once you’ve made these changes, always double-check they work. Lend a co-worker’s mobile device to confirm you’re not adding more frustration to your customer’s experience with your faulty mobile website as soon as you’ve edited your site.

2. Use Structured Data on Appropriate Pages

One in six Americans own a voice-activated smart-speaker, such as an Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Apple HomePod.

But how do these smart speakers impact voice search?

Here’s your answer:

Smart speakers can conduct voice searchers… You guessed it, by simply asking for it to. Blurting a sentence like “Alexa, what’s the population of Japan?” will return an answer within a matter of seconds, and making the most out of structured data could help your business be the source of information.

(The answer was 127 million, if you were wondering.)

Smart speakers often use the information box to answer a voice searcher’s query—like this example:

 

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This information box is gold for businesses, purely because you’re proving your authority. Since you’ve been endorsed by Google, it gives a voice searcher more trust in your brand. You’re more likely to trust a brand if they’re trusted by Google, right?

Plus, grabbing this position for a handful of main keywords can have its’ benefits on organic text-based search, too. You’re claiming more real estate in the SERPs—giving your business a stronger chance at winning a searcher’s click and boosting organic click-through rates (CTR).

Structured data, also known as Schema markup, can help your business to claim this top spot—as explained by Tom Pratt, Director of Albert Road Consulting:

“Schema markup is a form of microdata and is a shared project supported by all the major search engines. In simple terms, it is a piece of code which wraps a section of content on your website and identifies it to the search engines as containing specific subject or type of information. This makes it easily and quickly identifiable.

On the horizon is voice and the implications schema markup has for voice search and SEO. In July, Google announced it would be supporting Schema.org’s ‘Speakable’ specification. This means you can identify sections on your site which you feel would be the most suitable for Text To Speech (TTS) playback. It is these snippets which are then likely to be pulled through and used by the growing number of voice assistants. With ComScore predicting 50% of all searches being voice searches by 2020 this is a key area to incorporate into your search strategy.

As people demand more information, faster and have less patience to filter through alternative options, Schema is a crucial element for SEOs and brands to incorporate into their sites.”

To get started, simply head to Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to find the code you’ll need to add to your page, depending on the type of content you’re sharing:

 

voice-search-seo
 

Being the nice helper they are, Google will guide you through the step-by-step process of adding structured data to your website.

Then, head over to the Structured Data Testing tool to check it’s working.

I asked Jack Saville, SEO specialist at Bynder, to talk me through this testing process. He said:

“It does take some time for the structured data to appear in the search results. But if it is taking a while, it doesn’t mean you have implemented it incorrectly. Make sure the testing tool doesn’t find any errors, and that your site is fully crawlable.”

3. Fill in Your Google My Business Listing (Properly)

You know the not-so-little directory listing you keep putting off your to-do list? It’s called a Google My Business listing, and includes key information about your business, such as:

  • Opening hours
  • Website URL
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Email address

 

voice-search-seo
 

…But why is this online listing so critical to voice search?

Here’s your answer:

Mobile voice-related searches are 3 times more likely to be local-based than text-related searches. And, with a third of all local searchers relating to a location (such as “what are the opening hours for Costco?”), you’d be mad to not cash-in on this voice search trend.

Google My Business listings—that have been filled in accurately—are your secret weapon.

With the majority of smart speakers collecting information from your listing to read back to searchers, it’s the only way to guarantee you’re giving the right information to your potential customers at the right stage.

Think about it:

If your Google My Business listing had inaccurate information (such as incorrect opening times), it could cause major frustration to your customers—and wreak havoc on your chances to convert them at a later stage.

You don’t want them to turn up when you’re closed, right? That’s not going to do anyone any favors.

So, claim your Google My Business listing and make sure all fields are accurately filled out.

Remember: You’ll need to do this for each brick and mortar store you have. Granted, it might need more time than you’ve got available on your lunch break, but it’s worth it!

4. Create Awesome Content Around Longtail Keywords

People who are using voice search talk naturally when they’re making an online search. They’re talking to what seems like a buddy (especially in Alexa’s case). Why wouldn’t they talk more conversationally?

For example: A text-based search could be “time in Michigan”, but a voice search is more likely to be along the lines of “what is the time in Michigan now?”.

