Voice Search in SEO

“Hey Google, find me a nearby pizza place.”

“Alexa, what's the weather like today?

These are just two of the millions of searches that users conduct every day via their voice assistant devices. And on the other side of the search, marketers need to modify their SEO strategy so they’re accessible through Voice Search.

9 Things To Know When Optimizing For Voice Search

Before we dive into updating your SEO efforts for voice search, let’s take a look at some important findings from a recent study of 10,000 Google Home results:

  • 1. “PageSpeed appears to play a major role in voice search SEO. The average voice search result page loads in 4.6 seconds (52% faster than the average page).”
    Our Thoughts: Websites should always be optimized to load as quickly as possible; if it’s also an important factor in voice search SEO, then it’s more important than ever.

  • 2. “HTTPS websites dominate Google’s voice search results. 70.4% of Google Home result pages are secured with HTTPS.”
    Our Thoughts: The same as #1 — security should always be of the highest priority and its importance is clearly increased.

  • 3. “Google prefers short, concise answers to voice search questions. Typical voice search is only 29 words in length.”
    Our Thoughts: Most of us key in less than 10 words when searching. That kind of brevity is also key for providing answers on the other end of the search.

  • 4. “Schema may not play a key role in voice search rankings. 36.4% of voice search results come from pages that use Schema (which is only slightly higher than the worldwide average of 31.3%).”
    Our Thoughts: While we’ve written about the importance of Schema for SEO here, it seems that it’s not as crucial for voice search.

  • 5. “Content with high levels of social engagement tends to perform well in voice search. In fact, the average voice search result has 1,199 Facebook shares and 44 Tweets.”
    Our Thoughts: A strong social media presence is hugely helpful for SEO. By creating engaging and shareable social content, you can improve your search ranking.

  • 6. “Simple, easy-to-read content may help with voice search SEO. The average Google voice search result is written at a 9th grade level.”
    Our Thoughts: We also believe in the KISS (“Keep It Simple, Silly”) philosophy.

  • 7. “We found that very few voice search results had the exact query in their title tag. Therefore, creating individual pages for each voice search query doesn’t appear to be an effective voice search SEO strategy.”
    Our Thoughts: Finding efficiencies is always helpful. Skipping on these kinds of activities means we can focus on the activities that are more effective.

  • 8. The average word count of a voice search result page is 2,312 words.Therefore, Google tends to source voice search answers from long form content.
    Our Thoughts: If “content is king” and long-form content is more effective for voice search, then your blog posts, case studies, and other content needs to be done well.

  • 9. Content that ranks highly in desktop search is also very likely to appear as a voice search answer. In fact, approximately 75% of voice search results rank in the top 3 for that query.
    Our Thoughts: Search seems to be device-agnostic, since whatever works on a desktop will likely work on a tablet or smartphone.

Let’s Get Optimizing

There are plenty of theories on how to optimize your site for voice search.

Based on the information we have (such as the research above), we recommend these four voice search optimization strategies to help improve your ranking. (You might actually be doing some of these already if you’re utilizing current SEO best practices!)

  • Keep your user in mind. Think like a searcher and understand what they want and need from their search. Thinking about the questions they have will help you preemptively answer those questions; you can organize your site in a way that makes it easier for Google to look through your content and rank you highly in their search results.

  • Consider other search engines. Google is #1, but there’s a pretty good reason to focus on Bing — especially since Apple’s Siri uses it as its primary engine. With a powerful customer base for iPhones, the users who search via Siri are definitely worth the effort.

  • Use long-tail keywords. By targeting and bidding on long-tail keywords — search terms and phrases that are longer than the usual search queries — which are estimated to make up about 70% of all searches. These are especially helpful for voice search, where most people use longer queries because they’re speaking more conversationally. (Also, long-tail keywords usually cost less and often provide better click-through rates than shorter queries.)

  • Make sure your “Google My Business” listing is up-to-date. As with pretty much any information online, you’ve got to be current. The more current your information in your Google My Business listing is, the more useful it is — and the more relevant your site will be to visitors. And an updated, comprehensive listing will be highly valuable for the searchers who use the mobile “Near Me” function as well.

Is Schema Helpful For Voice Search Rankings?

You may know that Schema.org markup — using a common vocabulary for structured data across the Internet and in email — can help search engines better understand your content. However, it’s mostly unlikely that using Schema will impact on voice search results. A recent study revealed that slightly more than 35% of voice search result pages used Schema markup — whereas the average page on the internet scores just above 30%. So overall, the difference isn’t all that noteworthy.

In addition, it appears that nearly 65% of voice search results don’t use Schema at all. Each of these statistics makes a strong case that Schema does not have a strong impact on voice search rankings.

