By now voice search has comfortably passed the threshold to be considered as a definite possibility of future of search engine optimization rather than just a fad. In fact, according to SEO Expert – 41% of adults conduct at least one voice search per day and that number is continuously rising.
Furthermore, experts report that by 2020, voice searches are expected to account for 50% of all online queries – which is a significant increase of 20% in 2016.
Other than smartphone assistants like Cortana and Siri, the introduction of Google Home and Amazon Alexa have undoubtedly given traction to this trend.
So, overall how does this impact SEO? How will it affect the way SEO professionals’ think in regard to content and search engine optimization?
Let’s find out.
Perfecting your Local SEO game
Voice search and local search are two peas in a pod. BrightLocal reports that “an overwhelming majority (97%) of consumers use to search for online reviews of local businesses”– making this ultimate time for you to optimize your local search ranking.
“Remember that voice searches on mobile are three times likelier to be local, so be sure to optimize content on your site for local branches” writes Pageonepower.
Customers don’t search for a specific business generally, they mostly just search for the best (type of business) in (their area). Thus, directories and review websites dominate these searches- SEOs need to consider them as search engines in their own right.
This leads us to conclude that optimizing your Google My Business listing is no longer just an option but a necessity. It is required to survive voice search- especially on Google devices. Therefore, make sure that your Google My Business page is updated with the contact details, address, and opening hours listed. The more data available on your listing- like for e.g. photos, positive reviews and owner responses – the more it is likely to show up on the local 3 pack.
Improving your site page speed
“The average voice search result page loads in 4.6 seconds (which is 52% faster than the worldwide average). Therefore, if you want to rank in voice search, make sure your site loads as quickly as possible” reveals Backlinko study.
The voice search is almost exclusively used by mobile users, so it is obvious that your website must be mobile-optimized. If it is not so, then the users will simply bounce back which is harmful to your site’s ranking. A site page that takes more than five seconds to load is most likely to end up suffering from bounce backs compared to sites that take just one second.
Google found out that the bounce rates on mobile are higher than on desktops. It is apparent that mobile users- especially those using voice search are more likely to be on-the-go and don’t have time to be patient.
Voice Search favor SSL and HTTPS websites
Research done by Backlinko states “HTTPS might play an even more important role in voice search than in desktop or mobile search”. In fact, they discovered that “70.4% of voice search result URLs have adopted HTTPS (compared to only 50% of Google desktop results)”.
Now, this relationship could be random co-relational. Because, if you take the time to write search engine optimized content, you are most likely are willing to invest funds and time to set up HTTPS.
The counter-argument to this is that voice search results generally use HTTPS significantly more like mentioned above (70.4% vs 50%) than other results on Google’s first page, which are presumably optimized for SEO. While it is impossible to conclude that HTTPS is more essential in voice search results from data alone, but it can be safely said that to rank in voice search, HTTPS may help.
Aim for the Featured Snippet
Google Assistant and Google Home both currently read out the featured snippet when they answer a particular query- therefore it makes perfect sense that you aim for the position zero to reach the voice search read-out status.
While there is no definitive answer as to how to gain the top spot on the page, but there has been a plenty of research carried out to figure out how. Here are some of the things you can keep in mind while writing your content, which can work well if you want it to be a voice search answer –
1. Answer a question specifically
You can use Google’s most asked questions feature and find out what users want to know the most about your chosen subject. Then you can use that information as the basis to create your own copy and include the questions as the H2 and answer those questions specifically in the body in the text directly below.
2. Concise answers
Another thing you don’t want to do is use a lot of technical language or jargons that common people wouldn’t know. Google wants to feature the best answer; therefore, it is best to make your answer clear and digestible. To have a higher chance of getting your content to be featured in snippets- create your content in the form of lists.
3. Content that is interesting and engages the audience
99% of the content that is featured in snippets comes from a website that ranks in the top ten. Obviously, it can be concluded that ensuring that your page is well-optimized must be your priority. Your content should engage readers, your metadata should be optimized and your internal and external link building game should be strong.
Another thing to keep note of is that your voice search queries will be more conversational rather than written. Thus, make sure that this factor is reflected in the tone of your content.
Content that is easy to read most likely to be voice search featured
The Backlinko study states that “Simple, easy-to-read content may help with voice search SEO. The average Google voice search result is written at a 9th-grade level.”
While this may be a bit of basic advice, it becomes increasingly important now that the direction of the search is shifting towards voice searches. It may be helpful in some type of voice searches to provide a direct answer and make it obvious that the para is an answer to that specific question.
However, when we prompt the voice search to answer a certain question, we don’t want the answer to be something that is read out of a textbook. That is why Google Home often reads out from snippets or excerpts that best summarize that answer and then leaves the link towards the full page in its corresponding app.
Thus, content that is easy to be read, hear and comprehend is most likely to get selected for voice search.
Answer length matters
“Google prefers short, concise answers to voice search queries. The typical voice search result is only 29 words in length.” – Backlinko study
The conciseness of the answer making it to the preferred voice search makes sense, Google is probably taking a similar approach to source voice search queries as it does with featured snippets.
This was the conclusion experts drew when Google announced it would start incorporating more than just one featured snippet in the SERP for more complex queries. That presentation of extra featured snippets in the SERP could also show a higher barrier to earning clicks, particularly if the snippets answer the question adequately so that the users don’t have to search for anything further.
Strong link authority rank higher in voice search
According to the Backlinko study “Authoritative domains tend to produce voice search results significantly more than non-authoritative domains. In fact, the mean Ahrefs Domain Rating of a Google Home result is 76.8”.
FYI – The Ahrefs domain rating which the Backlinko study cites here measures the target site’s whole backlink profile considering their quality and size on the scale of 0-100. It calls this scale a ‘logarithmic’, which “means the room for growth between Domain ratings of 77 and 78 is much larger than one between 27 and 28. So, the higher the Domain Rating, the more difficult it becomes to gain another point or two” writes Hubspot.
This high domain rating of Google Home result page is because smart speakers like this one only deliver a single answer to your question, rather than the SERP’s list of several. In simple terms, it means that Google needs the assurance that they are giving users accurate info. Thus, in order to ensure this, the voice search algorithm may rely on domain authority over page authority.
However, experts say that this doesn’t mean that SMEs building backlinks and authority should give up on voice search optimization. It is the considerable quantity of content that big companies produce leads others to link these big brands they feel they can trust. That doesn’t necessarily mean that those brands are authoritative in their domain, but that the broad-ranging brand recognition works in their favor in voice search- leading it to have a high Ahref’s domain rating.
Voice search is transforming the way people navigate their online world, purchase things and connect. Thus, if brands want to stay visible in the post voice search dominant world, they need to change their SEO strategies likewise.
Accordingly, the key takeaways here are –
a. Focus on local SEO as most people are likely to search for the best type of business in their neighborhood
b. Make sure your site speed is good as most users don’t like to wait for results
c. Create content that is concise, to the point and sounds natural when read-out-loud; is clear and sounds intelligent
d. While targeting voice search, it is extremely helpful if the content is displayed as featured snippet.