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How to Improve SEO for Voice Search

Voice search has quickly become one of the most popular ways of performing online queries. With 55% of people using voice search regularly to ask questions or look up items on their smartphones, it’s apparent that the traditional SEO needs to adjust to accommodate this change. With recent technological improvements, voice search has also become more accurate and reliable.

If your SEO strategy doesn’t already have voice search in mind, it’s high time you change that, or you might miss out on valuable traffic from search engines.

Hey Siri, an example of voice search

The Evolution of Voice Search Technology

39.4% of internet users in the US use a voice assistant at least once a month. The most prominent voice AI assistants today are Google Assistant, Siri, and Cortana. As they become more commonplace and other improvements refine their programming and delivery capabilities, search engines need to step up and start interpreting more natural phrases.

Current AI developments focus on improving search engines to become more responsive and precise in their predictions. These improvements include:

Spelling corrections and queries

Since natural speech isn’t always grammatically perfect, engines must consider common errors and adjust for them accordingly. Further user input can help narrow down homonyms, for example.

Previous searches and voice lines

A voice search is usually more drawn out in a sentence rather than a listing of keywords, facilitating the need to analyze longer pieces for viable results.

Location-based context

Since most people search on mobile devices, it is essential to answer search queries based on the user’s location, especially regarding directions or nearby establishments.

App- and screen-based content

Common search queries also include immediate questions about an app or process currently being used or displayed on the screen. While the user might not detail the app’s name or type, screen-reading can narrow results down to be more accurate.

Conversational context

Conversations will naturally lean towards long-tail keywords, which are only now starting to see more SEO use.

Context about the search item

Most users will look up questions regarding a specific term, item, company, or website. Search engines need to deliver answers rather than simple links.

Context about the user

Users can also look up their information. AI can interpret conversational questions (e.g., “What’s my ZIP code?”) without additional prompts, understanding the use of pronouns. 

As voice AI improves, there will be a stronger push towards mobile-oriented and voice search optimization, so it’d be best to pioneer the effort rather than join in when it’s already too late.

Example of a featured snippet on Google Search

SEO Strategies for Voice Search

Voice search optimization is very similar to existing SEO methods, with only minor changes needed to adjust based on contextual cues and trends not present in text-based searches. Below, we’ll look at six SEO strategies that can help you optimize your content for voice search.

Using Schema Markup for Better Context

If you’re already not acquainted with schema markup and what it can do, it’s time to learn more about it.

In essence, this HTML-based markup will provide context to search engines regarding your website’s purpose and information. Using schema to your advantage will help you get better, more natural search results for queries that align with your website’s tags. Additionally, schemas help search engines provide more relevant information to searchers.

Creating a Mobile-Friendly Website

Google has recently made a push towards mobile searching. With more users accessing search apps through smartphones and other mobile devices, your primary audience will most likely access your website through them as well.

Here are the most important mobile-specific website characteristics:

  • Visibility: Mobile screens are much smaller, so you need to provide users with just enough information not to seem overbearing while also allowing for more straightforward navigation.
  • Responsiveness: No one likes poor website navigation and tiny buttons that are nearly impossible to tap. Make sure that your website can respond to user input as best as possible.
  • Testing: Before putting the website out, test it to ensure the website is ready for the influx of users.
  • Crawling: Your website’s landing and information pages should be crawlable to allow search engines to index and rank your content.

Your website must provide a stellar mobile experience, or else your users might just go to a competitor who elected to follow this advice.

Owning a Google My Business Listing

A Google My Business listing is one of the best ways for Google (the most popular search engine by far) to know your location and working hours. A voice search asking for local businesses in your niche is more likely to have you as one of the top results if you’re listed on Google My Business.

Your listing must include the name, address, and phone number, or NAP for short. Additional information, such as business categories and current deals, will only further help you rank better for keywords that align with your audience.

Speaking of keywords, you can use the listing to catch the most common local keywords and provide a detailed schema to get Google to rank you better in local searches.

Answering Frequently Asked Questions

The most common questions asked for voice searches start with ‘Who,’ ‘How,’ ‘Why,’ ‘What,’ ‘Where,’ and ‘When.’ Users most commonly want immediate answers to specific questions.

If you want to directly address these queries, you can create an FAQ page with each question beginning with one of these terms. The answers should be conversational to help voice search further.

You can also create blog posts that relate to a specific question. The most shared articles that have ranked well use this strategy. They even start by providing a direct response to the question and use the rest of the page to provide more detail or elaborate on the answer.

Targeting Conversational Long-Tail Keywords

Voice search and text-based queries differ wildly in keyword usage. While text searches often need very few words (one to three being most prevalent), the conversational nature of voice search naturally pushes for longer keywords.

Content creators can get better SERP rankings by incorporating conversational keywords into their content. While it’s challenging to include answers for every voice query, a full-fledged post can combine more of them into one and rank better for multiple different searches.

When switching from traditional to voice SEO, long-tail keywords take precedence over short keywords, but always keep in mind a percentage of the userbase that still uses typing to search.

Optimizing for Rich Answers

Since it can be difficult to provide concise answers to a bunch of questions, voice search has focused on delivering rich answers that cover a wider array of potential queries. A single rich answer can hold solutions and definitions for multiple related questions, facilitating better response times and user interactions.

With the recent rise in rich answers, here are some of the most notable SEO terms:

  • Knowledge Graph: This is Google’s database that stores all available information about people, places, locations, or things. The graph is used to populate the rest of the rich answer better. 
  • Knowledge Panel (or Box): The actual box of information presented to the user. Data in the knowledge graph make up the entirety of the panel. The panel most commonly contains information from Wikipedia, which is also why the platform has received less traffic as rich answers supplant it.
  • Featured Snippet: These are third-party-based answers that are formed before the natural responses. Google attributes snippets to their source. They aim to provide concise answers directly to the question or related to it.

Example of local search

Leverage the Characteristics of Voice Search

If you use the data on how the audience performs voice searches now, you can leverage it to improve your keywords and SERP ranking. Focusing on location-based conversational content is bound to give you more hits than broad answers that don’t help someone across the world.

Using “near me” as a driving point for improving SEO on your pages and listings will work much better for voice search optimization and impact traditional searches.

Voice search provides immediate results. Make sure your content shows as one of the top answers by adapting your SEO strategy accordingly.

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