We are in a voice search revolution — or at least that’s what the internet would have you believe.
Nearly 40% of all internet users in the US and a third of its total population (111.8 million people) are users of voice search. And studies suggest its popularity is only going to continue to grow, with an expected 9.7 percent increase to 122.7 million users by 2021.
Voice search is being used on mobile phones, smart speakers, laptops, and desktops. In fact, 49% of Amazon Echo and Google Home users say they cannot imagine life without one.
Whatever your feelings towards voice search may be, it’s important to ensure your business is in the best possible position should anything change (whether that’s voice search falling off the face of the earth or its popularity skyrocketing beyond belief).
Can you optimize for voice search?
Optimizing for voice search is not black and white. Like other types of search results, there are things you can do to increase your chances of surfacing for voice search, but just because you do these things doesn’t mean your content will get read aloud.
Given the convenience aspect of voice search, it’s being used in more places than ever before.
With the apparent rise in popularity of voice search, basic local SEO techniques remain as relevant as ever.
Increasing your chances of getting found
There are many ways to try to surface for voice search queries. Here I will explain the easiest ways to increase your chances of appearing for voice search.
Keep business listings up-to-date and optimized
As part of your local SEO strategy, you should already be updating your local business listings (specifically Google My Business). But if you’re hoping to rank for voice search it’s more important than ever to keep listings active and up to date, promptly respond to reviews, and create posts with localized content. As you ought to know from optimizing for local search results, the more complete a local listing is, the more likely it is to rank well.
Write relevant content
Arguably the simplest way to gain prominence in voice search queries is to determine the searcher’s intent by finding out what questions users are already asking, either about your business in particular or the wider industry and your competitors.
Voice search has made it even easier for users to search on the go. As a result of these on-the-go searches, it is crucial that your website gives visitors exactly what they need. When you’re out and about you don’t have the luxury of time and voice search assistants will be searching for the most accurate and discoverable solution, so make sure the content on offer is concise and succinct. It’s worth bearing in mind that the answers read out by voice search assistants tend to hover around the 40-50-word mark. So try to keep content short but sweet.
Research and implement long-tail keywords
Given the nature of most voice search queries being questions, it’s important to optimize your content for long-tail keywords. Try researching long-tail keywords commonly found in your target audience’s questions (for a quick bit of insight, you can even use Google’s autocomplete or People Also Ask functions). Then include the most commonly searched long-tail keywords in your site’s content — but avoid keyword stuffing or adding in phrases unnaturally.
If you’re looking for more in-depth keyword research, make use of a tool like Ahrefs or Answer the Public.
Make use of FAQs
I’d also recommend you create an FAQ page, if your site doesn’t already have one that is. Since voice search usually involves conversational language, you can mimic the tone and phrases on your FAQ page. FAQs also provide answers in a concise manner, which as we discovered earlier, is just what voice search looks for.
Once you’ve created an optimized FAQ page, why not go the extra mile and implement FAQ schema? Marking up your FAQ content can create rich results that not only rank for voice queries but also dominate the SERPs.
I actually read that as the opposite, that it would affect assistant results (??) ? pic.twitter.com/sbpjvotwzm
— Kyle Faber (@regal_kyle) February 2, 2020
Vie for featured snippets
Another way to try to rank for voice search is through occupying featured snippets (although it’s worth bearing in mind you can’t have FAQ schema AND a featured snippet). The relevance of featured snippets has been somewhat debated since Google’s deduplication update, but they still prove to be useful when it comes to having Alexa or Google Home read out results. According to Google, without a featured snippet, you won’t be able to rank for voice search queries at all: one of the dangers of using the rel=nospittet command.
A basic principle of voice search optimization and again, something you should already be doing, is ensuring you have a strong online presence, comprised of accurate online references or citations of your business name, address, and phone number (NAP). Voice assistants use these citations to provide answers to local searches and currently rely on these for brand searches.
If you don’t already have a local citation-building plan of action, it’s worth at least checking where your business appears and whether or not those instances are accurate and up to date.
Among the most important directories where you should cite, update, and optimize your business information are Google My Business, Apple Maps, Bing, and Yelp.
If you’re just starting out with local SEO, Google My Business is a great place to begin. Claiming your business is your only chance at showing up in Google’s Local Pack, Google Maps, and Google Local Finder. So claiming your free business listing, which includes information on your company address, phone number, business hours, payment methods, and so on and so forth, gives you the necessary tools you need to grab your audience’s attention and ultimately rank higher.
Take advantage of schema markup
Search engines try various approaches to how they can display rich results. Leveraging schema markup means you have a greater chance of being featured. You can do this by having a structured format that lets search engines understand your site’s contents and context. Implementing structured data like schema markup means search engines have to do less guesswork, so they can then better understand the relevance of your pages in relation to search queries, and thus provide richer search results – with your page included.
Schema is a data markup that lets webmasters provide search engines with structured data about their site. It is poised to play a larger part in ranking results because it helps search engines and voice assistants have a clearer understanding of what a website is about and the services it offers. If you have structured data, your site can have a higher likelihood of showing up in voice search queries.
If you implement structured data, your site will be better understood by voice assistants during indexing, which, in theory at least, should lead to higher rankings. Local business schema future-proofs your site for richer features reinforces your digital footprint and improves relevance and geographic accuracy.
The tips I’ve provided here today, while important when ranking for voice search, should already be on your agenda as someone who works with local SEO.
Whether you agree with its apparent significance or not, voice search is already an important part of the local search landscape, and your competitors may be in a better position to serve your customers if you are not prepared for it.
With its continued growth, voice search is certainly part of the future. So if you can keep up with it, you may reap the rewards of competitive advantage.