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Voice Search SEO: How to Optimise Your Content
Vocal interfaces are profoundly changing search behaviours on the web. So how should you adapt your natural referencing strategy?
Voice Search SEO on Google and Its Importance
What is voice search?
Voice search refers to a new way of conducting internet searches using your voice instead of a keyboard. It emerged alongside voice assistants on smartphones and computers like Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, or Alexa. With voice commands, you can simply dictate your query through the device’s microphone. The assistant then provides spoken results along with the traditional search engine results page (SERP) displayed on the screen. This technology has seen tremendous growth with the popularity of smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo. Its success can be attributed to the ease with which requests can be made. In fact, while the average person speaks around 150 words per minute, they typically type only about 40 words on a keyboard in the same amount of time. This means that speech is four times faster than writing!
What is the purpose of voice search?
Voice search serves primarily three contexts: on-the-go with a smartphone, during activities that require the use of both hands (such as sports or cooking), or at home using a connected device (typically a smart speaker). However, the aspect that stands out is the local dimension. In fact, 58% of consumers have already used voice search to find local businesses, and the volume of queries containing terms like “near me” or “close by” on Google has seen a significant exponential increase in recent years. This localisation of searches is strongly associated with the use of mobile devices.
Why do we use voice commands?
For finding information
Voice search is widely used to find information and content, such as weather updates, news, and the latest updates about brands or products.
For finding products
A good portion of consumers uses voice search to discover and purchase products or services online.
For asking questions
Voice search is perfect for quickly obtaining answers to simple questions, like finding a nearby restaurant or knowing the showtimes of a film.
For launching apps
Voice commands enable users to effortlessly open apps, make calls, listen to music or podcasts, start videos, and more.
For navigating somewhere
Voice assistants are incredibly helpful when it comes to searching for addresses or planning routes, especially while on the go. In fact, 53% of users use voice search while driving.
For hands-free convenience
A remarkable 68% of users rely on voice assistants to perform actions when their hands are occupied, like cooking or engaging in sports.
Why is Google embracing voice search?
Voice recognition technology is available on most devices, and every major web company has its own version: Apple has Siri, Amazon has Alexa, Samsung has Bixby, and Microsoft has Cortana. However, it’s Google that has shown the most interest in voice search through Google Assistant. The recent focus of the company speaks for itself: prioritising mobile results with the Mobile-First Index, significant advancements in natural language processing through updates like RankBrain (BERT and MUM), and Google’s ambition to become an “answer engine.” All of these factors indicate a shift towards a Voice-First experience or, at the very least, a significant emphasis on voice commands. Although there may be behavioural and legal barriers such as data privacy concerns, it’s clear that voice search has a promising future ahead.
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How does voice search impact SEO?
Voice search: a different approach to seeking information
Normally, when someone wants to find information on a search engine, they would type in keywords that represent their query. But with voice search, things change: instead of typing the desired terms on a keyboard, users speak complete sentences out loud. For instance, when looking for a nearby mechanic, one would typically type in keywords like “mechanic in Vesoul.” However, with voice search, the query becomes more specific, such as “How can I find a good mechanic in Vesoul?” or “Where is the nearest mechanic located?” (with geolocation activated). Consequently, both the query and the approach to SEO optimisation need to be adapted to accommodate the unique characteristics of voice search.
The impact of voice search on SEO
When closely examining how voice search affects natural referencing, several key trends can be identified.
Geolocated search results
Internet users frequently turn to voice search to gather information about local businesses or nearby events. With Google’s ability to track user locations, it can easily provide geolocated results. This means that search results will focus on stores, restaurants, and other establishments situated in the same area as the user. As a result, optimising for local search becomes crucial in adapting your SEO strategy.
When using voice search, users tend to pose their queries as complete questions rather than fragmented keywords. For instance, they might ask, “What’s the current weather like?”, “What time does the movie start?”, or “Can you provide me with a recipe for coconut chicken?” These question-based formulations reveal clear and specific intentions, requiring SEO strategies to address them effectively.
Conversational language queries
Voice search encourages the use of natural, conversational language in queries. Users tend to include articles, prepositions, determiners, and multiple clauses when speaking their queries. Google has made efforts to better understand these complex queries and provide more precise and relevant answers. As a result, keyword selection in an SEO strategy needs to consider the shift towards conversational language.
Significantly longer queries
With voice search, queries often become longer as users express their needs in complete sentences. This shift towards longer queries benefits the “long tail” keywords. These are expressions consisting of more than four words, which may be less popular than generic keywords but offer lower competition and higher conversion potential. Therefore, prioritising longer queries is essential in voice search SEO.
Oral search results
Voice assistants deliver responses orally, which has significant implications for SEO. Content needs to be optimised to be easily understood by voice assistants. Additionally, voice assistants prioritise the most relevant response, often in the form of a featured snippet. This emphasises the importance of striving for the coveted Position Zero in the search engine results page (SERP).
