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Optimizing your website requires many different components to not only help you boost performance and reach your goals but also provide the best user experience for your visitors. For years, most of your efforts will likely have gone into on-site SEO and optimizing your page through the written content on your pages, ready to boost your search engine rankings. But have you given any thought to voice search optimization? If you haven’t, perhaps it’s time you did.
In this guide, we’ll give you the lowdown on voice search optimization and why it’s important for your website. With our suggestions, you can lay out your own strategy for improving your website for voice search, ready to give your business a boost.
What is voice search optimization?
Every day, more and more people are turning to voice search to help them find what they need. With tools like Alexa and Siri at their disposal, people are turning to voice search for quick and useful results. From restaurant recommendations to the nearest gas station, asking questions through voice search has become the easiest way to get answers.
Voice search optimization is a method of optimizing your website to appear in voice searches. Unlike SEO, which is geared towards the way people use search engines to search for what they need, voice engine optimization considers the way people search verbally for information while ensuring your content can be read aloud using appropriate devices.
It’s estimated that the voice recognition market will reach $27.16 billion by 2026, and with 7 out of 10 consumers preferring voice search, your business could be missing out without voice search optimization.
How does an automatic speech recognition system work?
Automatic speech recognition (ASR) uses machine learning technology that converts human speech into text. This technology has many applications we encounter every day, from automatic transcriptions that provide video captions to asking your smartphone to set a timer. It’s a technology that allows people to communicate with their devices through speech and receive almost human responses in return. ASR is a key feature of many of the devices we use every day, including our phones, computers, and even our cars.
What is the importance of voice search optimization?
People are always looking for ways to do things faster, easier and better. When Google started to take off in the 2000s, it transformed the way people searched for things online. Beyond simply typing in singular words, people began to ask questions and ask for recommendations, making it even easier for people to find what they’re looking for.
But now, people want more. Being able to carry out voice searches helps save time and enables people to ask for things in the same way they’d ask a friend or a colleague. Voice search allows people to conduct searches hands-free – while listening to music in the kitchen or even while driving. And the use of voice search is growing.
In 2022, over 394 million households had smart home products, and this is expected to grow to over 533 million by 2027. Voice searches are becoming more accurate in their understanding and their responses, and young people, in particular, are heavy users of this technology.
For any business that wants to stay ahead of the curve, voice search optimization is a must, helping you to get ahead of the competition and provide users with the most useful services for their needs.
How is voice search different from text search?
The main difference between voice search and text search is that it’s more conversational. People will communicate with a speech recognition tool in the same way they might speak to a friend, asking questions instead of merely typing keywords.
Some of the key differences between voice search and text search include:
Longer search queries
When people use a voice assistant to ask a query, they will ask it the full question as if they’re talking to a person. Instead of typing in “Nearest Target” or “Local Weather Report,” someone will ask the full question, saying things like “Where is my nearest Target?” or “Give me today’s weather report.” This can have a big impact on your SEO and the need to cater to longer queries on your website.
Searches on the move
Many people conduct searches while they’re on the move. This could be while out driving or when someone is walking through their local neighborhood. People want to be able to search for local recommendations, and while using earphones or an in-car assistant, they want to access these recommendations through voice search without needing to be specific about their location.
Produces the most relevant answers, avoiding the need for selection and further research
Using a search engine for a query can produce thousands and even millions of results. This leads to further work for the user, who has to sift through the results to find the most relevant answers to their query. When a voice assistant provides an answer, it provides a single answer. This saves time, providing users with a simple answer to their query in addition to providing a snippet of information.
While text searches use few words to bring many results, voice searches can use longer searches to produce more relevant results that are better able to answer the user’s request.
Popular Voice Search Devices and Search Engines
Some of the world’s leading technology companies have launched their own voice search devices and search engines. While these were initially limited to phones and computers, they now include devices such as smart speakers, which can provide voice searches, in addition to becoming home assistants, controlling music, lighting, and even home security using just voice commands and questions.
The most popular voice search devices and search engines they’re connected to include:
- Google Home: Google
- Amazon Echo/Alexa: Bing
- Google Assistant: Google
- iPhone/Siri: Safari
- Android phones and devices: Google
- Microsoft Cortana: Bing
Voice Search Optimization Best Practices
Having a strategy in place for how to optimize voice search for your website can help ensure your website reaches its target audience and doesn’t lose out to its competitors. Understanding your customers and how they use voice search can give you greater insight to tailor your website accordingly.
Target question keywords and other long-tail keywords.
As outlined above, most people who conduct voice searches do so using specific questions. Some people may even use “please” and “thank you” in their responses. Include question keywords, including who, what, where, when, why, and how, in your content, followed by long-tail keywords that will help provide more relevant search results for users.
This is where having questions in your headings and introductory paragraphs can be useful to help improve your rankings.
Use conversational language in your content.
The great thing about voice assistants is that they allow people to speak to them in a human way, replicating the conversations they have with other people. Your language should be conversational, concise, and authentic.
It’s important to bear this in mind when designing your content – try to use more natural language that is similar to how people would ask a voice assistant. Establish what questions people may ask to try and find your business, and be sure to include this on your website, as well as your listing information.
Using Google Trends can help you discover related searches to help you enrich your content even more and help improve your voice search optimization.
Prioritize local SEO
Local SEO can have some huge benefits for voice search. More than half of people will use voice search to find a local business, preferring it over a general text search. People use voice searches to look for things that are either local to them or near where they are now, such as businesses, services, and things to do, as well as the places they may be planning to visit in the future. Optimizing your pages for local searches, especially via mobile devices, will help put your business in pole position for those search queries.
