Voice Search Optimization: Can Your Customers Hear You Now?

Voice search optimization becomes increasingly important as the popularity of voice search explodes. However, SEO techniques for typed search queries are not enough to boost voice search.

This gives digital content marketers and businesses in general a chance to gain on their competition if they can adopt new strategies and up their game when it comes to voice search.

What is voice search optimization?

Voice search optimization is the practice of making sure your website is as responsive as possible to voice searches. It means setting up your site so that when someone says “Hey, Google …” the voice answers with information from you.

One key to effective voice search optimization is understanding that people search differently when they speak than when they type. People speak in longer phrases and form their questions differently.

For example, someone thinking about leaving their home to get something to eat might type: “Thai food Main Street.” Someone driving their car and deciding to pick up something to eat might say: “Find the best Thai restaurant near me.” Or, “Where is the closest Thai restaurant?”

Voice search queries use more command words, like “Find” and “Show,” and more asking words, like “Where” and “When.”

Basic SEO factors remain vital, but businesses need to research these differences and adjust their strategies accordingly.

Why is voice search optimization important for SEO?

Global smart speaker sales reached a record level in 2020, according to the Strategy Analytics’ Smart Speakers and Screens service.

Other voice search statistics indicate that:

  • 58% of consumers use it to find a local business online.
  • 122.7 million Americans were using it in 2021.
  • 27% of searches done on mobile devices use it.

People like voice-enabled search because it makes it easy to multi-task. They enjoy getting useful information instantly on mobile, easy-to-use devices. It also benefits people with certain disabilities who have trouble typing in queries on a keyboard and reading the answers.

The rise of smartphones, other mobile devices, smart speakers, apps and hands-free automobile systems all contribute to its growth.

Of course, a great deal of this activity is not worth chasing. Commands like “Alexa, play some Bruno Mars music,” common questions like “What’s the weather tomorrow?” and argument settlers like “Who was the 15th president of the United States?” are not opportunities for SEO success. (It was James Buchanan.)

Even so, it stands to reason that businesses need to be where the searchers are if they want to raise their visibility and make the most of e-commerce. You might say that for certain businesses, search engine optimization has not occurred until a website has been optimized for voice.

The way that voice search functions gives us clues for SEO strategy.

How does voice search work?

When you say, “Alexa” or “Hey, Google” or talk to Siri, your spoken words are translated to text and the query is sent to a search engine.

  • Google Home, Google Assistant and Android phones and devices use Google.
  • Amazon Echo with Alexa and Microsoft Cortana, use Bing.
  • iPhone with Siri uses Safari.

The search engine finds an answer, translates the words to voice and sends it back through the search device. (And the accuracy of Google voice search and other search engines has gotten better over the past few years as the use of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing have improved. RankBrain and other algorithm updates keep improving the performance of Google voice search.)

When you do a written search, the search results usually include a box that briefly answers the query, in addition to the usual list of websites. Google calls these featured snippets. These snippets also are perfect for answering voice search queries and often are the very answers that voice assistants like Alexa and Siri give.

The answers to voice search are not always audio only. Siri, for example, might simply announce that it has found several sources that might give an answer, and the user has to click on one of the links that Siri provides.

How do I optimize content for voice search?

Businesses should maintain SEO basics. Voice search results depend in part on search engine optimization techniques like including your target keyword in the page title. A tech-savvy business will stay SEO sharp while adding practices of voice search optimization.

Here’s a look at some of those optimization methods.

Think mobile first

Mobile-friendliness is nice, but it’s not enough for regular search engine optimization, let alone voice search optimization.

A mobile-first website will be fast, and voice search users place a high premium on speed. Naturally, Google does too. It wants to answer questions instantly, and any hitch in a website can hurt a site’s discoverability.

Use one of the many available tools to test your site’s speed and check to see if it gets a passing grade from Core Web Vitals.

Does your site pass Google’s mobile-friendly test? If not, get to work. The test will point out weak spots in optimization, like type that is too small, links that are too close together and photos that are not sized properly.

voice search optimization

Think hyper-local

Local businesses stand to gain as much as any other sector, if not the most, from the rise of voice search. Voice search results can be hyper-local.

What’s more, many steps to take advantage of this come free and relatively easy. Google has made the first step simple: claim your My Business listing. This will place you on Google’s Local Pack, Google Maps, and Google Local Finder.

Make sure to provide all possible information. Even basic information like name, address and phone number are critical. A phone call following a voice search has an excellent chance of leading to a sale, often at the brick-and-mortar site.

Write the blurb about your business as if it is the answer to a voice-enabled search, which is what you want it to be.

Voice search: “Where is the best fabric store in downtown Rochester?”

