In 2010, Google Labs gave birth to the voice search. Initially, users would have to call a phone number provided by Google to conduct a voice-based search. Once a user would call on the number, they were prompted with the “say your search keywords” message. Once the user says their search keywords, they were sent a link which would take them to the SERP (search engine result page) of the relevant keywords.
However, the Google voice search study has come a long way in almost eight years. In the subsequent years, Google has spent a lot of time and money in perfecting their speech recognition technology and integrating the technology in some popular Google products. In 2018, Google voice search is an indispensable part of the seamless user experience Google is trying to offer.
At a time when voice-searches are gaining popularity, it only makes sense for businesses and marketers to adapt and optimize their marketing endeavors to make them compatible with the (arguably) new technology.
What Is Voice Search SEO and Why Is It Popular?
As the name suggests, Google Voice Search allows users to search the Internet using Google through voice-activated commands, instead of typing.
Available across devices, Voice Search, is rapidly gaining traction and is here to stay. In fact, in the May 2016 Google I/O Keynote, Google CEO Sundar Pichai revealed that 20% of queries on the Google mobile app and Android devices are voice searches. With a total of 33 million voice-first devices in circulation last year, the popularity of voice search is bound to increase.
The reason behind this trend is pretty apparent. Voice Search SEO is more expedient. KPCB conducted research and narrowed down the primary reasons people prefer using voice search. This is what their analysis revealed:
The Hummingbird Update
Some time ago, Google rolled out the most significant update in their core algorithm. This update is called The Hummingbird update, and it revolutionized the way people use search engines. The most prominent feature of this update was the semantic search, which focused on the intent of the search query, instead of the keywords.
No longer could marketers stuff keywords in their content for better SERP performance. Instead, they are now forced to create quality content that addresses the needs of the users.
The semantic search was also a big push forward for the Voice Search. Voice Search and semantics go hand-in-hand when it comes to Google’s objective of improving the user experience.
What Is Voice Search Being Used for?
Now that we have established that Voice Search is becoming increasingly popular let’s find out what is it being used for?
The answer to this question varies between age groups. In 2014, Google released a study which shed some light on the usage patterns of Voice Search SEO Study:
While it is evident that there are differences in the reasons for using Voice Search between teenagers and adults, there are still many common uses like making calls and asking for directions.
Now that we have understood how Voice Search works and what it is being used for let’s look at how marketers and businesses can optimize their websites to reap the maximum benefits of this new technology.
Optimizing Your Website for Voice Search
If you already have an SEO plan in place, optimizing for Voice Search is not going to be a lot of work. That means, optimizing for Voice Search does not involve a complete overhaul of your current SEO strategy. Marketers need to make some proactive changes to adapt to the new technology.
Everyone knows that when it comes to good SEO, content is king. However, great marketers know search engines look at a bunch of other factors while ranking websites. Structured data, also known as schema markup, is one such factor.
Schema Markup is the data about the information on your website, present in the source code of your site.
While the schema markup is not visible to users, search engines use it to organize and classify the content on your website.
When users conduct local searches, they are usually looking for business information like operational hours, addresses, directions, and phone numbers. By updating these in the schema markup, you will be able to ensure that the search engines classify and display this data to potential clients and customers.
To take this a step further, it is a great idea to build and submit a detailed XML sitemap to Google, which will further enhance the visibility of your business.
Targeting long-tail keywords are possibly the best, and the most underused strategy when it comes to optimizing for Voice Search. Long-tail keywords, as their name suggests, are phrases that are longer than your regular search query. While most marketers ignore these for high-competition short keywords, long-tail keywords make more sense from the semantic search point of view.
Moreover, since Voice Search does not involve typing, they are more conversational, and hence, make use of long-tail keywords. Targeting and bidding for long-tail, conversational keywords are not only going help improve visibility, offering on these search terms usually means substantially less competition, and not to forget lower bids.
Google My Business Listings
As mentioned earlier, most local searches are inquiries about business information. Having updated and correct information on Google’s My Business listings will make your website more useful, and more relevant to prospects looking for information online.
Try to make your listing as informative as possible. You never know which piece of information may prompt a potential customer to visit your establishment.
Optimize for ‘Near Me’ Searches and Local Searches
At a time when 50% of consumers that conduct a local search are visiting the store on the same day, the importance of ‘near me’ searches or local searches cannot be exaggerated.
To make the case of local searches even stronger, let’s talk about why people are using Voice Search. As we saw earlier, making calls and finding directions are the top two things people are using Voice Search for. With Voice Search, users will be looking for stores that sell specific products, and optimizing for local search will help your business be visible to the right prospects.
Most voice searches happen on the go, on mobile devices. In such a consequence, it is imperative to devour a mobile-friendly website. While it might sound like a lot of work, having a responsive website is worth all the effort. Moreover, if you have a WordPress website, you probably already have a responsive website.
To check the mobile-friendliness of your website, you can take help of the Google Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.
Similarly, pay attention to your page load times. Studies have shown that a 1-second delay in your page load time can bring down conversion rates by a whopping 7%! There are several free tools available online that you can utilize to test the speed of your website.
3 SEO Tips for Voice Search Optimization
Voice Search is rapidly gaining traction, and only those marketers that can adapt will be able to reap the benefits. While the future of Voice Search is still pretty unpredictable, it sure seems bright. So pull up your pants and start modifying your SEO strategy to jump on the Voice Search wagon early on.