How to Optimize Your Website for Voice Search
Over 40% of people who have a smart speaker device say that performing a voice search feels like they are talking to another person or even a friend. While people engage with their voice-activated devices in a way that is similar to the way they would engage with another person, this statistic shows the potential for the growth of voice search and naturally, voice search optimization for local businesses. It also gives you an inkling as to why voice search optimization is key for the future.
Statista estimates that the global voice search SEO market will increase by nearly 17% from 2020 to 2025 to just over US$ 27 billion. By 2022, commerce generated by voice search requests will increase from $2 billion in 2020 to $40 billion.
With such a boom forecasted, savvy local business owners will aim to update their website and optimize for voice search for two primary reasons. First, more and more people are using a voice search device to query information and products every day and, second, the voice search commerce industry is set to increase exponentially. This is traffic you could be converting from visitors into paying customers by optimizing your website for voice search keywords and direct answers.
What Is Voice Search Optimization?
Voice search happens when a user issues a verbal command to voice search devices like a smartphone, tablet, or smart speaker. The user asks questions or give commands to the device while it “listens” with a digital voice assistant and then completes the search and retrieves information.
The assistant transcribes the user’s speech into text, which is then analyzed and “understood.” The digital voice assistant then connects to search engines to find the answer. The voice search device then translates the relevant information into a format that will fulfill the user’s search intent.
The Rise of Voice Search
The voice search revolution is here — and it’s here to stay.
To truly understand the rise of voice search, let’s look at some key statistics.
Google found that more than 50% of teens use voice search devices more than once a day in comparison to 41% of adults. Teens mostly use voice search to call someone and ask for directions, while adults predominantly ask for directions and ask the voice assistant to dictate texts. Both teenagers and adults preferably use voice search while they are watching TV to conduct mobile searches.
A report by Kleiner Perkins found that since 2008, voice search has grown by 35X. Statista reports that the number of digital voice assistants, like Siri or Alexa, will increase to 8.4 billion units by 2024, compared to 3.25 billion in 2019 or double the number in 2020. Soon, every person will have a voice-activated device, and the number of voice search queries being performed will be significant.
Voice search is a big deal and it’s just getting started. Business owners that invest in voice search optimization early will reap the rewards and dominate the voice search rankings before the rest of the competition realize the game has changed.
Why Is Voice Search Growing so Rapidly?
What has contributed to the rise in voice search? And why is it growing at such a quick rate?
Fast and Easy
First, voice search is easier and faster than traditional search. Most people average typing about 40 words per minute. When using voice search, this increases 3.7 times to a maximum of 150 words per minute.
Faster searches mean faster answers — Google’s Page Experience Update that rolled out in June 2021 focused on just that; faster websites with faster answers. Are you seeing the foreshadowing going on here?
Most people don’t enjoy typing on the tiny keyboards of a mobile phone, and sometimes, it can be awkward on a tablet too.
While a full-sized keyboard is best for a typed search query, you aren’t always close to your PC. Or perhaps you’re in the middle of doing something with your hands or getting ready for the day and don’t want to stop and type. Speaking your voice search queries using natural language feels easier and allows you to multitask with ease.
Another reason for the convenience behind performing voice searches is that you can listen to the answer read back to you directly from search engines. The results are accurate and customized according to your personal preferences.
Voice Search is Perfect for Mobile
Mobile search volume accounts for nearly 60% of all online searches. Voice searches are on the cusp of being the primary user interface for mobile search and this makes perfect sense as voice search feels like it was designed for mobile devices.
Smartphones allow you to conduct hands-free searches, meaning voice searchers don’t even need to pick up a mobile device to perform a voice search.
Voice Search vs Traditional Search
There is one key way in which both types of searches are the same. They rely on great content because content is still king. However, voice search is different from traditional search in some ways:
Speaking Natural Language vs Typing
How keywords are used by the user differs quite a lot when you compare traditional search with voice search queries. For typed search queries, it’s common for people to use short keywords. For example traditional typed searches may look like “gym near me” and “large dog breed advantages.”
With voice searches, the search queries closely follow natural language. According to Google, 70% of the requests to the Google Assistant were expressed using natural language, the same as if speaking to a friend. In search engine optimization terms, this is referred to as “NLP” or natural language processing as has quietly become a foundation in writing effective content.
Using the same query examples above, voice search works in a more natural, conversational and detailed way allowing users to ask “Which gyms are located near me?” and “If I get a large dog breed, like a husky, what are the pros and cons?”
