Search Engine Optimization

Voice Search: The Future of Search and How to Optimize for It

The world is becoming less reliant on keyboards and more reliant on voice search. Voice searches are often faster, easier, and more convenient for the user. In this blog post, we’ll explore how to optimize your website for voice search!

What is Voice Search?

Voice search is a relatively new type of search that relies on voice input. Voice searches are often faster, easier, and more convenient for the user.

With the increase in popularity of voice assistant apps and devices like Google Home and Alexa, voice search becomes increasingly more important. 

Voice search is generally faster than typing. It also allows for more natural voice input, which feels less like work to people as they speak what’s on their mind and get results back in real-time.

Why Should You Start Optimizing for Voice Search?

Voice assistants are on just about every mobile device, so almost anyone with a smartphone has access to a voice assistant. You can easily use them to help you find products, stores, restaurants, and more.

If you’re a business, you’ll want to make sure you’re there when your potential customers are searching for you. Just like with regular SEO, voice search optimization aims to make it easier for your audience to find you.

How to Optimize for Voice Search

Ready to get started? Here are some ways you can start to get your site in front of potential customers using voice search.

1. Understand Search Behavior

Voice search mostly takes place on mobile devices. The way users search and the types of keywords they use are also a little different. With voice search, keywords tend to be longer and more conversational.

Instead of “grocery stores near me,” you’ll get things like “Where’s the closest grocery store?” or “What grocery store is closest to X location?”

On top of that, local listings are even more of a priority for voice search. When people are out and about or in their car, they often need a hands-free solution, making voice search the perfect fit. They might be looking for restaurants or other stores to visit while they’re on the go.

 2. Use Structured Data Markup (Schema)

Schema for shopping websites is beneficial for all types of search. That includes voice search!

If your site has at least some type of product catalog, you’ll want to make sure it’s marked up correctly so that voice search can understand it. There are tons of different types of products to cover, but with some planning out front, you can set your site up to be voice-search friendly.

Structured data can help your site be found, either in search results or as a featured snippet directly on the search page itself. It also helps other types of devices like Google Home and Alexa.

3. Target Long-Tail and Conversational Keywords

Similar to how voice searches are different from text-based searches, you’ll want to target more conversational keywords. When you’re optimizing for voice search, it’s important to take into consideration the words your audience will most likely use.

These keywords will likely be longer and include more conversational phrases and questions, like what we mentioned earlier in this post. That’s because instead of typing out keywords, users choose a voice assistant that can understand their requests (which tend to be longer and more conversational).

Tools like Ubersuggest and Long Tail Pro are excellent (and affordable!) options to take broad keywords and drill down into related long-tail keywords.

4. Write Content Using Natural Language

Natural language voice search is becoming more and more common. Users are able to ask specific questions without having to type out entire sentences or phrases.

In the past, writers have had to find ways to work in unusual keywords that we would never use in a conversation. (You would get some very strange looks if you just waltzed up to your assistant and said, “Pizza near me!”)

When people are speaking (even to their voice assistant), they tend to treat it as though they’re speaking to a person, defaulting to entire phrases and complete sentences.

So rather than working in lots of short, broken keywords, you’ll also want to work natural questions into your content. (Like “How do I optimize my content for voice search?”)

5. Optimize for Featured Snippets

One of the biggest ways to improve your visibility in a voice search is via featured snippets. As the name implies, this is the box that appears directly under or next to the regular search results.

Featured snippets are usually created by Google to answer common questions. Your content can be displayed as a featured snippet if it’s considered useful and relevant to the user’s search.

Google uses several different signals to determine what content to feature, including:

Content quality, length, and optimization

Analytics like click-through rate (CTR), unique visitors, and other metrics

Backlinks, referrals, and social shares

If you’re optimizing for voice search, featured snippets are a great way to get new leads and keep visitors on your site longer.

Optimizing for snippets isn’t an exact science, but all snippets follow a similar format. Featured content includes a list of some sort, a neutral, objective, and brief answer that is expanded upon in the article, or, rarely, a table.

The most common ones are lists or short answers.

You can optimize for lists by including a table of content in your posts or numbering your headers.

For answers, you should include a brief but helpful answer at the beginning of your post, then dive into a more comprehensive guide in the body of your content.

You can find ideas on what related topics to include by checking out Google’s related searches or the “People also ask” section of the search engine results page (SERP).

6. Utilize FAQ Pages

FAQ pages are another great way to make sure your content is both easily searchable and leads to conversions. If you have a lot of common questions that your customers ask, it’s a good idea to create an FAQ page.

FAQ pages give users who are searching specifically for your content the ability to find what they want quickly. Additionally, it gives more information for people who have questions that aren’t addressed on the main page.

For example, if you sell candles, the FAQ page could include questions like “What are the benefits of using tea lights over candles?”

Get ideas on what to include from tools like Answer the Public or the “People also ask” section of the SERP for your target keyword.

