Alexa, Tell Us How Voice Search Optimization Is the Future of SEO and How Businesses Can Prepare
Voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and dozens more are taking over the world! Well, in search anyway. The statistic that is most frequently quoted by SEO specialists is that by 2020, voice search will account for 50 percent of all searches.
This statistic may not seem surprising, seeing as everyone and their grandmother are using these voice assistants. However, it is creating a new challenge for SEO experts: voice search optimization for businesses.
As a business owner, this is not something you want to ignore. Voice searches on mobile devices are three times more likely to be local-based searches. In other words, if you don’t know if your website is optimized for voice search yet, your local business could be missing out on great potential leads.
Voice Search vs. Typed Search – Is There an Actual Difference in the Way a Person Searches?
When people type their queries into Google or Bing, they may type three or so words that are the critical points of their search. Often, they are not even complete sentences. After all, you are a human typing a message for a machine to decipher, so it’s easier just to type the most important points.
But as technology has changed, the way we communicate with it has changed too. According to Google, 41 percent of people who own and use a voice assistant speaker say that it feels like talking to another person.
Users speak more naturally when using voice search like they would with any other person. Using complete sentences, details, and maybe even throwing in a please and thank you (after all, it is your personal assistant).
However, some SEO specialists are still skeptical as to whether this would change our current SEO efforts. Gary Illyes from Google has made a statement saying that voice search optimization is not something to worry about.
However, based on the data and adjustments to the SEO ranking factors, and the fact that Google’s former algorithm could not decipher 15 percent of the queries due to voice search, it is safe to say that it is not something that can be completely be ignored (Remember, Google is not one for announcing updates unless they are significant).
We also speak faster than we type. Thus, voice searches come with longer search queries. In turn, that means there are more keywords for the search engines to process while still delivering the most accurate results to the user.
We will discuss a little more about how this impacts search shortly.
So, Voice Search Optimization Adds More Challenges to SEO
With the change in search behavior and the use of longer search queries than traditional searches, you can expect certain other features of SEO to become bigger priorities in order to rank for both voice and text searches.
If Your Website Isn’t Mobile-Friendly Yet, It Needs to Be
The trend of voice search began on mobile devices about ten years ago (we know, it makes us feel old too), and is still a huge part of how people search the web from their phone today. With 3.2 billion smartphone users in 2019, and millions more joining every year, appealing to mobile search users is essential.
In 2018, Google had a major update to its algorithm to prioritize websites that are mobile-friendly for search rankings.
Now, not only is a website that is not mobile-friendly affecting your text search ranking, but it will also affect the voice search results. (For more information, read our previous blog on the 2018 Google algorithm updates).
A mobile-friendly website loads faster, and it is easier for Google’s machines to crawl, which are two important factors for SEO. Even if your website is optimized with the right keywords, voice assistants will not waste time on a site that the search engines are having difficulty crawling.
If you want to start somewhere for voice search optimization, start with a mobile-friendly website. It will not only make a difference in how your site ranks through mobile text search, but it will also help with your voice search result rankings as well.
Google’s BERT Update: Optimizing for a User’s Search Intent
As we previously mentioned, voice searches and text searches look extremely different. In text searches, we put the most important components of what we want to see in the search bar.
For example, a computer user searching for cats to adopt in their area may type something like, “cat adoption baton rouge” into the search bar.
However, a person using a voice assistant may search, “Where is the best place to go if I am looking to adopt a cat near me for my daughter’s birthday?”
Much different, right? The voice searcher added more details into their search query. One may think the density and variety of keywords in the search would return videos of daughters getting cats for their birthday or even cat gifts for women for special occasions.
That is how the old Google algorithms would have worked.
To keep up with the trend of voice search, Google engineers announced the BERT Update in October 2019, which is named after an AI-system that reads a user’s entire search query to best understand the user’s search intent rather than simply just the keywords.
As it turns out, prepositions such as “for” and “to” can highly influence the search intent of a user, which makes a big difference in returning the most accurate search results.
But what difference does this make for SEO?
Websites that have gotten away with stuffing highly searched keywords into web pages that did not have to do with the purpose of the page (i.e., optimizing a plumber’s service page on their website with the keyword “tankless water heater”) will likely not have as much ranking power as it used to.
To break it down: writing in a more natural tone that is conversational, original, and relevant to the user’s search intent and that will answer the searcher’s question will get your website ranked better on the SERPS than just the keywords you optimize the page for.
Make no mistake, keyword research is still important, but the highly searched keywords are only powerful when they are paired with relevant content.
Ranking for Featured Snippets
The words on your website make an impact. According to a study from Backlinko, 40.7 percent of voice search answers are from the featured snippets that appear at the top of the page of the search result page. Featured snippets are considered rank 0 of Google, which isn’t the first position – it’s just at the very top.
In other words, your webpage could be ranked eighth on the search engine results page (SERP), but could also still be seen at the top of the page as the featured snippet, doubling your company’s visibility.
However, featured snippets are not something you pay Google to do. It has to do with how well-written your content is and how well your site is optimized.
If the content on your website or blogs do not answer the questions of the searchers, then search engines will choose another webpage as the featured snippet.
To compete to appear in these feature snippets, make sure the length of your content is long, concise, and grammatically correct. You do not need to have your page title to match the exact wording of the voice search, but it does need to fit the context of a user’s search.
If your webpages are properly written, and Google deems your website as a trustworthy source, your page has a chance at making it to position zero.
Users Want More Information About Your Business Online
If you thought that simply having a website and adding business hours to your Google Business listing was all you needed to establish your online presence, we have some bad news for you.
According to a 2018 study from Google, 52 percent of voice-activated speaker owners said they wanted to receive information about specials, deals, and promotions from brands. And because voice search is so easy, users can ask their voice assistant to look up the information for them rather than having to call the business to ask.
With the change in how people receive their information with voice search, if the information that a person is looking for is not provided right away, you could lose out on quality leads.
Let’s say, for example, a person asks their Google Assistant to find clothing stores in the Baton Rouge area with clearance sales. If your site has information about a sale going on this week and your competitors do not, guess which store the Google Assistant is going to suggest?
What this means is that companies with a strong online presence that continually update the information on their website and search directories can receive more business than their competitors.
For more information on lead generation using voice search, schedule a free consultation with Catapult Creative Media today.
Is Your Company Ready for Voice Search Optimization?
The number of virtual assistants out there is growing, and they are becoming a normal part of a person’s daily routine. Talk to an SEO specialist about whether your website is optimized for both text and voice search queries so that your company can be found, no matter how they are searching for you online.
Ashley Boudreaux is a Digital Analyst for Catapult Creative Media. She is an LSU graduate with a B.A. in Mass Communication and a minor in French. In her free time, she enjoys visiting petting zoos and climbing trees.
Work with Catapult Creative Media Inc. Catapult Creative Media Inc. is a digital marketing and design agency serving clients over the United States but is proud to call Baton Rouge, Louisiana home. Founded in 2007, Catapult provides digital, social and mobile marketing solutions backed by relevant strategy and measurable results. Catapult works the web to their clients’ advantage, launching them to their next level of success.