The rapid growth of voice search is changing the way people interact with the web. In order to stay ahead of the curve, it’s essential to understand how this new technology impacts your SEO campaign. The rules for optimizing your website for voice search are slightly different from the rules for optimizing your website for traditional search engines. This guide will explore the basics of voice search and offer tips for optimizing your content for this mode of navigation.
The Shift to Voice Searching
Voice search is a quick and convenient way to find information on the internet using only your voice. This technology is becoming increasingly popular, as more and more people are using voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant on their smartphones and smart speakers. In fact, a recent Google report states that 27% of the online global population is using voice search on mobile.
This trend is likely to continue, as the technology gets better and more people become familiar with it. There are many advantages to using voice search, including the ability to multitask and the hands-free convenience. In addition, voice search is often faster than typing out a search query, making it a preferred choice for many users.
As voice searching continues to grow, how will it alter your SEO strategy and marketing tactics? Below, we explore the relevance of voice search in modern SEO.
Typed vs. Natural Language Processing Searches
When you perform a typed search on a search engine, you use specific keywords to describe what you are looking for. The search engine then looks for web pages that contain those keywords and ranks them according to relevance. For example, searching for a nearby sushi restaurant would require you to type a string such as “sushi restaurants in Los Angeles, California.”
Voice search works differently. Instead of keywords, voice search uses natural language processing (NLP) to understand the meaning of the user’s query. NLP is a branch of artificial intelligence that deals with the interpretation and understanding of human language. Using NLP, voice search is able to understand the user’s intent and provide results that are more relevant to their needs. The above sushi restaurant search in voice would be stated as, “what’s the most popular sushi restaurant near me?” The difference is clearly a more natural question as if you’re asking a friend for a restaurant recommendation.
Why Businesses Need Their Websites to be Voice-Search Friendly
With the explosive growth in voice searches, it’s crucial that businesses adapt their online presence to be voice-search-friendly. Those that fail to do so will fall to the competition as consumers abandon sites that are inefficient at voice searching. The following businesses have been substantially impacted by voice searches.
- Local businesses. With 58% of consumers using voice search to find information on local businesses, it’s important that these websites are optimized for local SEO. This includes claiming listings on directories such as Yelp and Google My Business. Additionally, ensuring that the business’s name, address, and phone number is consistent across all online listings.
- Food and restaurant industry. At 51%, restaurants are the most popular industry where consumers are most likely to use voice searches. Other popular food-related industries that are voice searched are grocery stores at 41% and food delivery at 35%. In 2021 and beyond, voice search will continue to dominate, as platforms like Uber Eats and Seamless see continued demand in a post-pandemic world.
- Healthcare. Assisted in part by the COVID pandemic, voice assistant searches to inquire about symptoms and diseases increased from 50% in 2019 to 56% in 2021. In total, over 54.4 million U.S. adults used voice assistants to seek healthcare information online.
- Banking and finance. Many financial institutions are now offering voice as a form of biometric authentication for online banking services.
The above industries aren’t the only ones that can be helped by voice search. Any business that engages with customers online can derive value from adjusting its SEO approach and optimizing for voice search.
Optimizing your Website for Voice Searches
With the increasing amount of searchers using mobile devices, voice search-enabled sites are in demand. If you want your website to be seen by as many people as possible, it’s important to optimize it for voice search. This can be done by achieving what’s known as position zero in search engine rankings.
Position zero is the answer that pops up when an individual performs a simple voice query, such as “Where is the closest Starbucks?” Position zero results are also known as featured snippets.
Your chances of having a website that is in position zero increase by meeting the following criteria:
- The webpage is already at the top of the rankings for that question.
- The site has a list-style answer or a short answer that’s easily scanned.
- The site has highly relevant content that answers the specific question.
Here are some helpful tips that can increase the chances of your website achieving position zero with effective voice search capabilities:
- Think about the kinds of questions people might ask when using voice search. For example, if you sell shoes, someone might search for “Where can I buy shoes near me?” or “What are the best shoes for running?” Make sure that your website content includes answers to these types of questions.
- Use natural language patterns when creating your content. Voice search queries tend to be longer and more specific than traditional text-based searches, so it’s important to use long-tail keywords and complete sentences rather than short phrases or single keywords.
- Keep in mind that people use voice search when they’re looking for quick answers. So make sure your website is designed for mobile devices and that your content is easy to skim.
If you’re struggling to optimize your keywords for voice search queries, reevaluate your keywords and adjust accordingly. For example, keywords that are not suitable for a short answer box are case studies and white papers, tutorials, and in-depth comparisons. If the answer to a query requires more information than can be explained in a snippet, it’s safe to dodge the short answer requirement.
Developing a new SEO strategy to account for voice searches will help many marketers improve search engine rankings for their brands. If your goal is to show up as #1 in SERP results, you’ll want to create timely, relevant content that resonates with your target audience.