Voice search isn’t the newest idea in 2017. The mobile Google app already had a ‘search by voice’ function available for iPhones and Blackberry units since 2008. What makes voice search a priority for SEO professionals this year is due to the increased usage of voice search features in recent months.
The voice search market is developing more quickly in the last several months, mostly due to the technologies and availability of voice search programs, apps, and tools. To give you a perspective of how many people use voice search, here are 5 stats from different studies and surveys in the past year:
• 40% of adults now use voice search once per day (Location World)
• 60% of people using voice search have started in the last year
• Google voice search queries throughout 2016 are 35x more than 2008 (Search Engine Watch)
• 25% of mobile users aged 16 to 24 use voice search on their phones (Global Web Index)
• AI personal assistant users are up dramatically. 45% for Siri, 33% for Google Now, 27% for Microsoft Cortana, and 10% Amazon Echo/Alexa. (AYTM)
There’s really no way around this. If you have a business that relies on your company website to attract leads or customers, you have to optimize for voice search. Note that since voice searches are still restricted within the same program (Google search = Google Now/Google Voice search tool), it’s best to start optimizing for Google’s Voice search. After all, most of the developments in voice searches come from the largest search engine in the world.
Optimizing Your Website for Google’s Voice Search
1. Do Research
Learn how people pronounce your company name and brands… then use all of them for optimizing voice search. If popular brands like IKEA (mispronounced as Eye-Key-Uh, but is actually pronounced as Ee-Kay-Uh) or Hermes (mispronounced Her-MEES, but is actually pronounced as AIR-mez) are often mispronounced, what more for brands that aren’t as widely known?
Use Site Analytics. The Google Search Console is a free and useful resource when planning your optimization for voice search. Using this tool, you’ll be able to check the actual queries people used to arrive to your site. While you can’t determine if these queries came from regular searches or voice searches, Google hinted that they’re working on it.
2. Focus on Conversational Keywords
Because voice search is user-centric, you now have to think about short- AND long-tail keywords that are conversational in nature. Adjust your SEO to terms regular people would use (such as ‘where’s the best Italian restaurant in Paris?’) instead of general terms aimed at search engine crawlers (such as ‘Best Paris Italian restaurants’). Your keywords and phrases should sound more naturally, and include as much detail as possible.
One way to perform a proper keyword research is through the tool Answer the Public, which expand regular search queries like “Italian restaurants” to include words like “for” “which” “what” “with,” so you could see a list of potential naturally-sounding keywords like “Italian restaurants for kids,” “Italian restaurants with 24-hour delivery,” “what Italian restaurants are open now,” and more.
3. Optimize the Backend for Voice Search
Your SEO efforts shouldn’t just be “skin deep.” Make sure to adjust your schema markup – a code placed on site backend to help search engines determine what content your site has. To learn more about structured data markup, go to schema.org or Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
4. Add Voice Search-Friendly Pages
Aside from updating the content of your webpages to newly discovered short- and long-tail keywords for voice search, here are must-have pages to add to your site:
• FAQs page – One of the easiest ways for search engines to identify the content your site offers is by creating a frequently asked questions page. If you did proper market research, this would be easy. If your company provides customer support, you can also list down questions received via calls, chat, or e-mails. Make sure to squeeze in those voice-search-friendly keywords you’ve discovered.
• About Us & Contact Us – If your site doesn’t have these pages yet, create them now and include up-to-date contact information.
5. Optimize for Local Listings and Fix Your Microdata
Voice search recognizes “near me” and automatically searches for businesses nearby, if your phone’s GPS is turned on. What’s interesting is that even if you just typed “Italian restaurants open now,” search results would indicate those restaurants near you. This is why if you have a brick-and-mortar business, you should prioritize on optimizing for local listings, starting with Google My Business.
Set-up your business listings in the most appropriate category and include accurate and up-to-date address, phone number, store hours, prices, directions, and branches (if necessary). Search engines like Google use these data to rank your pages for local search.
All websites should pass mobile responsiveness and page loading speed by now. If your website isn’t mobile-ready, the effort you did optimizing for voice search won’t matter because most voice searches are done on smartphones.
Google isn’t done smoothening out voice search function, which means changes in SEO are inevitable. For now, these tips could significantly change how well you rank on mobile-based voice searches.