Voice search is changing the way people find information online. With the rise of voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, more people are speaking their queries rather than typing them. This shift to voice presents both opportunities and challenges for marketers. Voice search usage is still growing, so optimizing for voice search now can help you get ahead of the curve. However, voice results are fundamentally different than text results, requiring a new optimization approach.
In this complete guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about optimizing for voice search.
What is Voice Search?
Voice search allows users to search the web using natural language voice commands instead of typing keywords. For example, instead of typing "best restaurants near me" into Google, you can simply say this phrase out loud to a voice assistant.
Voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant listen for trigger words that activate them, and then stream the voice command to servers in the cloud. Speech recognition technology transcribes the audio into text which can be used to return search results.
So in other words, voice search removes the keyboard as the middleman and allows you to speak your search query directly to get the information you need.
Why is Voice Search Optimization Important?
There are a few key reasons why businesses should be optimizing for voice search:
1. Voice Searches are Growing Rapidly
Voice search usage has absolutely exploded over the last few years. According to Comscore, nearly 50% of all searches will be done by voice by 2020.
This massive growth means voice search optimization needs to be a top priority for businesses who want to be discoverable and reachable for voice queries.
2. Voice Searches are Usually Local
Location and local intent are very common in voice searches. For example, people are much more likely to say "find restaurants near me" versus typing "restaurants near me" into Google.
According to Moz, over 50% of voice searches have local intent. So optimizing for local SEO is critical for voice search success.
3. Voice Results Favor Brands
Unlike text search, voice search results seem to favor big brand names, even for generic queries. For example, if you ask Alexa to set a timer, it will suggest setting an Amazon Timer by default.
This means brand awareness and authority are even more important for voice search. Smaller brands need to work hard at establishing authority to rank well.
Voice Search Optimization Tips
Optimizing for voice search is different than regular SEO. Here are some key tips:
Use Natural Language and Conversational Keywords
The main difference between voice queries and text queries is that voice queries use more natural conversation language.
For example, people are more likely to ask:
"What's the best Italian restaurant in my area?"
Rather than type "best italian restaurants near me" into Google.
Therefore, it's important to research and target longer, conversational keywords and phrases that people use in natural speech.
Optimize for Long-Tail, Local Keywords
As mentioned earlier, voice searches are usually both local and long-tail. Make sure you research and target these types of keywords.
For example, "pizza places open now near me" or "plumbers available today in San Francisco". Include as much natural language context as possible.
Improve Local SEO Signals
Since voice searches are often looking for local businesses, all the standard local SEO best practices become even more important:
Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) - Make sure your Google My Business listing has completely consistent NAP details across the web.
Reviews - Get lots of local reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp and other relevant sites. These act as social confirmation signals.
Citations - Build non-linked brand citations on directories, review sites and local business sites. The more brand mentions, the better.
Optimize for Featured Snippets
The featured snippets at the top of Google search results are prime real estate for voice search.
When a voice query is made, the info from a featured snippet is often read out directly by the voice assistant.
So if you can rank a page in the featured snippet, it greatly increases your exposure potential for voice queries.
Leverage Structured Data (Schema Markup)
Structured data and schema markup allow you to annotate your pages with code that identifies the type of content it contains.
Having proper schema markup can help surface your content for relevant voice queries where the format of information is important.
For example, schema identifying restaurant locations, doctors office hours, product prices, etc.
Build Brand Authority Signals
As mentioned earlier, voice search tends to favor big, authoritative brands, even for generic queries.
The more brand authority signals you can build, the better. This includes things like:
High domain authority site
Strong backlink profile
Brand mentions on high authority sites
Knowledge panel in Google
Positive online reviews and press coverage
The stronger your overall brand authority, the better chance you'll have of ranking for voice search queries.
Voice Search Case Study
Let's look at a quick case study example so you can see these voice search optimization tips in action:
John is a personal injury lawyer in Miami, Florida. He wants his law firm to rank for relevant voice search queries in his local area.
Here are some optimizations John might make:
Optimize pages for long-tail keywords like "personal injury lawyer Miami" and "car accident attorney near me"
Create a Google My Business listing with consistent NAP details
Build citations on legal directories, city directories, and attorney review sites
Get client reviews on Google, Facebook, Avvo, and other attorney review sites
Optimize hisLocations and Services pages with markup to identify business info
Publish blog posts targeting featured snippets for questions like "What does a personal injury lawyer do?"
Build links from relevant legal sites to improve domain authority
Sponsor local events and press releases to build brand awareness
By making these optimizations targeting voice search, John can increase his visibility for local voice queries from potential clients.
The Future of Voice Search
Voice search has seen hockey stick growth over the past few years, and the technology is only going to keep getting better. As more people become comfortable conversing with voice assistants, search engines will get even better at delivering relevant, natural language results.
This means voice search optimization will only grow more crucial over time. Businesses who are able to optimize for voice search now will have a huge advantage as voice continues to evolve. Understanding voice search best practices and keeping up with the latest trends will ensure your business remains discoverable as more and more people make the switch to voice.