Why you need to get on board with voice search optimization
Without a doubt, voice assistants have made life easier for everyone. People across the globe are using them to search for products, services, and businesses. This is primarily because the AI technology used for generating voice search results does a great job of offering the most accurate options for users.
Google is as accurate as humans in recognizing and understanding voice input. No wonder a staggering 93 percent of users are satisfied with voice assistants.
If you want to stay relevant in your niche, you have no choice but to optimize for this fastest-growing form of online search. Further, effective voice search optimization can amp up your website’s overall UX and SEO.
What is voice search optimization?
Voice search optimization is voice-centric SEO, in the sense that quality content that satisfies user intent remains the priority. The difference is that you will be optimizing your content to become primary search results in voice-based searches conducted using voice assistants like Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, and Cortana.
In order to optimize for voice search, we need to uphold the reasons why users prefer it over typing. For instance, most users appreciate that voice search is fast. Thus, one of the strategies you need to adopt is improving the site’s speed.
Let’s take a look at other key strategies for staying on top of the voice search revolution.
1. Refocus your content strategy to include “related” queries
Related queries are alternative words and phrases that appear as an alternative suggestion. The user can choose to click on these suggestions to begin a new search. Related queries in the form of ‘People also ask’ and ‘Related Search’ boxes appear on the first page of SERP.
Enriching your content with related queries gives it a deeper meaning, making it easy for search engines to find your pages. Also, using related queries associated with the search phrase helps in guiding your audience into a desirable search pattern.
With a keyboard, a searcher may look for women’s accessories. But with a new voice assistant, they may ask: “Hey Google! Where can I shop for the best handbags for women?” Hence, to optimize for voice search, you need to include related queries as a part of your content strategy.
Tools like SEMRush (paid) and Google Trends (free) can pull out related keywords, allowing you to develop deeper content. This helps in creating accurate search results that relate to the user intent. This can guide your voice optimization strategy. Google autocomplete also does a good job of this.
2. Target long-tail keyword phrases (clunkier, less concise language)
Long-tail keywords, often in the form of questions, are commonly used by searchers during voice search or when they are at the end of a buying cycle. Humans speak longer sentences than they type. Being conversational in nature, these keywords are more likely to connect with a relevant and committed audience, increasing the chances of a sale.
A single search of the word skirt will offer a broad set of options:
However, a solid and specific long-tail keyword like ‘red suede skirt for evening wear’ has less competition and is a better bid than a short one. Long-tail keywords are specific and offer accurate options, exactly what the customers are looking for. This increases the chances of a click-through to sale.
With this in mind, businesses should pay attention to phrases used by searchers repeatedly and optimize for that popular search query.
Use keyword research tools
One of the easiest ways to identify long-tail keywords in your niche is to use keyword research tools that can help you identify a massive list of keywords that will help optimize your content for voice search. There are even some tools that focus on question-based keywords that are apt for voice search optimization.
Get active on Q&A sites and forums
Platforms like Quora and Yahoo! Answers are a great place to identify user intent and keyword ideas in your niche. It is here that people are asking questions and offering answers on specific topics. You can also identify forums in your domain using these handy search strings on Google.
“keyword” + “forum” OR “keyword” + “board”
Check out the number of forums available for the keyword yoga:
Once you find an active forum, look for titles of the threads and the words and phrases used by responders. For instance, if you consider the first search result, you can see several words and phrases people are using.
Google processes more than 4 billion searches per day. Thus, the most relevant and popular phrases appear in its autocomplete when a searcher starts looking for something. Use Google’s autocomplete suggestions to get an idea of the potential long-tail keywords you could use in your content.
Count on Google Adwords
Did you know that Google AdWords has a keyword planner tool that generates short and long keyword ideas? All you need to do is type in a single word and you will find multiple top-performing keywords.
Discover keywords from your competitors
If you have a competitor ranking high for certain long-tail keywords, you should identify them and use them to your advantage. For instance, say you are chasing the keyword activities for kids. Find out which keywords the top-ranking page(s) are using, and then use them as well.
We’re aware that a site’s speed and load time are the key factors in Google’s and other search engines’ ranking algorithms. However, these are also important factors influencing the success of your voice search marketing strategy:
It’s a well-known fact that websites taking a long time to load experience a high bounce rate. Therefore, you should do everything in your power to improve your page speed. To start, use tools that can help you evaluate your page’s performance. Also, consider the following quick tips by Google PageSpeed Insights to rev up your site:
Use only compressed images and videos on your site.
Use CSS3 and HTML5 frameworks as they load mobile web pages quickly.
Reduce redirects. Each of the additional redirects takes a longer time for the HTTP request-response cycle to complete, making the page slower.
Improve your server response time by looking for and fixing bottlenecks like slow database queries, slow routing, or a lack of adequate memory.
Use a content delivery network (CDN) that can help distribute the load of delivering content.
Sites with a shorter load time perform better in voice search, and most voice searches load quicker than text-based – which is what you should aim for.
