7 basic SEO principles to know for voice search
Voice search is a unique factor that influences your SEO potential. For some reason all too many webmasters still ignore this fact, which is why we will breakdown how voice search SEO impacts search, your websites and potential customers.
This article has been a long time coming. We have reached a point in time where voice search has become so dominant it can no longer be ignored as just a gimmick or novelty.
While it may feel awkward at first for many, once people get used to it, it feels like another natural tech extension of our brains. After a few attempts it becomes a standard approach to search and use other voice operated tasks, such as “call dad”.
In case you were wondering how huge voice search really is, consider this little story:
In 2017, Google made a deal with Apple to switch from Bing to Google as Siri’s default search engine. A deal which some speculate was priced in the billions. This just shows that the big companies are expecting people to have a voice search device at home and use it in their everyday lives.
And this is just one of the reasons you NEED to start taking voice search SEO seriously.
Now let’s go over some basic principles that makes voice search different than traditional written search:
1. Keyword research and Semantics
Like all SEO efforts a fundamental part of success is accurate and relevant keyword targeting. For starters you need to acknowledge that writing a search query and speaking one will be phrased differently.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to find a good sushi place near your current location. Your regular written search query might simply be “sushi place” on your phone, and then you will see GMB Sushi places nearby. The voice search query might be “Where is the closest sushi place?”.
So, most search queries will be phrased in a more coherent talkative question form, rather than blunt statements. Long-tail keywords may also be more useful as voice search keywords.
To help you research relevant question keywords you have 3 options:
Answer the Public has become a popular keyword research tool for many experts that want to focus on voice search. This is because it gives you possible questions people might ask about any given keyword. Note that the advanced features are paid.
Google’s “People Also Ask” feature is also helpful in finding good spoken search terms:
Finally you can use our Keyword Suggestion Tool that will find question keywords for you, that already have an established search volume behind them on all the search engines that we track.
2. Making content by Search intent
Consider that most search queries will be in different stages of the purchasing journey and about very specific topics with clear intent. Ideally you should have content that is relevant and ready to address these specific intentions.
Having said that, search intent is slightly easier to handle since people will be more accurate and clearer in their search queries.
For all their highly advanced algorithms, Google’s ability to recognize clear intent through naturally assumed context will never be quite perfect and will always diverge to the most common intents. You might be searching for the term “Omega 3 supplements”, but is it your intent to buy these supplements or simply to learn about them? Whoever is statistically more relevant will top the charts.
In a voice search, both intents will likely be phrased differently and more accurately, such as “how much do Omega3 supplements cost?” and “what are the benefits of Omega 3?”
We can breakdown the search intentions into 4 categories:
General information: “Who is Albert Einstein?” | “How to make sushi?” | “How to repair pianos?”
Specific searches (also known as Navigational Intent): “Facebook” | “Google Analytics” | “McDonalds”
Transactional (clear buying intent): “Pizza delivery” | “Where to buy a refurbished Galaxy S8”
Consumer research and investigation (future purchase intent): “what are the best smartphones of 2019?”
3. Schema structured data for voice search
As you may have guessed you will have to start adding quite a few FAQ segments into your content if you want to address the most common voice searches.
For that you have your supported Schema structured data elements which are perfect for this. In case you are not yet familiar, or simply struggling with this tops, check out our full Schema article.
Here are Google’s FAQ documentation on structured data. If you use it wisely and implement relevant FAQ content that corresponds to the service or product you sell, you might just gain those voice search visitors.
But this of course doesn’t stop there. Voice search can actually be considered a double edged sword, since while it is powerful it only returns the best and most optimized search result. To get that spot you need to implement structured data all across your website and not just FAQ. We’re talking about all the needed Schema categories that might address voice searches such as: products, events, recipes, organizations, how-to content, etc.
Since voice search is more accurate, the most relevant search result wins. If Google understands what your content is about because everything is structured correctly, you will have a better chance to nab those sought-after voice searches.