The blurb for your fabric store: “Jennie’s Place is the best fabric store in downtown Rochester. It provides the finest fabrics and sewing material at the lowest prices.”

Make sure to update the listing regularly with information like store hours and posts announcing sales, specials and events. Use photos to show off your place.

Solicit reviews. Google gives higher rankings to listings with reviews.

Businesses also should take advantage of similar opportunities with Apple Maps (mapsconnect.apple.com), Bing and Yelp (www.bingmapsportal.com).

Aside from claiming your local listing, you’ll also want to integrate locally relevant keywords and keyword phrases into your site. Keywords like “fried chicken restaurant in Los Angeles” and “fried chicken in LA” are locally relevant keywords that can help drive more leads to your business.

Write the way people (your customers) talk

As you begin any SEO strategy, you should think about your customers’ interests and needs. Draw up a clear picture of the customer journey. Imagine the questions they ask about your products and services, and their user experience.

The difference with voice search is that the customer will speak more clearly and in a more conversation tone. They often use a question-based search. And they will respond best to answers that are clear and direct. In fact, with voice search, that’s the only sort of answer they will be provided with. Will the answer come from you or a competitor?

The example given for writing a My Business blurb shows the value of placing clear, plain answers to typical voice search questions on your website. A bakery shop, for example, should have content elements that say “best cake shop in east Atlanta,” “top bakery shop in Atlanta,” and other variations.

Businesses also should present content that is concise and easy to read (and easy for a search engine to digest). Save the flowery language, high-falutin’ words and convoluted jargon for another time. It can’t impress readers, or listeners, if search engines never present it to them. And a voice search simply won’t pick up that kind of verbiage.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs are an excellent tool for addressing readers’ questions in ways that make excellent replies to voice search queries.

Good voice search optimization involves content that answers “why,” “who,” “what,” and “how”  questions. Presenting that content on an FAQ page can be like serving up a whole series of easy-to-find voice search answers.

This also provides an excellent spot to cover the entire customer journey. The FAQ can include questions from the earliest stages, when someone is thinking about fulfilling a need, to the time after a purchase has been made. It also allows a business to address pain points and clear away stumbling blocks.

Ready to buy

People regularly use voice search to not just shop, but buy.

The content on business web pages should include descriptions of the products so that they can be included in the search results when someone indicates to OK Google that they are in the buying phase.

The search intent in this phase is called “transactional,” and voice searches tend to use certain keywords at this point.

Words like buy, deals, sale, order, reserve, apply, clearance, special and discount often are spoken by people who are ready to do business.

Ecommerce sites should be sure to use transactional keywords as part of content that will answer voice searches like: “Who is having a sale on refrigerators in El Paso?”

Long-tail keywords

If businesses create content in the way people talk, they already will have taken a big step toward using long-tail keywords, and thus, voice search optimization.

What are long-tail keywords? Long-tail keywords are phrases that are more specific and usually longer than other keywords. They don’t command as much search volume, but because they are so specific they tend to have a high conversion rate.

long-tail keywords

At the beginning of this section, we mentioned the importance of understanding your target audience.

That understanding should lead you to the long-tail keywords that potential customers are likely to use when searching for your solutions to their needs and problems. The way that someone would describe your business probably contains excellent long-tail keywords. Keyword research using SEO tools from Ahrefs, Moz, Ubersuggest, Brightlocal and others.

Go long-tail in your featured snippet.

Make your content keyword rich, using them in your My Business listing blurb and blog posts.

Consistent, strategic use of conversational, long-tail keywords will improve your voice search optimization results. In fact, it should improve your search results in any form.

Use schema markup

The power of well-chosen words make up a big part of voice SEO, but technical details can make a big difference, too.

Schema markup is a system for coding information in a blog post, for example, so that search engines can instantly see the meaning and importance of the words or photo and thus display it and rank it accordingly.

By making it easier for search engines to analyze your content, schema markup increases the odds that your content will be used as the featured snippet in voice search queries.

As we have said, Google likes speed. It also likes structured data, and this form of technical SEO is a prime example.

And on a website that doesn’t use this, it takes a little longer for a search engine to determine the relevance of content.

Because schema markup requires technical expertise, using it can give you an edge in the competition for top SERP rankings.

The value of voice search optimization

As we have seen, two important factors in voice search optimization are relevance and Artificial Intelligence.

rellify, the content performance platform, uses both of those assets to help its clients develop content that naturally ranks high in internet searches. The company’s use of Intelligence Augmentation, machine learning and natural language processing give its clients an edge as they strive for voice search optimization and overall SEO marketing.

Contact rellify today to see if its services can help your company.