4. Revamp old content so that it answers more questions
Repurposing and updating old content breathes a new life into the website. Also, the website content comes across as high-quality and up-to-date. Revisiting website content also allows you to answer user queries effectively. That’s exactly what search engines are looking for: updated, relevant, value-adding content. Here’s how you can revamp the old content on your website.
Start by changing the headline
Recraft an impressive (but not too salesy!) headline for your posts. Check the character count. If the old headline is more than 70 characters, reduce it to create a headline that’s crisp, stirs curiosity, and offers a promise to your audience. Use tools like CoSchedule and Sumo to write engaging titles that earn you a click.
Choose the top pages to be revamped
Not all pages on a site need a revamp. So, how do you determine which pages deserve a content makeover? Use Google Analytics to determine your site’s top-performing landing pages. Review each page using the following questions and compare them with the top results in your niche.
Do these top-performing pages offer less content than required?
Can I add more relevant content in the form of the latest updates or additional tips?
Is the introduction of these posts compelling enough to get the reader to the next paragraph?
Do the pages include all the relevant long-tail keywords required to rank in voice search?
Add more meat to the content
Once you have located the top pages on your site, you need to add content to make it juicier and visible, thus attracting as much organic traffic as possible. The increase in word count will also allow you to add extra long-tail keywords and similar keyword strings. This will significantly improve your page’s keyword density and help you rank better for voice search.
Watch your content formatting
Long paragraphs with poor formatting are tough to read, not just for the user but also for the search engine crawlers. This can impact the way search engines find your pages and understand the context of the content. Make sure your content is well-formatted with short paragraphs, numbered or bulleted lists, and subheadings. Also, use Alt tags to describe the images and videos on your webpages.
Make your content accessible to voice assistant users
Creating actions for Google Assistant and tailored skills for Alexa will optimize your content for conversations. Further, it will make your content more accessible and relevant for voice commands.
5. Test voice search capabilities on various voice assistants
Voice search experiences may hugely vary for the user and the voice assistant used. Therefore, it’s important to test your site’s voice search capabilities on various voice assistants, allowing you to offer the best experience to your audience.
Test on Alexa and Google Assistant’s companion apps. Both Google and Amazon are capable of showing you what the assistant heard exactly. They also offer a complete record of the test. This can be used to clarify voice assistant misunderstandings if any. For beta skills, you need to conduct User Accessibility Testing (UAT) and use simulators that can catch 99% of the issues.
Use testing tools to your advantage. Some tools can help you with basic UAT during the development phase. Using them can help simplify the process of developing a more user-oriented testing strategy.
Account for accents. It’s no shock that people from different regions say things differently. Though it’s tricky to get testers for different accents, doing so will help you finetune your script accordingly. Opt for testers that supply their accent type. Plus, testing voice skills on assistants is a critical part of optimizing a site for voice search.
6. Use AMP and structured data
Much of the global online population use the voice feature on their smartphones, which is why it’s crucial to have a mobile-friendly website for effective voice search SEO. AMP or accelerated mobile pages help pages load faster, thus improving the site’s usability and UX. Therefore, they are highly preferred in the mobile (and voice) search world.
Structured data, often known as schema markup, make sure that the content is easily discovered by search engines. Both AMP and structured data make web content relevant for voice search.
7. Focus on local SEO
Voice searches are hugely location-specific. No wonder, near me and local are the most popular phrases used by voice searchers to look for local businesses. Therefore, local SEO should be one of your top priorities.
Here are a few quick tips to help you optimize for local search:
Claim your business listings on Google My Business (GMB) and other websites. Make sure the information offered is accurate and up-to-date. Find all the listings associated with your business. Check each of them and get rid of duplicate ones.
Check for NAP (name, address, and phone number) consistency. This can be easily done on your GMB listing and with a local search tool.
Add a location page to your website. This can help search engines crawl your site and deliver the right location to the voice searcher.
Ask for customer reviews as they are an important local pack ranking factor. The more reviews you have the better chance your listing has to stand out from the competition.
Share local content. This is essential for local SEO.
Use social media to your advantage. Google and other search engines pull information from social channels. Gather reviews on Facebook, share videos on YouTube, and get active on other social media platforms.
Voice is all set to dominate the search marketing realm in the coming years. So, instead of resisting this change, it’s time you incorporate the above-mentioned strategies to get hold of the voice market before your competition does.
Voice search optimization encompasses multiple strategies like accelerating site speed, improving content readability, and offering long-form relevant content among others. All these tactics will not only improve your voice SEO but also refine your site’s customer experience and boost its overall ranking. Thus, voice search optimization helps attract traffic from people using smartphones, desktops, voice assistants, and other connected devices.
Use these strategies to embrace the voice search revolution with open arms and get an edge over your competition.
Kevin Reis is an experienced SEO specialist with 10+ years of industry experience.His most recent accomplishment was initiating and scaling Shopify's very first international SEO effort, and has been successful in helping them achieve organic growth in more than 25 international markets.