How to Optimize for Voice Search and Why You Siri-ously Need To

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Voice search is one of the fastest-growing segments of search engine optimization (SEO). Brands looking to improve their page rankings can use optimized content to perform better in voice search queries by answering questions and getting inside the head of their customers. We have some recommendations to help you make that happen.

If any of this information confuses you or makes you say, “I’d never have time for that,” consider Oneupweb’s consulting or SEO services. We’ve been helping businesses get visibility in search engines for decades.

What Is Voice Search?

Voice search refers to using a spoken query or command to search for something online. This covers a lot more than just mobile, though the habit of asking our phones questions is still the most common form. 55% of users perform voice searches from their smartphones to ask questions. Voice search is a common function in “virtual assistants” like Apple’s Siri or Android’s Google Assistant. Search engine apps like Google and Safari also offer voice search tools.

Voice search is on your wrist, too. 71% of smartwatch owners predict they’ll use wearable devices to conduct voice searches in the future. 100 million people own an Apple Watch, and since Apple has a tight fence on its ecosystem, plenty of those customers are likely to own an iPhone as well.

But voice search isn’t limited to things we take with us. Connected speakers and devices like the Google Home and Amazon Echo are growing in popularity. More than 60 million people own smart speakers in the United States alone, which is roughly 1 in 5 adults. As more homes embrace smart speakers, it will be more important for brands to compete for voice search traffic to their websites and apps.

The Impressive Capabilities of Voice Search

As companies begin to optimize their digital content for voice search, they need to understand what it is capable of. The technology has improved over the past several years to function better and smarter.

For businesses, the ROI on voice search can be substantial. If you rely on phone calls as your primary conversion, for example, you can specifically track calls generated from voice searches. Phone calls convert at 10 to 15 times higher rates than web contacts, and voice search users are often looking to make instant contact with a company for immediate information.

Here are a few more awesome features of the technology.

Voice Search Is a Conversation

Just as search queries tend to be in the form of a question, voice assistants can now remember what has already been asked and carry on the topic of your original search. For example, if you ask for a coffee shop recommendation in Traverse City, Google Assistant might point you to a spot called Brew. When you ask, “When do they open?”, Google Assistant will know that by “they,” you mean Brew.

Voice Search Uses Location as Context

There are dozens of Grand Traverse Pie Co. locations in the Midwest (and the region is a better place because of that). Voice search understands your location in context to the query “How far is it to Grand Traverse Pie Co.?” and knows you are most likely referring to the one that’s a short walk away. It also works for generic search terms like “How far away is the airport?” and other locations that users may not refer to by their full titles.

Voice Search Understands Context on Screen

If users have already pulled up a search result via text or voice search, search engines understand what content is currently on the screen. That context is used for further queries. For example, if I’m reading about my favorite baseball player, I can say, “Show me a picture of Javier with the Mets” and voice search will know that I mean Javier Baez; it won’t show, for example, pictures of Javier Bardem, the actor married to Penelope Cruz. (That Javier is a top search result for “Javier” without any context provided.)

SEO for Voice Search: Four Tips to Get it Right

The best part of optimizing for voice search is that it isn’t reinventing the wheel. Just as you would with traditional SEO, the goal is to always put yourself in the position of the user. Voice searches tend to be brief; users want a snippet of information that will help them make an immediate decision.

Here are four ways to optimize your content for voice search:

  1. Conversational keywords are king. Voice search queries are almost always conversational. One way to test out the natural tone is to say the key phrase out loud. If you would ask a question or speak to a friend that way, it’s likely conversational enough to perform well for voice search. Identify some keywords like that for your content, and check to see if those queries serve a featured snippet in search results. That’s another clue that they are prime for your optimization strategy, as featured snippets are used for voice search answers!
  2. Create content that answers questions. Even simple questions can have complicated answers. It is important to structure both keywords and content to answer initial queries briefly and succinctly but allow for further development. To use the Brew example, optimizing for voice search gives the business an opportunity to offer more information that leads to a transaction. Creating a page that just answers the question “When does Brew open?” is an okay strategy, but it doesn’t lead the user anywhere. Ideally, that same page would also include related content, such as when the menu switches from breakfast to lunch or what baked goods are typically available. Multiple headings will organize the flow of information.
  3. Bring the FAQs. An FAQ page (or multiple FAQ sections on various pages) is a way to use conversational keywords without it feeling forced. Stick with that conversational tone to provide accurate information. Update FAQs as information changes, just as you would update your hours of operation in a business listing or product catalog. Also, expand the content when search interest for a new term arises – this will require frequent keyword research. Finally, don’t forget to add FAQ schema markup so search engines know what’s up. 
  4. Local first, mobile-first. Mobile and local search are already closely linked, and that relationship is even more important when trying to rank for voice searches. Voice search queries are often from on-the-move users who need immediate information that informs not just their purchasing habits but also whether they turn left or right at the next intersection. So there are a few ways to take advantage of this urgency. First, optimize your Google My Business and other local business listings. Next, apply a local SEO strategy. And finally, use schema markup on your website content to highlight directions, business hours, contact information, and any other information that’s prime for voice search results.

Finally, use yourself as the test. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What information would you ask about your business? How would you phrase the query if you were asking a friend? How would you like to have that information answered or presented as a response from Siri or on a web page?

Test Out Voice Search Optimization with Oneupweb

All right, it’s time to try this out. Do a voice search for “Call Oneupweb.” Let’s start updating your SEO strategy and knock out a few other to-dos on your marketing list. (Or you could just send us an email to learn about our digital expertise.)

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