However, we do want to note that when it’s used properly, Schema can improve your search visibility on any platform. Even if it won’t necessarily help with voice search SEO, it can be worthwhile.

How “Loud” is the Power of Voice?

More and more people are using voice search — whether it’s Google Home, Alexa, or Siri. But what are they using it for? Taking a look at their usage can give us some important insights for voice search SEO.

Currently, driving directions are the #1 reason that people use voice search — which makes sense, since hands-free voice search is easier and safer when you’re behind the wheel.

Other top reasons for using voice search:

  • Dictating text messages
  • Utilizing mobile device call functions
  • Checking the time
  • Playing media

It’s important to note that voice search use will be more and more common as voice-first mobile devices become more popular around the world. Plus, many users have only recently started using voice search on a regular basis.

Specialization by Voice Devices

This report predicts that smart devices will be installed in 55% of U.S. homes by 2022. In addition, more than 70 million homes will have at least one Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Sonos One — and the overall number of installed devices will exceed 175 million. But consumers don’t usually buy hardware —they want to buy great experiences, and that’s why specialization is key.

Let’s look at the most popular “A.I. Assistants”:

Amazon Echo

  • Introduced in 2014
  • First always-on, dedicated voice device
  • Name chosen because the “x” sound is recognized more exactly
  • 100 million Alexa-enabled devices sold; now available in 41 countries
  • Connects with compatible devices: Amazon Echo/Echo Show and Amazon Dot
  • Strong expertise in commerce per Amazon

Google Home

  • “Smart speaker” launched in late 2016
  • “Mini” and “Max” versions introduced in 2017
  • “Hub” with touchscreen display released in 2018
  • 52 million devices sold in U.S. (43 million on the U.S.)
  • Takes advantage of Google web-searching capabilities to provide intelligent responses to general questions
  • Highly capable at email, contacts and calendar, with potential for gaming strength (all aided by Microsoft)

Each of these devices (and others) will be competing to be the dominant controller of the kitchen, living room, and bedroom.

If the popularity of this technology reminds you of the Jetsons or Star Trek, that’s no coincidence. A Google executive noted during a conversation with Guy Kawasaki at SXSW Interactive in 2013 that their goal for the Google search engine was “to become that Star Trek computer.”

The Impact of Google's Hummingbird Update for Voice Search

In 2013, Google made some big changes to its core algorithm — which is the decision-making formula that chooses which search results to show users.

Basically, it began placing greater importance on search queries that were in “natural language” and took context and meaning into account, instead of just individual keywords. In addition, it dug deeper into the content on individual webpages, since now it could direct users right to the most relevant page (and not just the homepage).

Content writers and web developers then began optimizing their sites with natural writing — instead of forcing keywords awkwardly into sentences over and over — creating more “human” interactions in searches.

This paradigm shift towards more conversational language dovetails perfectly with voice search. Because users tend to use longer search phrases, Google is better equipped to understand what they are looking for — and will deliver more accurate and relevant search results.

Since Google has changed the way it conducts its searches — with a focus on more conversational language — it is well-prepared to provide on-target voice search results.

Will Optimized Voice Search Bring Revenue Opportunities?

(Spoiler Alert: It certainly can.)

There’s great potential for generating revenue via optimized voice search — especially for marketers who want to drive foot traffic to their brick-and-mortar locations. By integrating voice search with local search listings, users who are driving around and conducting “Near me” searches will find the local businesses they’re looking for.

These kinds of searches have been increasing exponentially over the past several years and are most often performed via mobile devices.

And while most voice assistants are free to users, advertising just might become a gold-mine opportunity for voice assistants. Of course, that means advertisers will need to have a solid brand voice strategy to go along with the business information they provide.

A note of caution: Today’s savvy consumers may disapprove of ads coming from their voice assistants. Clearly, businesses will need to tread lightly here so as to not annoy customers and prospects.

What the Future of Voice Search Could Look Like

There are two trends that will likely lead to more focus on voice search optimization — increasingly personalized web browsing and people-based marketing. By being able to target users more specifically than ever, marketers can provide consumers with unique, individualized experiences both online and offline. Creating these customized experiences during the search process will be of paramount importance in building both brands and customer loyalty.

Additionally, Google Voice Search and similar technologies are “learning” to recognize our voice commands and keywords. Over time, Google will figure out our voices, accents, and speech patterns — as well as behavior, browsing preferences, and other personal information.

So, as voice search continues to become smarter, more responsive, and more accurate, marketers will need to focus on providing search engines with the information and experiences that people want. Because in the end, it’s all about Google, Alexa and Siri answering all those questions that users have.

To learn more about voice search and how to get ahead of the pack on voice search integration, contact Code Authority's digital marketing team today!