Of all the shifts in the digital marketing landscape over the past decade, voice search may prove to be the most significant. Refinements in natural language processing technology and the widespread use of voice assistants such as Apple's Siri, Amazon's Echo and Google Assistant have made voice search not only an alternative to traditional text search, but soon to be the default.
50% of search queries are expected to be made using voice recognition systems in 2020, according to ComScore, and 30% of searches will be carried out on devices without a screen. Marketers need to recognize this change in consumer habits and to adapt their SEO strategies to capture voice searches.
The main difference between text and voice searches is how search queries are phrased. While text searches are typically short and stilted, using the minimum words possible, voice searches are more likely to be longer, natural and conversational.
Text search example: 'voice search seo'
Voice search example: 'how do I optimize for voice search?'
To capture these searches, you should make sure your headings and content are written how people actually speak. Since Google's algorithm favors user-friendly content, you should be doing this anyway.
Something else that won't have escaped your attention is that voice search queries tend to be a lot longer than traditional searches. They include more 'filler' words that people tend to leave out when typing rather than speaking, such as 'how do I...' and 'what is...'
To optimize your content for voice search, you should target long-tail keywords. These are variations on your main keywords that capture more specific queries and have a higher click-through rate than general keywords.
As well as including long-tail keyword variations in your content, keyword bidding is cheaper for long-tail keywords.
Voice assistants encourage users to phrase their search queries in the form of questions. One way to improve your ranking for these searches is to write your content using a question and answer format – anticipating the types of questions people who come to your website might have and answering them in advance.
FAQ pages are ideal for this, but any page can target question phrases when you phrase subheadings as questions that are answered by the paragraph below. This also improves your chance of appearing in Google's featured snippets or answer boxes.
In the old days, each search was isolated and had to specify all the terms you were looking for. Today, Google remembers the context of your recent search history, allowing for more conversational follow-up questions that are a perfect fit for voice search.
This means you don't have to include your keyword in every single subheading to clarify what the subject is. Google can work it out based on other keywords in the content and users will still find you.
Google's data reveals that most voice searches are for local information, particularly directions and contact details. This offers local businesses a great advantage when local SEO is optimized for voice search.
Make sure your website and directory listings include all the information customers might be looking for (directions, parking, contact number, opening hours) in the conversational language they're using. This information should be in plain text that Google can read, not hidden in images or under expandable 'hamburger' menus that don't always work on mobiles.
Important terms to target in long-tail keywords are your location and the always-popular 'near me.'
- Use conversational language
- Target long-tail keyword phrases
- Structure content in Q&A format
- Include semantic follow-up questions
- Make local business information clearly visible
- Target your location and 'near me' searches