Voice Search: How SEO Will Never Be the Same

As voice search evolves from voice recognition to voice understanding, Google gets nearer to its aim to transform voice search into “an ultimate mobile assistant that helps you with your daily life so that you can focus on the things that matter.”

If voice search optimization isn’t already part of your SEO strategy, it’s time to fix that.

In 2018, 2 out of every 5 adults used voice search once per day. But in 2020, 50% of all searches will be done through voice search according to ComScore.

But instead of looking at voice search as a bad thing, just think of it this way, no one cares to read articles about it, which means most SEOs won’t be prepared for it.

This is your chance to get ahead of your competition and gobble up that traffic before the market shifts into using voice.

So, how can you stay ahead when it comes to voice search?

1) Claim & Optimize Your Google My Business Page

If you haven’t noticed yet, voice search is huge for local businesses. As they say in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. For voice search, “near me” searches have risen significantly in the last five years:

Google Trends for “near me” searches.

One of the best ways to optimize for these searches is with a Google My Business page. Make sure to not only claim your local listing page on Google, but to optimize it as well. Include photos of your business, both interior and exterior. Include shots your customers will see when they visit and make sure the space, in reality, matches the pictures online.

This guide from Moz goes in-depth on creating a Google My Business page.

Do Voice Search terms need to be included in the website copy?

Not necessarily. Google is smart enough to know that a business is local relative to a user’s location. Your website copy should read naturally and not sound awkward or stuffed with keywords. As long as your local listing pages are claimed and optimized, that should provide enough information about the physical location of your business. Just make sure your website includes the street address for your place of business.

Pro Tip: Make sure the name, address and phone number (NAP) information appears exactly as it’s listed in Google My Business. And embed a Google map on the page for each of your locations.

2) Answer Questions

Remember the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How” from grade school? They’re making a comeback. Search is rapidly moving away from short queries and towards long-tail questions. Ten years ago, a search like this would have been the norm:

  • car dealership st louis mo

It’s not even grammatically correct. Just a bunch of keywords strung together to form a search.

In the voice search era, that same query would look more like this:

  • Where’s a good car dealership in the St. Louis area?

Users love asking questions to their phones, so make sure your website can answer them.

To optimize for these questions, have your sales team and service reps send over the most common questions they get from customers and prospects. Turn these into an FAQ (frequently asked questions) page of your website. Add them to related pages about your products or services, too.

When it comes to B2B or B2C, the only differences are in the types of questions being asked. Generally speaking, consumers care about the same things, regardless of the product.

  • How much does it cost?
  • How does it work?
  • Is it a good value?

Therefore, the questions from your sales and services teams will tend to fall into these categories:

  • Pricing
  • Service & Support
  • Functionality & Training
  • General Knowledge

Here are some B2B and B2C examples for each of those categories.

Pricing

  • What do managed services cost? (B2B)
  • How much to cater a wedding? (B2C)
  • What does it cost to purchase a business? (B2B)

Service & Support

  • What does a printer warranty cover? (B2B or B2C)
  • What are the lease details on my new car? (B2C)
  • How can I care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s? (B2C)

Functionality & Training

  • How to attach a bucket to a skid steer? (B2B or B2C)
  • How to clean granite countertops? (B2C)
  • How to install a commercial coffee machine? (B2B)

General Knowledge

  • How much do home remodelers make? (B2B or B2C)
  • What is a business consultant? (B2B)
  • How does rapid prototyping work? (B2B)

People love asking questions, so the better you can answer those questions, the more likely you’ll appear for voice search queries.

Pro Tip: Use the question itself as an H2 or H2 tag on your website and the follow it up with a short answer, no more than 300 characters. This is an easy way to optimize for SERP Features on Google.

3) Use a Conversational Keyword Strategy

With voice search, users like to ask long questions in a conversational nature. They also give commands. So things like this are commonplace:

  • How do I change my oil?
  • Find the closest burger joint.
  • What’s the weather going to be like tomorrow?

Your keyword strategy needs to move away from optimizing for individual keywords and phrases and towards becoming more conversational. I do keyword research all the time, and I can tell you for a fact that a more conversational approach is much harder. The more words in a query, the smaller the search volume becomes. On the flip side, there are now more possible variations for that long-tail term, which makes working those variations into page copy much easier. Website pages will naturally sound more … er … natural.

Focus keyword research around the areas identified above. Every niche will have its own quirks and nuances, though – so keep that in mind.

3. Create Compelling Persona-Based Content

Brevity, context, and relevance are essential when optimizing for voice search.

What might be different from your usual SEO strategy is that now you also need to pay special attention to:

Create rich, compelling content that answers your users’ most common questions and solves their pain points.

A good strategy that’s already been adopted successfully by many websites is to:

  • Create content or a webpage with a headline that asks a common question.
  • Immediately after the headline, provide a concise answer or definition to the question.
  • Use the rest of the page to provide further elaborative detail on the topic.

The significant thing about this strategy is that the rich, robust webpage ultimately appeals to Google’s ranking algorithm.

At the same time, the short-and-sweet information at the top of the page is optimized for voice search and might even become a featured snippet.

4) Provide Context with Schema Markup

Get acquainted with schema markup, if you aren’t already.

Use schema to mark up your content and tell search engines what your site’s about.

This HTML add-on helps search engines understand the context of your content, which means you rank better in typical searches, and more relevant in specific queries made through voice search.

Google understands language by utilizing schemas, and they can be a great way to add more information to your website, so you’re ready to answer questions.

5) Build Pages That Answer FAQs

When voice searchers ask a question, they typically begin it with “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How.”

They’re looking for answers that fulfill an immediate need.

To answer these queries, make a FAQ page and begin each question with these adverbs.

Then answer them conversationally to appeal to voice search.

From a performance perspective, make sure your website is technically sound and includes schemas.

Ensure navigation and informational structure are easy to find, and page load speeds are fast.

Top 10 Voice search statistics

  1. The Echo Dot was crowned as the best-selling product on Amazon in the 2018 holiday season.
  2. Grocery shopping accounts for more than 20% of voice-based orders
  3. Voice-based shopping is expected to jump to $40 billion in 2022
  4. In market share, this means consumer spending via voice assistants is expected to reach 18% by 2022
  5. By 2024, the global voice-based smart speaker market could be worth $30 billion.
  6. 60% of smartphone users have tried voice search at least once in the past 12 months.
  7. 55% of teenagers are using voice search daily basis.
  8. In terms of accuracy, Google Home is the winner so far by answering 81% of the queries correctly, on average.
  9. More than 20% of voice search queries are triggered by a combination of only 25 keywords
  10. Top 3 common keywords in voice search phrases are “how”, what” and “best”.

Context & Conversation

Context and conversational search are now essential as voice search continues to evolve.

Marketers need to thoughtfully incorporate a voice search strategy into their websites and double down on excellent content, written in a conversational tone.

We also need to understand that people who type a query, and people who ask questions into voice search, are often two different types of people.

The “typer” might be OK with doing research, while the “talker” typically wants quick answers and instant results.

We need to appeal to both types of people.

Voice search is clearly on the rise, and we’d be foolish to ignore this trend in the SEO industry.

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