As such, if you want to ensure your website and content are optimized for voice searches, the writing style needs to match “natural speech” queries. Your content shouldn’t be written to sound like a robot, which has always been a challenge for many people new to SEO. Instead, it should mimic how people actually speak to one another. While you can still use long-tail keywords as you normally would for traditional search, you just need to make sure you include questions in your content to cover voice search SEO best practices.
It’s evident that people use questions as they naturally would in real life when performing voice searches. A common question they’d ask would be how to get to X or how far away is Y. Others would be about the operating hours of a store or specifics about a product and how it compares with another.
As such, for traditional search, your keywords that you’d build your content around might be “5 best vacuum cleaners for a car.” For voice search keywords they’d ask, “What are the 5 best vacuum cleaners for my small SUV?”
When created voice-optimized content, it’s important to include common questions or frequently asked questions (FAQs) that are related to your topic.
For example, imagine your website is about web design services and your blog post is about conversion rate optimization. Questions you could include in your content might be “What is conversion rate optimization?” “Why is CRO or conversion rate optimization important for e-commerce businesses?” “What are the 5 best CRO strategies I can implement on my website right now?”
The difference between traditional keyword-based optimization and how to optimize for voice search largely boils down to asking the right questions in your content.
A research report by BrightLocal found that nearly 60% of the respondents used voice search on their mobile devices to get information about a local business listing. Nearly 50% of respondents used a voice search device for the same purpose at least once a day, with 28% of them doing so weekly. The most popular types of businesses the respondents want information about are restaurants or cafes, grocery stores, food delivery, clothing stores, hotels or B&Bs, and doctors.
To find out information about “a business near me,” people generally ask about the address of the business, how to get there, the phone number, or the operating hours. In the same BrightLocal study, the respondents also used voice search to order takeout or listen to reviews about the company.
Between 2015 and 2017, there was a 500% increase in the usage of the “near me” tag on keywords such as “to buy” or “can I buy.” The phrase “near me now” saw an increase in usage of 150% and “near me today/tonight” was used 900% more in the same two-year period. This tag is used to find a specific place, product or service, area, and period of time.
Questions with the inclusion of “near me” are popular with mobile users. For example, a voice search might ask, “What is the best restaurant specializing in Spanish cuisine near me?” or “Are there any pharmacies near me?”
Your company would benefit from utilizing local keywords with an emphasis on these kinds of location-based keywords. To take advantage of this trend, simply include information about your company in your web content so that when a user asks for a product or service that you offer, your company will naturally appear prominently in the voice search ranking.
Single Answers From Google SERPs
With traditional search, for any search query, there are pages and pages of search results. And, as the saying goes, if you want to hide a body — or your website — then rank on page two of search engines.
Typically, there are 10 website results on the first results page. While most businesses aim for the sweet first spot, even ranking number two or three on the search engine results page is great. Your business can still get a great return on investment (ROI) from being in the top three results.
However, with Featured Snippet and Knowledge Graph features, Google is becoming more of an “answer engine” than the traditional “search engine.” In fact, there has been a nearly 40% decrease in organic clicks for the first few website results.
People no longer need to click on website listing to find the answer they are looking for as in many cases, it is right there on the Google SERP. For example, if you want to know who the tallest person is/was? A Featured Snippet will tell you that Robert Wadlow was the tallest person at 8 ft 11.1 in.
With voice search, you want to be number one or have the information appear in Featured Snippets. When a person performs a voice search, their device or digital voice assistant only chooses one answer.
On Google’s search engine, this answer is most likely to come from the Featured Snippet related to the query. This emphasizes why implementing great SEO practices across your website is a must (or why you need a digital marketing agency to help you reach that first spot).
Another big difference between traditional search and voice search is how long your keywords are. For traditional search queries, most keywords are three to five words long. Examples would include “best plant for my balcony,” “best smartphone this year,” or “cheapest city to live in Canada.”
When people use voice search, the keywords they use are naturally much longer and often more detailed and specific. Examples would be “What’s better, the iPhone 11 or the newest Samsung?” “Is Vancouver or Toronto cheaper to live in?” “What is the best plant for my balcony that doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight?”
To reach your customers using voice search, you need to use the right long-tail keywords in your SEO campaigns and digital marketing. This can help you improve your conversion rates as well given that the majority of voice searchers have a strong intent to purchase, as they are not at the top of your sales funnel. Questions about where to buy something or its price indicate that the searcher is ready to convert and buy your product or service.
How to Implement Voice Search Optimization
Voice search optimization is the strategies and techniques you use to optimize your website for voice search queries. You’ll need to optimize the content on your site, your products and services, company information, and your business location. This will help you improve your SEO ranking and make it more likely that your information or answer will match the voice search query, but still provide search engines with the traditional keyword-based search they need.
