Voice search SEO is the process of optimizing user-facing content – like blog posts, Google My Business listings, and web pages – so that people can find it using smart voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, Cortana, or Google Home.
Not unlike other types of search engine optimization, voice search SEO relies on keywords and SERP rankings to reach customers. However, there are some notable differences in how it works.
In this post, we’ll answer some of your burning questions about voice search SEO and show you how to capitalize on it, so you can reach the growing number of voice searchers out there.
How Fast is Voice Search Growing?
Voice technology has been increasing in popularity over the past few years, and that’s not expected to slow down any time soon. In fact, Statista predicts that there will be 8.4 billion voice assistants in use by 2024.
That doesn’t mean voice search is a topic for a future date, though. According to several customer surveys, voice search is being widely adopted in 2021 – especially on the local level. Take these statistics for instance:
- 58% of consumers found local businesses between 2019 and 2020 using voice assistants (DBS Interactive)
- Mobile voice searches are 3x more likely to be local than typed searches (Search Engine Journal)
- The Google Assistant has been downloaded onto over 500 million mobile devices (Science Direct)
Voice isn’t lagging behind in terms of accuracy or speed either. Here’s how it currently stacks up :
- In 2020, 77% of all simple questions and 70% of all nuanced voice search queries were answered correctly by Google Assistant (Statista)
- The page speed for voice search results are generally 4.2 seconds faster than the average webpage (Backlinko)
While these statistics may just seem interesting, they paint a valuable picture. Not only is voice search currently capable of replacing many traditional text searches, but it also seems to have consumers’ attention too.
Voice Search vs. Text Search
What exactly does a voice search query look like? And how does it differ from typed keywords?
Since voice search is designed to be more conversational, the majority of search terms spoken by users are question-based rather than short two to three-word phrases. For example, instead of typing “pizza near me,” a voice searcher might say: “Where’s the best place to get pizza near me?”
Once a query has been entered into the search engine, the algorithm processes and responds to it in much the same way it would with a typed keyword – identifying the semantic meaning of the search, pulling relevant results into a SERP, and sharing the results with the viewer. The only difference is that the results are played back through a virtual assistant on an iPhone, Android device, or smart speaker.
How Do You Optimize Your Content for Voice Search?
While voice search optimization relies on many standard SEO best practices, you have to look at SEO a little differently to make it accessible to smart speakers and mobile devices. Here are some tips for success.
Offer Direct Answers
Your customers want definitive answers quickly, and they don’t have the patience to sit through long-winded explanations to get to the meat of your argument. And neither does Google – which is why it generally uses its featured snippets (like the one below from DigitalMarketer) to answer voice search queries.
But to win those featured snippets and provide the best user experience, you need to make sure you write in a clear, succinct way.
Think of it like answering a specific question from a friend. If they wanted to know what Mario Kart was, you wouldn’t start by going on a long introductory tangent about how fun video games are or how many are out there. You’d simply explain that Mario Kart is a video game you can play on various gaming systems and mobile devices. And you’d describe the general gameplay as go-kart racing where you can throw objects, drop bananas, and earn a variety of power-ups to win races.
The same rule applies to every other topic. If you’re writing about digital marketing, keep your explanation simple. How to not mess up curls while sleeping? Same thing. No matter what you write about, you need to keep explanations clear cut if you want to perform well on voice search.
Use Long-Tail Keywords
The most popular and competitive keywords fall between 1-3 words because they bring in a greater monthly search volume. But since voice search is more conversational, you can’t use short search terms to reach your audience. Your keywords need to be in the long-tail category. In fact, they likely need to double or triple in length, as according to Purna Virji at Moz, voice search queries average 7-8 words.
Luckily, businesses can use long-tail keyword alternatives in their content pretty easily. Here’s how:
- Conduct keyword research as you normally would in Ubersuggest, SEMRush, or Google’s Keyword Planner – but use the long-tail keywords at the bottom of the list rather than highly competitive search terms at the top.
- See which keyword alternatives are being searched on Google by looking at the “People Also Ask” dropdown list and the “Related Searches” section at the bottom of the page, and compare them against your keyword research. You may find that the current content and featured snippets for these queries are lacking and thus uncover golden opportunities to win them.
- Add that keyword strategically into your headers and body text where it fits most naturally. Remember that the point is to try to win the snippet, so you don’t want to shoehorn it in somewhere. Set aside space specifically to answer it.
- Create context for users first and search algorithms second by including LSI keywords that provide context and writing clear explanations throughout the piece
Writing the way you normally speak is important for two reasons. In the first place, it makes it easier for listeners to understand the answer. In the second, it enables Google and Bing to pinpoint semantic similarities between your content and the user’s question.
Using natural language is arguably the easiest tip on this list, though, because all you have to do is write the way you talk.
Optimize for Local Audiences
Whether your audience is looking for food, a weather forecast, news, or directions – they’re typically performing a local search. The reason is that local information is more relevant to them than generic content.
For example, if voice searchers are looking for a place to go for dinner, they want to know about places nearby. The same can be said of a search on current interest rates on homes in the area. If the user lives in Knoxville, getting a list of rates for San Francisco or Denver won’t be helpful. They need search results tailored to Knoxville.
Optimizing your content around local SEO keywords and context clues makes it easier for search algorithms to pull up your content when a “near me” search is made in your area. The key is to use the keywords naturally and make the content as tailored to your local audience as possible.
Claim Your Google My Business Account
At the same time, you should also prioritize your Google My Business account, as the information there will be pulled up and offered to voice searchers every time they look for local businesses in your category.
You can plug your address, phone number, business category, and hours of operation into your profile. You can share your website URL and health and safety guidelines. And you can even post photos and answer questions patrons ask about your business.
The better and more well-reviewed your profile, the greater the likelihood that Google will connect your business to relevant voice search terms and that searchers will take interest in your business when they see it.
While voice search SEO may feel new, it’s not that different from standard SEO best practices. By focusing on creating high-quality content and optimizing the user experience for locals with real questions, you can successfully capitalize on voice search opportunities.