Additionally, you can include short FAQ sections at the end of longer blog posts and add schema markup for FAQ, including questions you’ve answered in that blog post.

7. Make Your Content Easy to Understand

A huge part of SEO is how easy your content is to understand. Search engines are able to understand the meaning of your content based on the words, synonyms, and context.

How easily can your average user understand your content?

Can they skim through it or get stuck on one section? Can they easily find what they’re looking for? If you can answer “yes” for any of these questions, you’re already ahead of most other marketers.

If the average reader struggles to understand your content, the search engines are likely to have issues as well. Readers might not understand industry jargon and search engines might not favor them either, especially if it’s newer terminology.

You’ll also want to make content easy to read as well. Include clear, informative subheadings to help guide your readers through the content. Make sure each section flows from one to the other (or is at least organized in a way where readers can easily scan for the information they need).

Break up your text further with bucket brigades, formatted text, and images. Alternate between short sentences and complete paragraphs.

8. Improve Your Site Speed

Speeding up your site and its load time is crucial for SEO. Google may have some threshold for how fast your site can load, but even if that doesn’t happen, server-side sources of data will be incredibly important for ranking in search results and retaining visitors.

While it seems that Google is not as strict on this requirement, even the slightest increase in speed will help. If your site is loading more slowly than others with similar content, you’re losing out on valuable traffic.

Also, don’t forget about page load speed and bounce rates. When users spend more time waiting for pages to load, they’re less likely to keep using your site. This isn’t just an SEO issue; it’s a matter of customer service and a great user experience.

If your pages take too long to load, visitors will often bounce and look for information elsewhere. As technology has improved, visitors’ expectations have gone up. People expect a clean, speedy, functional site and they don’t want to have to wait much longer than a few seconds for things to load.

9. Write Comprehensive, Long-Form Content

If you’re going to create informational content, you want to create the type of content that people will bookmark for reference and revisit again and again. (Even better, they might find enough value in your content that they feel the need to share with others!)

Longer content reads as more valuable than short content and actually garners more shares. This is because longer articles contain more value, thanks to a wealth of in-depth information, and therefore are thought to be more credible.

Not every piece of content has to be a 6,000-word monster guide, but you at least want a good amount of “pillar” content on your main topics. These are the giant guides that pack so much value that they’ll attract links from other sites. You’ll also link back to these guides from your future blog posts as well, helping establish them as pillar/main content.

10. Leverage Local Events

Search engines often take into account live events that happen in your area.

If you’re a local store, this will likely be even more of an opportunity to rank. Luckily, Google already indexes a ton of the most popular local events on their site.

If an event has an online ticketing page, Google will likely index it automatically. For smaller events, you’ll want to make sure you have them listed on your site, as well as your Google My Business (GMB) listing.

This can also help your GMB performance. Just like with reviews, deals, posts, bookings, and other things that allow visitors to engage with your listing, events also allow for engagement. (And engagement is a big factor in how well your listing performs, not just location!)

You’ll want to check out the Schema Event markup to let Google know that you’re hosting related events. Bonus points if your venues are marked up as well!

The Future of Voice Search

While the bulk of this post has been more about optimizing content and creating a great user experience, there are a few other factors that will affect the future of voice search.

Improved technology and artificial intelligence are currently being developed to optimize voice assistant responses. For example, Google Assistant has been trained to recognize more variations of speech and how we naturally use language (versus just definitions and literal meanings).

In addition to this technology making voice assistants even better at understanding us, there are also some other aspects that will likely be affecting how this technology evolves.

As voice search gets more popular, it’s possible that there will be many different assistants competing for people’s attention.

Apple has Siri, Microsoft is developing Cortana, and Alexa is tied into Fire TV, Echo devices, and general household appliances. (Even my microwave has a built-in voice assistant that works with Echo devices.)

Apple watches and Google Home are just a few examples of the new wave of devices that are already available or coming out soon.

As these products grow in popularity, the need to optimize for voice search grows as well.

Soon, having a house full of appliances with a voice assistant may become as commonplace as owning a mobile phone. And all of these devices rely on information found online (potentially from your business!) to deliver answers to users.

Summary & Takeaways

Managing a company website for SEO can be extremely tough, especially in markets with high competition. To stand out, it’s important to get creative with your search strategy and focus on user experience as well.

Voice search isn’t something you can just “tack on” to your site as an afterthought. Instead, it requires a significant amount of planning, budgeting, and work to build an optimized voice search strategy.

But, if you choose to add voice search, it can be a beneficial addition to your marketing strategy.

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By Zac Almeida

Before joining the team at Ethical Digital, Izaias built a successful SEO agency in São Paolo, Brazil. With over twelve years of experience providing data-driven SEO, he has worked with businesses of all sizes - from SMBs to Fortune 500 companies. After selling his business to travel the world with his wife, "The SEO Hustler" has been helping companies in more than 15 countries and 6 languages thrive in the digital and search world.


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