Why Do You Need to Optimize for Voice Search?
There are three important reasons you should optimize your website for voice search. They are:
1. Stay Relevant
To stay relevant, you have to follow and keep up with the latest trends. Voice search is becoming a very popular way that people search for information and it’s not slowing down.
According to Statista, the sales of smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home have increased to 12 billion in 2019, compared to 900 million in 2016. Almost 40% of all U.S. households owned at least one smart speaker device in 2019, and by 2025, it’s expected to increase by 75%.
As such, businesses need to adapt to ensure they stay relevant and to maintain a competitive advantage over their competitors.
2. Better SEO
To improve your website’s SEO, you need to implement voice search optimization strategies within your content. As statistics have proven, people prefer speaking and asking questions rather than typing out a search query. Why? Because they can be more specific with their voice search queries and speak more naturally than they can when trying to find the best keywords for a text-based search.
The majority of voice searches are location-based. Users are looking for local businesses, or those near them by using the “near me” tag. These are users who are ready to convert. You’ll want to capitalize on this opportunity since it’s a percentage of online consumers you don’t need to convince in order to convert. With your website being optimized for voice search, your online visibility will increase.
To voice search optimize your website, you don’t need to worry about creating an entirely new website or look at another platform. Just focus on changes to your current website and content to follow the natural way users search using voice keyword research.
A study by PwC found that most voice searches are done while cooking, multitasking, watching TV, in bed, working, and driving. If you don’t optimize your content for voice search, you are missing out on being present when people are searching during these kinds of activities.
3. Improve Your Customer Experience
The customer journey on your website is crucial in boosting your conversion optimization rate. You can offer your customers a better website experience by enabling voice search and creating new customer commitment opportunities.
You also improve your brand reputation by keeping up with the latest digital trends. And you also foster relationship building with new and existing customers as a voice search-enabled site optimizes your visitors’ experience. Their interaction with your brand as a whole is more seamless, which promotes customer loyalty and keeps your customers coming back for more.
With voice search, your customers can find information about your business, products, and/or services much faster than when they text-search. This results in customer satisfaction, which is always good for business.
How to Do Keyword Research for Voice Search
Voice search is different from traditional text-based search. As such, how you find conversational keywords is different too. There are three top keyword strategies for voice search you can implement.
Look for Really, Really Long Keywords
Most SEO strategies completely avoid insanely long keywords because very few people search for them using their keyboards. But, as the popularity of voice search grows, longer keywords are becoming more and more popular. So when optimizing for voice search devices, look for keywords made up of five words or more.
Find Natural Keywords
Since voice search utilizes natural conversational search queries, you want to stay away from robotic keywords. Rather than “keto,” “diet,” and “marathon event,” your keyword should look something like this “is the keto diet good for marathon event training?”
With traditional keywords, researchers only look at the cost-per-click (CPC), the search volume, and the seasonal trends. With voice search, you want to look further and ensure your keywords sound natural and provide users with direct answers to their initial search. And as voice search continues to grow, the voice search-friendly keywords’ search volume will increase as well.
Focus on Question Keywords
Search Engine Watch found that there was a 61% increase in the use of question keywords that use “who,” “what,” “where,” “why,” “when,” and “how.”
“Who” phrases were the most popular at 134%, followed by “when,” “where,” and “how” between 70% to 80%.
Most keyword research tools, like BuzzSumo’s Question Analyzer and Answer the Public, will help you find these question keywords to optimize your content for voice search.
Best Practices for Voice Search Optimization
Understanding how voice search works and using a few voice search optimization strategies, you can optimize your website in no time. A professional web design agency can also help you optimize for voice search.
1. Add FAQ Sections
You can easily optimize your content for voice search by adding a frequently asked section. This is super easy to do as there are questions (from your question keywords) as well as answers that a voice assistant can “read” to the voice searcher.
According to a study by Backlinko, in which they analyzed 10,000 websites on Google’s results page, voice search results are nearly two times more likely to come from an FAQ section.
2. Don’t Be Afraid of Filler Words in Your Keywords
Not all the question keywords you’ll find on keyword research tools will flow as naturally as when someone is speaking. For example, question keywords could be “what are health benefits HIIT workouts?” or “why should eat healthy?”
Add filler words to optimize these questions and make them sound more natural. With the first example, you’d add “the” and “of” so your question reads “what are the health benefits of HIIT workouts?” For the second example, add “I.” The question is now “why should I eat healthy?”
3. Add Answers in Your Content
Optimize your content by including short, concise answers. Your answers to your question keywords should be between 28 and 30 words.
