“Voice search is the most significant development to hit SEO since Google debuted.”
That quote may sound like a hot take, but statistics describing the growing usage of voice search resoundingly back it up. 20% percent of all online searches in 2016 were voice searches, according to a Mary Meeker report. Comscore predicts that half of all searches will be made through voice commands by 2020.
Searching using a voice function instead of a keyboard has huge ramifications for your organization’s SEO strategy. For starters, usually only one result is brought up, meaning you have to know exactly what it takes to earn that coveted spot. Secondly, the technical SEO best practices that make you more likely to rank in voice search are fairly different from the typical approach.
Don’t worry, though, because we’re here to break it all down for you right now.
How Do People Use Voice Search in 2018?
The home is where the majority of consumers make their voice search queries. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 43 percent of people say they most frequently use the feature in their home, versus 36 percent who use it mostly in their car and 19 percent who say they most often use it “on the go.”
This statistic tells you two things:
Those 90 million smart speakers sold annually are changing the way we interact with devices, opening new channels and opportunities that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
The idea that people are mostly going to be using voice search as a hands-free option in their car is partially untrue. Voice search has a number of other benefits that compel people to use it beyond just driving without distraction.
Just what are those benefits, you ask?
- 30% say that it leads to “faster results.”
- 24% say they use it because they have “difficulty typing on certain devices”
- 22% say they use voice search because it’s “fun/cool,”
Bottom line: People want quick answers, and they don’t feel like they need to actually touch a device to get them.
So, how do you accomplish that goal?
Here are some of those SEO voice search tips in detail.
Focus on Semantically Related Keywords Over Exact Query Matches
Take a moment to think about how you would speak an online search query out loud versus how you would type it.
When we type, we often want to get our query as specific as possible while using the fewest possible words. So, we might write something like “best laptop backpack” to find out which bag is most worth buying, and then we’ll likely click around or search again to find the best deal on the said backpack.
But when we talk, we want to be specific without using awkward words or phrase. As a result, we naturally gravitate towards strings of simple, descriptive words that may seem like a long phrase but that are easy to say out loud. We also want to avoid pulling up results that do a different action than we intended since we can’t click or navigate as easily.
According to Google, 70 percent of voice queries the company handles use natural language, which means actual sentences rather than jumbles of words.
One self-study by a smart speaker user found that the average word count of their queries was four.
In response to these trends, your keyword strategy should be less about shoehorning an exact match keyword in and more about covering all of the bases of your topic. Try to include phrases that you might think are things people would ask about your topic or product.
FAQs are Pure Gold
Studies show the average voice search result is only 29 words in length. Yet, the average word count of a voice search result page is 2,312 words!
Why go through all the trouble of writing thousands of words about something if a search engine’s just going to yank out a tiny sliver of that?
The answer is that the best content often covers several bases, as we suggested above. They go in-depth, explore lots of angles and reveal lots of information. A voice query, however, only needs a small part of that information. Accordingly, content that has voice results pulled from it tends to have pithy, quotable phrases.
Because quotable “sound bites” are the preferred information to pull results from, FAQs (frequently asked questions) absolutely rule for improving your voice search rank. To make these pages, you can source common questions about your industry or your business from the following:
● Google’s “Other People Searched” and “Searches Related to ___” suggestions
● Long-tail keyword suggestions from keyword planning tools
● Your own customers! Write down questions as you hear them, or look to resources like emails, feedback forms or HR reports.
Other Voice Search SEO Tips
Here are a few more helpful tidbits before we send you on your way:
● 70 percent of Google Home results use HTTPS instead of HTTP, so get your certificate!
● Authoritative domains tend to earn more results, so try to earn backlinks (ethically) through guest posting and social media amplification.
● The best-performing content tends to have high social media engagement, especially Facebook shares.
● Aim for a 9th grade reading level so your content is easy for a voice assistant to parse and read out loud.
● Earning a featured snippet makes you more likely to rank, but Schema markup isn’t necessarily important.
Beyond these tips, simply focus on creating great content that answers people’s questions quickly, and you could see improved voice search results!