It’s important that you use local information in your content, such as place names and addresses and anything that may be unique to your location – landmarks and places of interest are particularly effective for creating more local content. You should also encourage reviews from your existing customers and ensure you have active social media profiles.
Don’t forget your local SEO basics, including using local keywords in your meta descriptions, title tags, anchor text, and the alt text of your images. You can learn more about local SEO in our FAQs article, telling you everything you need to know to help you improve yours.
Try to capture Google-featured snippets.
Snippets are extremely valuable for text searches, but they’re also incredibly powerful for voice searches. Voice assistants use snippets for their answers to questions, allowing them to provide more human responses to questions.
Some of the best techniques for optimizing your content for snippets include:
- Include a ‘what is’ heading, defining the topic your page is focused on.
- Begin your snippet with, ‘Topic is…”
- Explain the topic. Try to be concise while explaining the topic fully.
- Avoid using specifics about your business in this paragraph. You should keep things generic.
- Focus on low keyword difficulty scores to avoid being outshone by larger or more established businesses.
- Use natural language and include words and terms that your audience would use. This can be particularly useful for voice searches.
Successful snippets can make a huge difference to your search engine rankings while also improving your voice search optimization. But don’t let the quest for featured snippets stop you from optimizing the rest of your content. Consider what could be featured in Google’s ‘People Also Ask’ panel to help you provide further useful information to searchers.
Use schema markup
Several components make up effective SEO. Using schema markup is one of them, but it is also one of the lesser-known SEO tools that can help you with your voice search optimization. It’s also known as structured data, which provides some further insight as to what schema markup means.
Put simply, schema markup is the data about your website’s content that helps search engines understand it. Hidden away in your website’s source code, it categorizes your content, which returns useful results for voice search engines to provide answers to the user.
If you’re not already using schema markup, it’s time to start. It allows the major search engines, Google, Yahoo, and Bing, to categorize your pages, boosting your chances of securing featured snippets.
Build a full and relevant FAQ page.
As most people ask questions when they do a voice search, it makes sense to include a comprehensive FAQ page or section on your website that answers as many questions as possible about your business, products, or services.
One of the biggest benefits of having an FAQ page is that it allows you to include a lot of relevant information without going overboard on keywords. Adding FAQs can make your website more authoritative, providing more value to your customers.
Google is an extremely useful source to help you find the types of questions to include in your FAQs. By typing in search queries related to your business, you can take advantage of the ‘People Also Ask’ box, showing you the actual questions people are typing into search engines. Google Trends will also help you identify key questions and related searches, as well as the popularity of those searches over time.
You can regularly monitor searches for changes to ensure you’re providing your users with the most relevant information. Keep your FAQs up to date and pay attention to any new or frequent queries that come your way through email, social media, etc.
You should ensure your FAQ section has fast loading speeds and is visible and accessible on mobile devices. With a comprehensive list of questions and insightful answers, you can not only help improve your voice search optimization but improve your user experience, too.
Optimize for mobile
More than half of internet traffic comes from mobile devices, accounting for 58.33% of traffic as of 2023. In some markets, and even full continents, including Africa, the proportion of people who exclusively access the internet via a mobile device is even higher. With mobile devices playing such a key role in how people use the internet, especially when they’re on the move, it’s important to ensure your website content is optimized for mobile.
Google rewards those with string mobile optimization. If a user accesses your page and it isn’t mobile-friendly, they’ll leave immediately to go elsewhere, leaving you with a high bounce rate. Even now, many website owners neglect mobile optimization, which is something that can put your website at an advantage if you get it right.
To help make your website more mobile-friendly, you should create a separate user experience for mobile users. Menus should be simpler, content should be more concise and relevant, and most importantly, it needs to load quickly. Keep images to a minimum and ensure they are mobile-sized to stop them from making your page slower.
Your “near me” information is especially relevant for your mobile content, helping to appeal to users who want local recommendations while they’re out and about.
Keep your site fast.
Speed isn’t just useful for mobile optimization; it should be a priority for your website as a whole, whether people are accessing it from a mobile or a desktop device. As mentioned above, slow-loading websites lead to higher bounce rates, which can harm your SEO ranking and limit your voice search rankings, too. Poor speeds can interrupt your user journey, affecting your conversions and potentially driving customers away for good.
Some of the ways you can increase your page speed include:
- Choose a hosting provider that will provide you with fast page speeds. Beware of cheaper rates that may compromise your performance.
- Ensure your pages are optimized for faster loading, and this includes compressing your images. Avoid large file sizes and provide different options for desktop and mobile.
- Use caching to help improve your speeds, reducing the time it takes to load your web pages by storing copies of your files to stop a browser from having to work so hard to load content.
- Limit how much native video is included on your web pages. Large video files can take a long time to load, with many people opting to use embedded formats from YouTube and other video services to improve loading speeds.
- If you can, say goodbye to ads. Not only are they a source of frustration for your users, but they can cause your page to load slowly. Consider other monetization tactics that can help you make more money than banner and pop-up ads, which rarely achieve engagement.
Voice search optimization provides businesses with opportunities to reach more people and stay relevant in a world where technology and trends move quickly. Getting on board with voice search optimization can put your business ahead of its competition, improving user experience while providing relevant and detailed information for voice searches.
Not only will voice search optimization help a new wave of people discover your website, but it can also boost your existing SEO, taking advantage of the latest trends and practices that are very much people-focused.
Take the time to understand your customers’ needs and design content that addresses them. Voice search optimization can boost your organic traffic and ensure your website is ready for the future.