The SEO best practices you are familiar with deal almost exclusively with text. Even images in your blog posts contain alt attributes can contribute to keyword rankings. When we think about someone using a search engine, we typically think of someone sitting in front of a computer or mobile device, typing their search into.
Voice search presents new opportunities and challenges for SEO experts and digital marketers. When someone is searching for a product by shouting across the room at Alexa, how can you make sure that your products or content appears first?
The first step is to make SEO for voice search a priority in your overall SEO strategy. Use these tips to normalize voice search best practices. When voice search takes over, your business won’t have to go back and redo all of their content to meet current trends.
Voice search isn’t just a new trend. Consumers around the world are looking for information and products through voice search right now.
Two years ago, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that one in five searches were made through voice. The same year, studies showed that when looking exclusively at mobile devices, 60% of searches were made with voice.
The trend is only growing stronger and stronger as “personal assistants” offer more opportunities for searching. Amazon Alexa does more than quick Google searches; users can order a pizza or a rideshare just by asking Alexa to do so.
Voice search isn’t just dominated by one software, but the top virtual assistants are all competing for the prize as top dog. Here are some quick stats about some of the top voice search software:
Cortana, Microsoft’s AI assistant, has 133 million monthly users.
Alexa, Amazon’s AI device, is the top dog in smart speakers. Amazon and Google account for 94% of all smart speakers in use. These speakers are mainly kept in the user’s living room or common room.
Google Assistant is everywhere. Over 400 million devices can use Google Assistant to make voice searches. Google Home is one of the more accurate AI assistants; it answers 81% of all user questions correctly. Compare that to Amazon Echo’s success rate (64%) or Apple HomePod’s success rate (52.3%.)
Siri, Apple’s AI assistant, is the most popular among the larger voice search audience. When people who used AI assistants were surveyed, 45% said they had used Siri. Siri is followed by Google Now (33%,) Cortana (27%,) and then Amazon Echo/Alexa (10%.)
Smart speakers and AI assistants on mobile devices are separate software, but the two complement each other and encourage the use of the other. According to a study from NPR and Edison Research, 44% of smart speaker users have reported using mobile voice search more often since getting their speaker.
The top industries that came up in voice searches included:
If you are in any of these industries, it is especially important to start optimizing your content for voice search. Even if your business is outside of these industries, consumers will start searching for you through voice soon. Experts predict that 50% of all searches will be done with voice commands by 2020.
The same keywords and strategies your business will use to target voice search are not the same as text search. Put in the work to optimize your content for voice search now, so you don’t miss out on opportunities in the future.
Keyword data including short keyword phrases isn’t enough to match up with voice searches. Voice searches tend to be longer than typical text searches. It is not uncommon for a voice search to have seven or eight words. A search that might look like “coffee near me” online may sound like “Alexa, what coffee shops near me are open now?” Shift your focus keywords to include these long-tail keywords and optimize to that focus.
When you are collecting data about how users are searching, pay attention to their language and how they might answer their own questions. The average Google result for voice searches is written at a 9th grade reading level. Siri and other AI assistants are smart, but they still want to create a conversational environment with users.
So your customers are asking long-tail questions, but want a quick answer from Alexa or Google Assistant. How can you deliver that content to consumers in a way that search engines know that you are relevant and informative?
It’s time to write a Frequently Asked Questions page.
An FAQ page combines the opportunities of using long-tail keywords and quick answers. FAQ pages don’t have to be generic questions that contain competitive long-tail keywords.
Think about the features of your products and what makes them unique from your competitors. Include a lot of questions; the average word count of a Google voice search result is 2,312 words.
Let’s go back to the coffee shop example. If your coffee shop has free wi-fi, outlets, or other amenities for groups to hold business meetings, put that information on your website through an FAQ page. Your page will be more likely to come up when a local consumer is asking Alexa, “Where can I find a coffee shop with free wi-fi?”
AI assistants need answers now. Is your page ready to provide those answers?
Voice search requires pages to load faster than for regular searches. The average results page for voice search loads in 4.6 seconds, which is over 50% faster than the time it takes to load text-based search results.
Page load speed isn’t just important for voice search. Consumers attribute page load speed to their overall user experience. Websites that take more than three seconds to load lose up to half of their potential conversions. There are a few different tricks for increasing loading speed, including compressing images. Choosing the right codes or strategies to make your pages load faster could help you see more traffic, more conversions, and a smaller bounce rate.
When consumers are using voice search on a mobile device, they are three times more likely looking for local businesses or services than if they are using a text search. Voice search is all about immediacy and proximity. If your content materials are not optimized to include your current location, you may be handing your rankings (and potential customers) over to the business next door.
Look through your targeted keywords. How many of them include your location? Do they include locations in the surrounding areas? (For example, a business in Auckland may also optimize content for specific suburbs around the city, like North Shore or Mount Eden.)
Take advantage of services like Google My Business and Yelp. Any website or app where you can let local users know about your business should be a priority in your overall digital marketing plan.
Remember that as voice search is becoming more popular around the world, the technology used to deliver accurate results is still not perfect. Be aware of how an increase in voice search may result in users seeing your websites pop up for irrelevant searches. Take a careful look at what is bringing users to your website.
Traffic isn’t enough to boost sales; you need to direct the right traffic to your page. Someone who searches for Melbourne coffee shops in Australia and gets a list of Melbourne coffee shops in Florida is not going to end up making a purchase. Adjust your strategy accordingly to make sure you are answering the questions of the audience you want to attract.
Megan Okonsky is a copywriter and content marketing specialist with Digital Squad. She is originally from Philadelphia but has landed in Melbourne after traveling for eight months in Southeast Asia and New Zealand. She also teaches vinyasa yoga online.