What differences do you notice when comparing the two?

You could’ve answered “question-based” or “length.”

The most important difference is the latter—voice searches tend to be much longer in length, as shown in this data by Moz:

 

voice-search-seo
 

The majority of voice searches are longer in length than their text-based alternative.

These are known as longtail keywords, and you’ll need to be targeting them on your website to rank higher for voice search queries.

Luckily for you, this process doesn’t need to be the start of a huge overhaul of your content marketing strategy. A few simple tweaks to your content calendar could be all you need to see a boost in your mobile voice search rankings.

The first step to doing this is to create longtail blog posts for keywords with low commercial intentsuch as “how to repair a flat tyre.”

Usually 5-8 words in length and searched by people who aren’t actively looking to buy, targeting these longtail keywords is a fantastic way to expose your brand to people who’re in the awareness stage in the buying funnel.

Here’s a fantastic example of how the RAC target the longtail keyword “how to repair a flat tyre” in their blog post to catch voice searchers looking for the same information:

 

voice-search-seo
 

Then, edit your product or category pages to include longtail keywords with high commercial intent—such as “tyre repair for a Citroen C1 near Leicester.”

Also longer in length than standard keywords, these longtail versions are likely to be used by voice searchers who are ready to buy. They’re looking for specific information relating to a product or service, meaning you could land that all-important sale by exposing your offering at this crucial stage.

When searching for “tyre repair for a Citroen C1 near Leicester,” here’s a snippet from a result on page one:

 

voice-search-seo
 

The longtail keywords are wrapped in an <h2> tag to hold more weight, and include key information that a potential customer might be searching for.

Smart speakers are able to pick-up on this data, making your website more favourable when answering questions like “how much do Citroen car repairs cost in Leicester?”.

I asked Jacky Chou, founder of Indexsy, to explain this. He said:

“Voice search optimization is extremely similar to aiming to acquire the Google Answer Box. This is an important part of the SEO strategy because you’re creating informational, query-led content. At the end of the day, you’re trying to cater to the user’s intent and categorizing it within the three different types of intent: informational, navigational and transactional.”

5. Replicate a Searcher’s Natural Language on Each Page

Excuse me for sounding like Captain Obvious here, but let’s do a quick recap of what voice search actually is: Speaking—rather than typing—to make a search online.

I know what you’re thinking. “The typing vs. speaking difference doesn’t sound huge,” but trust me—it is.

When you’re writing, I’ll bet you’re more formal. When you’re typing, however, you’re chattier.

That language change should form the basis of your voice search SEO strategy.

Your aim should be to keep content light, easy to read, and written in a way they’re searching.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: The average Google voice search result is written at a 9th-grade level.

But, don’t let this fool you into creating short, 500-word blog post that teaches your readers how to suck eggs. Stick to the content marketing guidelines of creating long-form, comprehensive content, while ditching the jargon and speaking like you’re human… Because, believe it or not, you are.

Fancy taking your on-page content a step further? Focus on question and answer-based content.

There’s been a huge surge in the number of voice searchers asking questions. Just take a look at this study, which saw a 130%+ growth in voice search queries that start with “who:”

 

voice-search-seo
 

For example: A text searcher might Google “American president.” However, since voice searchers tend to ask longer, question-based queries, targeting “Who is the president of America?” might land your business a top spot in voice organic results.

Why? The answer is simple: It’s what voice searchers are actually searching for.

Tools like Answer the Public, Ubersuggest and SEMrush can help with this. But, our ultimate guide to keyword research is the best resource available on the topic.

(Not that we’re biased.)

The Future of Voice Search SEO

Are you convinced about the power voice search SEO could have on your business?

Whether you’re selling cat food or luxury properties, your searchers have one thing in common: By 2020, approximately 30% of customers who are searching for what you offer will be doing so without using a screen.

So, use these five quick tips to start optimizing your site today.

And if you’re not already tracking your keywords, backlinks and other measures of SEO success, sign up for your free 30-day trial of Monitor Backlinks. It’s the best way to tell if your voice search optimization is really making an impact.

By getting a headstart on your competition—while also catching the increasing number of people using voice search—you’re bound to see a boost in the ROI of your entire SEO strategy.

We’re sure of it!

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