4. Write How You Speak
Since a voice search mimics real questions, the way your content is written should “sound” natural too. You want to use conversational language, which means using informal words, contractions, and not always writing in full sentences.
5. Optimize for Featured Snippets
The same Backlinko study found that more than 40% of voice search results come from Featured Snippets. We already know that these results can be found at the very top of a search engine results page.
When a user performs a voice search, the result will come from whatever is first on the results page, and it’s likely to be a Featured Snippet. This is even truer for smart devices like Alexa or Google Home. They only give the searcher one answer.
As such, your aim should be to optimize your content for that Featured Snippet that matches the user’s search query.
6. Use Long-tail Keywords
You don’t want to optimize your content for only longer keywords. With voice search, you don’t need to worry as much about exact matches in the question and answer as you would with a traditional search.
The Backlinko study found something interesting. The exact keyword appears 1.71% of the time in the title tag. This means that Google will decide what is the best answer to a voice searcher’s query based on how naturally it is written and how short it is.
7. Write for a Maximum Reading Level of Grade 9
People want to be able to easily read your content when using traditional search, and the same is true for voice search. No one really wants an academic answer or answers full of jargon and industry terms they might not understand.
As such, it is best to write your content to match a Grade 9 reading level. If you are not sure whether your content matches any of these reading levels, you can use tools such as Readable, Grammarly, or Hemingway App.
8. Increase Your DA
Your domain authority (DA) is an important ranking factor for text-based and voice searches. After all, a site with a high DA is viewed as more reputable and authoritative. Sites with a high DA rating are usually the ones that rank first on search results pages.
As such, beefing up the DA of your website is good because Google likes to give users answers from trusted sources. You can increase your domain authority by creating more high-value content that generates quality backlinks and social shares from credible sources.
9. Boost Your Website Speed
With traditional search, online visitors do not stick around if your site takes forever to load, even if “forever” is only a couple of seconds too long. Page speed is even more crucial with voice search.
The Backlinko study found that the average speed of a web page is just over two seconds. The loading speed of a voice result is under a minute at 54 seconds. See why web page load speed is crucial?
10. Add to Your Content
In another study by Backlinko, after analyzing nearly 12 million search results, the average word count of the first result on Google is about 1,500 words. Voice search results, on the other hand, are much longer at just over 2,300 words.
11. Rank Videos
A newer trend on the search results has been Video Featured Snippets. It’s a video result for a search query. Google also doesn’t just link to a video on YouTube, for example, it pulls out a section of the video that is relevant for the query.
This is great news for natural search queries and it seems that Google is showing Video Features Snippets more and more. And this is perfect if you want to rank for voice searches — you just need to optimize your videos and get them ranking!
12. Optimize for “… Near Me”
Local SEO is very important if you want your business to rank for your local customers. Thus, optimize your website for those “near me” searches.
The more accurately you optimize your “near me,” the better. So while a city location is good, you also want to look at the block, street, or area. A voice search query could be “What are the best salad bars near me in Toronto,” “What are the best Italian restaurants near me in the Toronto area,” or “Are there good Italian restaurants near Adelaide Street West?”
Ranking for these kinds of hyper-local searches means more customers, more sales, and more revenue for you.
13. Analyze Your Consumers
Gaining insights into your consumers is vital to your voice search optimization strategy. You should learn how your visitors journey through your sales or conversion funnel and use voice search to optimize your content to rank in voice queries as well as traditional search results.
For example, in the PwC report, younger consumers of 18 to 24 are driving the adoption of voice search, but older generations are using voice search more. Those between the ages of 25 to 49 used voice search 6% more than their 18 to 24-year-old counterparts and 8% more than those aged 50 and above.
The types of voice search-enabled devices people use should be another element companies could analyze. In the PwC study, more than 90% of consumers were satisfied with their voice assistants, with 50% being very satisfied. Frustration with voice assistants not understanding voice searches, giving the incorrect answer or information, is something that is hindering the full adoption of voice search for now, but as the technology improves and more websites are optimized for voice search these frustrations will fade.
14. Ensure Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly
People generally perform voice searches while they are busy with something else and their mobile device is the most convenient solution to help them search as they may not be able to just stop and type their query.
Since the future for search is mobile, and that includes voice search, your site must be mobile responsive.
To stay current and reach the highest number of visitors, your website should be optimized for voice search. This doesn’t mean you need a completely new website. Most website owners only need to tweak a few elements to make their content voice-search ready.
Start by including natural question keywords, write your content to be conversational in tone, and optimize for “near me” queries and in no time at all, you’ll see the results.