Voice search is predominantly used on mobile devices, especially when users are on the go or multitasking. As a result, search results are typically displayed on smartphone screens. This underscores the need for an SEO strategy that considers the mobile user’s browsing experience. It’s crucial to ensure that optimised pages are mobile-friendly and provide a seamless experience across various mobile devices.
What results does voice search yield?
When conducting a voice search, the outcomes can vary depending on the device being used. For instance, a smart speaker will provide an oral response, aiming to deliver a single result, ideally the one in Position Zero. However, if the voice search is performed on a computer or smartphone, Google will display a typical SERP. This SERP presents a range of responses tailored to the query, including organic links, sponsored links, videos, and product listings via “Shopping.” In essence, voice search does not fundamentally alter the objective of SEO, which is to optimise pages for achieving higher rankings in the SERP.
How to structure content for voice search SEO?
A guide to voice search SEO
Now that you understand what voice search is, how users use it, and how it impacts organic search rankings, the next logical question is: How do you structure content to be served as results for spoken queries? Whether the result is delivered orally through a smart assistant or displayed on the user’s screen as a standard SERP, the goal of “voice search SEO” remains the same: to position your pages at the top (according to SEMrush, 80% of results provided by Google Home come from the top 3 organic links) while striving to best meet the intention of the search.
Techniques for voice search SEO
For the most part, the optimisation techniques for voice search align with traditional SEO practices. However, there are a few specific tactics to incorporate into your organic search strategy.
Using local SEO
Local SEO and voice search SEO are closely connected. It is crucial to utilise local SEO tactics to optimise your pages and improve your rankings in voice search results. Additionally, ensure that you have a complete Google ‘My Business’ listing to provide relevant practical information like address, directions, opening hours, and contact details, which will be served in response to voice queries.
Given that oral queries often take the form of questions, it is important to create content that offers clear, precise, detailed, and simple answers. Incorporate the question in the H1 and title tags, and consider providing variations to address different scenarios.
Refining your writing style
Writing quality plays a significant role in SEO, particularly in voice search. Voice assistants seek information that can be easily read aloud, so it is essential to structure your content effectively using appropriate heading tags (Hn), employ concise sentences, adopt an instructive tone, and eliminate spelling or grammatical errors.
Working with conversational queries
Say goodbye to generic keywords and embrace conversational queries, commonly referred to as “long-tail” queries, to align with how users naturally express their requests. Additionally, shift your focus from the keywords themselves to delivering high-quality answers, optimising the page structure, and enriching its semantic depth.
Understanding user intent
When confronted with queries formulated as questions, crafted in long, natural language sentences, it becomes crucial to delve into the underlying intent of the users. For instance, a question like “What time does store X open?” clearly indicates a specific intention that should guide your content strategy to provide an accurate response.
Leveraging structured data
Structured data plays a vital role in SEO by creating enriched snippets in the SERP. These snippets, such as the “Knowledge Graph,” offer additional information that is particularly valuable for voice searches. Although structured data doesn’t directly impact organic rankings, it provides precise and detailed answers to users’ queries.
Ensuring mobile compatibility
In voice search SEO, it’s vital to have pages that are optimised for mobile devices. The results should be able to be displayed properly on smartphones and tablets. Another important consideration is the loading speed. Users expect an immediate response because they intend to take a particular action, such as visiting a physical store.
Building FAQ pages
A question often leads to many additional inquiries. Google understands this well with its “People also ask” feature, which promptly provides answers to “what,” “who,” “how,” “where,” and more. A smart approach to positioning yourself is to address all these questions within a single page, creating a comprehensive FAQ section that covers the common queries of internet users.
Targeting Position Zero
Position Zero refers to the result displayed at the top of the SERP. This ‘snippet’ is crucial in voice search as intelligent assistants often read out content from this position. To optimise for Position Zero, your page should provide a concise and concrete answer to the query (approximately 30 to 50 words) in a paragraph placed after the introduction. It’s important to incorporate the query in the H1 title and title tag, ensure proper page structure (consider using bullet-pointed lists), use clear and concise sentences, and create comprehensive content (between 500 and 1,000 words). Additionally, consider adding “speakable” tags to indicate the sections of the page that are most suitable for text-to-speech reading by Google’s algorithms. Remember, your content needs to be more relevant and valuable than that of your competitors, and a bit of good fortune never hurts!
Steps to improve your voice search SEO
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Voice search refers to the act of conducting web searches by using voice commands, speaking your query out loud. This feature is now available on various devices such as smartphones, computers, and smart speakers through voice assistants. These assistants can provide spoken responses or display a search engine results page (SERP) on the screen.
Voice search is increasingly popular among internet users due to its numerous benefits. Speaking queries saves time as it is quicker than typing, allows for instant access to specific information, enables natural language questioning, and enables hands-free searching even when your hands are busy.
The approach to “voice search SEO” involves various strategies. To optimise your content, you can focus on local SEO, provide comprehensive answers to questions, ensure well-structured and engaging pages, target conversational queries, utilise structured data, ensure mobile responsiveness, and create an FAQ section… all while keeping the user’s intent in mind.