OK Google, How Do I Optimize My Business for Voice Search?

By LeVi Pham

In a previous blog post, we explored why smart speakers are the future of digital marketing. Every person who possesses a smartphone carries a virtual personal assistant in their pocket by the names of Siri, Alexa, Cortana and others, ready to respond to verbal queries on the go. Recent studies have shown that the popularity of voice search is on the rise. Uberall’s study shows that out of 1,000 respondents, 21% are using voice search every week, 48% use voice search to locate business information, and 60% feel that voice search will be important in the future. Since 2013, the ability of Google voice recognition software to pick up the correct word or phrase improved from 80% to 90%, with the end goal of being 99% accurate. Continuous improvements to AI and voice recognition software mean that it will be easier and faster to find answers through voice search. So it is now more important than ever for businesses to be voice search-ready.

What can you do to catch up with this fast-growing trend? Here are the 5 best strategies to optimize for voice search:

Image source: becominghuman.ai

  1. Focus on search intent and natural-language context
  2. The use of natural language in search queries is one of the most important characteristics of voice search. People tend to use shorter queries when they type into the search box to save the physical effort, such as “dentist in the Annex.”
    On the contrary, voice search queries gravitate towards specific, longer questions that are closer to natural speech, such as “Where can I find a dentist in the Annex area?” Understanding the user’s intent when searching is key to ensure your business lands in the top voice search results. Tools such as AnswerThePublic can generate natural language phrases to help you interpret a user’s intent based on the question phrases they use. TextOptimizer also uses semantic analysis to figure out how Google would respond best to answer the inputted queries. These tools could help you tailor your content to match search engine expectations and achieve a higher ranking.

  3. Answer questions
  4. As mentioned, people are specific when they are searching for information with voice search. Most voice search queries will start with the 5W+H questions, i.e. who, what, where, when, why, and how. The best way to redirect users to your website and increase your brand awareness is to respond to their questions with instant answers. One strategy is to use structured data (also known as schema markup) on your website, which as Neil Patel explains help search engines return informative results to users by classifying your data and telling them what it means, not just what it says. Websites with a clear sitemap and well-linked pages (internally and externally) are favoured within voice search results. SEMRush found in a recent study that of 50,000 queries tested on voice search devices, 80% of the answers came from the top three organic results, and 70% occupied a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) feature (example features: Rich Snippets, Paid Results, Universal Results, Knowledge Graph, Featured Snippets), with 60% of those returning a Featured Snippet result. A Featured Snippet is a summarized answer to the user’s search query that is promoted to the top of the search results. Aim to answer multiple questions your users might have when they land on your site, which increases your website’s chance of appearing in a Featured Snippet. You can isolate different categories on separate web pages to respond to specific queries, such as “teeth whitening” or “root canal.” It is also a great idea to add a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page to your website. Conversational search engines can pull from a FAQ page to provide users with an immediate answer. Content created around customers’ questions, such as blog articles and social media posts, could significantly increase your chances of appearing higher in voice search results.

  5. Be local
  6. The Internet Trends Report 2018 found that 22% of people use voice search for finding local information, which makes sense because most people use smartphones on the go. According to Google, 67% of smartphone users want results customized to their city/zip code, and 61% want results customized to their immediate surroundings. For this reason, always keep your business information, such as the address, phone number, and opening hours, up to date on your website and on your Google My Business listing. Incorporate the following keywords into your SEO: phrases people use to describe your neighbourhood (e.g. “the Junction”), “near me,” recognizable landmarks, and local institutions. Your business listing should also have a healthy number of positive reviews to build trust and credibility with your potential clients. It is important especially when people search for phrases like “best pediatric dentist near me”, as your Google ratings could affect where your business is placed in the search results.

  7. Be mobile-friendly
  8. To optimize for on-the-go voice search, it is obvious that your website must be mobile-friendly. This includes having a responsive web design and fast loading time, as users expect immediate answers to their queries. The SEMRush study shows that for most questions, the answer chosen by Google loads faster than the average page speed for all other results in the same SERP. You can test whether your website complies with Google’s guidelines by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool and see elements that are slowing down your site with Webpagetest.org.

  9. Increase readability
  10. Clear, easy to read content not only helps physical readers to scan the text before committing to reading your article, but also helps machines understand the content and deliver relevant answers to search queries. Tools like Read-able by Webfx grade your content readability using popular readability indicators, such as the Flesch Kincaid Reading Grade, Gunning Fog Score, and Automated Readability Index (ARI). Pages in the top organic results have a score of around 8 on the Flesch Kincaid grade. Use short sentences and short paragraphs that are easy to scan and understand. Utilize subheadings, bullet points, tables, and highlighted passages to break up your content into clear sections. And remember, simplicity is key! Voice search is like normal conversations - the most simple and straightforward phrases are the best to communicate your message. Be factual and clear, and stay away from complicated jargon. Keep your content as close to natural conversation language as you can to improve your clients’ experience with your business.
    Image source: Search Engine Land

The Final Verdict

The voice search evolution allows closer integration into our lives and day to day tasks. Voice search is here to stay for the long run and not just a passing fad. As accuracy among artificial intelligence (AI) search tools improve, more and more people from all demographics will turn to voice search to find information. Introduce your services to new clients by providing clear answers and quality content that accurately targets their needs. Now is the best time to reevaluate your SEO strategy to factor in voice search and gain an edge over your competition.

Have questions about optimizing voice search for your business? Speak with an UpOnline representative today!

Related Article: 4 Reasons Why Smart Speakers are the Future of Digital Marketing