4. Future-proofing and using the latest Google features for voice search
Voice search, in a way, feels like mobile search optimization felt 7 years ago. It was clear it was going to become a big deal but was still in its adolescence period. Some showed doubt and underestimated what the future held for mobile. Today, 2019, mobile search results are 100% different from desktop search results on Google. By now everyone understands that mobile SEO is an industry standard and in many cases more important than desktop optimization. In the future, it’s possible that voice search results might take over usual mobile and desktop results!
It’s not too late to get on the voice search bandwagon and prepare yourself for an ever increasing number of people that opt to search with speech and not typing. And who knows, perhaps in the future it will not be just the top results that get featured on voice search, and lower positions will also have a shot at voice search traffic.
Striving to rank high is always a good pursuit and if you optimize for voice search, then it will create an overall solid SEO foundation for any future growth. When you have a solid SEO base, you will have created a stronger resistance to any sudden drops following an algorithm update.
Don’t forget that eventually the emphasis of Google and the other search engines on mobile evolved to the point, where fast-loading mobile-friendly websites get a direct advantage over non-mobile friendly websites. This might also be the future of voice search!
5. Mobile dominance, geo-targeting and mobility
Needless to say, voice searches are virtually 100% mobile and the times you do talk to your computer is to probably catch up on Skype. This further strengthens the already obvious case of optimizing your websites for mobile visibility. Being strong on mobile is a prerequisite to ranking on voice searches.
But even if you don’t actually reach those voice search peaks, being well optimized for mobile search will still be massively beneficial (not to mention an actual SEO standard for 2019). More than 60% of all searches are done via mobile and this figure is only going to grow. Consider this – many people these days don’t even own a desktop computer and access the internet exclusively via a mobile device. On the other hand, people that only have a desktop device and not a mobile one are getting rarer and rarer to find (those that exist are mostly mature demographics with dial-up connections, folks that are more likely to purchase something in person and not on the internet).
All mobile searches are also geo-targeted, so optimizing for mobile is also optimizing for local search. To be solid in local SEO, you must know your schema markups as well.
A hungry person searching for the nearest sushi place to eat at, might be driving on the road. A sushi bar that did everything correctly – made sure they are ranked in their respective area, have a fast and responsive mobile site, and a solid GMB profile with decent reviews will have a better chance at getting that customer.
Be sure to read our series of articles that deal with mobile and loading speed, if you are not fully mobile-friendly in your approach yet!
6. Voice search by OS might mean different ranks
Here’s the big one you almost never hear about (unless you follow our blog, of course):
|Mobile positions might differ depending on which OS or device type is used (phone or tablet). Plainly speaking, Google shows different search results to Apple and Android users, and also populates a different SERP based on the type of device!|
This means that Rob voice searching on his iPad for a blacksmith will see SERP A. Arya searching for the same exact term from the exact location, on her iPhone will see SERP A2. Jon searching from his Galaxy 8S will see SERP B, and Sansa searching from her Galaxy Tab will see SERP B2.
We have detected several cases where a website was visible on one mobile OS and not the other:
So, if you want to master voice search, you must also master Google’s FULL scope of ranking layers.
7. Demographics and user types
Last but not least, don’t forget that voice search is used mostly by a young demographic that is probably also tech savvy. Everything mentioned above is eventually aimed at a certain demographic.
For example, chances are you will not be able to target financially stable 60 year old US parents because, as research suggest, they are most likely using desktop searches on Bing. If this is your only target audience than voice search should either not be a priority at this point or start expanding your audience!
Many times, voice search is used during a hands-free situation, such as while driving or while cooking or being occupied by any other thing, including by pure laziness to approach your phone or computer. If you can tailor your content specifically for those hands-free situations, then you will also have an advantage.
Smart devices are getting smarter and voice search users continue to grow every day. Eventually voice recognition and the use of voice search will pass the uncanny valley and will rival a human assistant responding to your voice commands. The voice assistant might be able to decipher the context of your voice search queries and actually choose the 5th search result as more fitting. This is what we meant earlier, when we mentioned that search might include a diverse range of positions and not just the top results!
Voice search optimization is still considered a relatively new frontier and if you play your cards correctly you will carve a path for the future and capture some of that potential voice search traffic. Future proof your marketing odds starting today.
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