The word on the street is that voice search is on the rise – and both local and virtual businesses need to optimize their content if they hope to remain relevant and maintain their discoverability within search engines.
If you keep up with tech, you’ve probably heard that voice search is the death of SEO, that it’s taking over the world, or that it’s basically the next apocalypse (okay, unless you hang out with marketers, you might not have heard such dramatic words).
Let’s start with the basics.
What is voice search?
Have you heard of Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Google Assistant or Cortana? In case you’ve been living under a rock, these are all tools that allow users to search by voice. Instead of typing a question into your phone or computer, you may now press a button, or even just say a word, ask your question, and receive an instant response.
Why is voice search so important?
Okay, so you may have already used a voice assistant to ask “what’s the weather like tomorrow?” Or “what’s 2+2?”… but you’re wondering “how does that have any impact on my business?”
Well, you might not be harnessing the power of voice search, but 40% of adults now use voice search at least once per day, and these tools are used for much more than simple weather or math questions.
40%? Yes, 40% of people in the United States use voice search (and as trends prove, every other country will follow in those footsteps). Let’s review a few statistics…
According to Google, “72% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say that their devices are often used as part of their daily routine”
1 in 5 people uses voice search instead of typing queries in their phones. Source: Google
And the biggest statistic of all… comScore predicts that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be performed by voice searches.
Voice search isn’t going away… and current users are here to back that idea up; voice search users say they cannot imagine going back to regular searches.
Now that you know how quickly voice search is rising, let’s talk about the science behind voice search and voice search rankings.
What do voice search rankings require?
To know how to optimize your business for voice search, you first have to understand how voice search works.
Voice assistants use keywords and tags to search for content, so it’s more important now than ever to optimize your website for relevant keywords. What does this mean? This means that if you are a hotel in Zurich, you should ensure that your website is optimized for the keyword “Hotel in Zurich”.
Let’s start with a primer on SEO, and then we will move into voice search.
How do I optimize my website for SEO?
Good question! We wrote an entire guide on SEO optimization which you may access here, but here’s a quick summary:
1.Make sure that your homepage contains your main keyword. For our example above, that hotel in Zurich should use the keyword or variation of the keyword “Hotel in Zurich” on the home page, and especially within their h1 heading.
2.Add relevant “alt tags” to your photos, and ensure they contain relevant keywords. Alt tags are short phrases that tell the search engine what the photo is. Another way of looking at this is adding a description of an image in braille so that a blind person would be able to understand what the image displays without actually seeing it. Following our example above, you would want to make sure that your photos contain keywords… for example “The Marriott Hotel in Zurich”
3.Research relevant keywords and use them within your website. You want to find out what keywords people are using when they search for hotels in the area, how many people search for those keywords, and how high the competition for those keywords is. The perfect keyword has a high search volume and low competition. Rank your keywords based on volume/competition and relevance, and use that list to further optimize your web pages and photos. For example, if you find that a lot of people are searching for “Hotels in Zurich Near Airport” and your hotel is near the airport, you want to make sure you use the keyword so that users searching for you can find you.
4. Optimize your URLs to contain relevant keywords. For example, if a page on your website is about things to do in Zurich, your URL should be something like… hotel.com/things-to-do-zurich. This allows search assistants to find and recognize your content.
5. Focus on creating useful content (content is any type of media that can be found on the internet – be it text, images, videos, or audio). Search engines are changing the way they rank websites every day, further refining their methods to distinguish useful content from nonuseful content. Their goal is to ensure searchers find what they need… so while optimizing your website and following SEO trends is important, the most important part of your strategy is to focus on providing value – that’s the most scalable technique. Search engines will recognize that your content is valuable and that users are finding it useful, and they will thus show your pages higher in search results.
Voice Search Optimization
Let’s talk about voice search optimization.
How can I appear in voice search results?
Several of the voice search assistants use either Google Places or Yelp as a source of information, so we suggest that you:
1.Create a Google Places listing if you haven’t already, and optimize your listing for keywords. In this case, the keyword would be “Best Hotel in Zurich”. You should also add alt tag optimized photos. These should be high-quality photos of your hotel, using the alt tag “Hotel in Zurich” or “Hotel Near Zurich Airport”.
2.Create a Yelp listing for your business, and optimize it as you optimized your Google Places listing. Note that Alexa and Siri both look to Yelp as their first resource for results.
We suggest that you research relevant keywords as outlined in step 3 above, and use high search volume keywords to optimize your content on all business listing websites.
The Rise of Conversational Content
The rise in voice search also means that searching will become more conversational, with searchers beginning with broad questions, and then narrowing their questions to get more specific or related answers. If someone is interested in a topic, it’s likely they will continue to ask questions related to it.
How do I make my website content conversational for voice searches?
Let’s say Sam is thinking about going to Zurich next weekend.
She first asks Siri, “What’s the weather like in Zurich next weekend?”
Siri responds that the weather will be fantastic – high 70’s are forecasted for next weekend.
Sam then asks, “What’s the best hotel in Zurich?”
Siri gives her a list…
She then asks “Which hotels in Zurich are near the airport?” Or “Which hotels in Zurich are near the main attractions?”
She proceeds to ask what there is to do in Zurich and so on and so on.
The sequence may vary, but it’s unlikely that after a few questions about Zurich, Sam will then ask about Miami.
Sam will interact with Siri and continue to gather information on the same topic.
What does this mean? This means that optimizing for website content for what we call “long tail keywords” will help you show up in voice searches. To clarify – a short tail keyword is “Hotel in Zurich” and a long tail keyword is “Hotel in Zurich Near Airport”.
But it doesn’t end there. The next step is to make your content conversational – and here lies the difference between optimizing for SEO and optimizing for voice search. Your website may be SEO optimized and rank high in regular search results, yet be nowhere to be found within voice searches.
Think about the way you would search in Google, versus the way you would ask a friend a question… You would probably type a phrase into Google, yet ask a friend a full question.
Naturally, the way that users interact with voice search is very different from the way they interact with a search engine.
So let’s go back to some of our previous keywords and how we can rephrase them into questions.
Keyword: “Best Hotel Near Zurich Airport” Question: “What’s the best hotel near Zurich airport?”
Keyword: “Zurich Weather” Question: Question: “What’s the weather like in Zurich?”
Keyword: “Things To Do in Zurich” Question: “What are the best things to do in Zurich?”
Keyword: “Zurich Restaurants” Question: “Where are the best restaurants in Zurich?”
By posting and answering the question, you’re showing voice search tools that you are providing answers to those questions.
Not only will optimizing for voice search help you show up on voice searches, but it will also help you show up among the Google Structured Snippets. Don’t know what those are? Think of the last time you googled a question and saw google show an answer at the top of the page. That’s a structured snippet.
Voice Search Priorities
Remember: your #1 priority should be to provide value and to provide insightful answers that will serve your users. Search engine algorithms are refined each and every day, making them more sophisticated each day. Search engines show users the content that is most likely to serve them… so if users have a negative response to your answers and don’t find them useful, your content will rank lower.
So, let’s go over a few voice search action items for you:
1.Research your keywords
2.Create or update your Google Places listing and optimize for keywords
3.Create or Update your Yelp Listing and optimize for keywords
4.Optimize the content on your website to make it conversational
5.Ensure that you are providing useful answers
6.Add more questions and answers to your website, based on your keyword research
And there you go! Continue providing value, answering questions, adding content to your site, monitoring new keywords, and optimizing your content for voice searches and you’re sure to begin ranking. It probably won’t happen overnight, or even within a few months… but investing in voice search and SEO is investing in your future!