While definitely not the first smartphone to hit the market — that honor belongs to a 1992 prototype by the name of "Angler"— Apple’s iPhone was the one that took the world by storm. And later, Siri, their voice-enabled digital assistant that does everything from joke around with you to scour the internet to find the best possible answer to your queries, did the same.
Today, we have countless other smartphones from just as many brands that all make use of digital assistants to make their users’ lives easier.
Do you know what else we have? Smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home that also house digital assistants, this time Alexa and Google Assistant, that also respond to the sound of our voice.
Are you seeing a pattern? If the title didn’t give it away, it’s voice search.
As a more natural way of searching than typing away on a screen or keyboard due to its voice component, voice search is not only easier than traditional search, but faster as well.
After all, isn’t pressing a button and saying, "Siri, where can I find cheap pizza near me?" much faster than unlocking a phone, opening an app and then typing the same thing?
That’s all well and good, but it does pose a dilemma for marketers and business owners with established search strategies targeting audiences who search with a keyboard.
This is because we talk to digital assistants as if they were real people, leading to conversational queries with more intent.
For instance, when we exchange shorthand keywords like "pizza near me" that dominate text-based search, with their long-tail counterparts like "best cheap pizza near me" that are far more prevalent in voice search, we add the intent to find pizza that’s both the best and cheap.
All of that just because a question was said, not typed! Today's unoptimized strategies lack a voice search component — a dilemma that can be remedied with a couple of voice search optimization tips.
1. Make Some Changes Behind the Scenes
Content may be king, but not everything revolves around it. In fact, optimization begins in the backend.
For example, consider the fact that 70.4% of voice search result URLs belong to websites that have already adopted HTTPS, which, if you didn’t know, is the security standard for all communication on the web, and what protects any personal information you disclose. And because Google always thinks of the end user first, they're much more likely to point a user toward content on a website with HTTPS rather than HTTP.
If you haven’t already, this means you’ll have to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS if you want to increase your odds of being found through voice search. Like wanting to point users to secure websites, Google and other search engines also prefer referencing websites on the faster end of the spectrum for voice queries; users expect fast responses to the questions they ask their digital assistants.
As Google is now using a mobile-first index, this means that they’ll be checking for mobile site speed. Similarly, if your user is asking Siri a question, chances are good they’ll be doing it through a phone. So, if a question is asked that can be answered by pulling a webpage, do you really think Google or other search engines are going to use a page that takes too long to load?
Nope. Doing so would lead to delays and, more often than not, a high bounce rate borne out of the frustration of waiting. Instead, they’ll serve pages that load within three seconds. For you, this means using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool and PageSpeed Insights to learn more about your site’s load speed and how to improve it.
2. Use Conversational Content
Once you’re done behind the scenes, it’s time to move to content. As we covered earlier, voice search optimization with regard to content means two things: focusing on intent and using conversational language.
The very act of speaking lends more information to what’s said. For instance, saying, "where’s the closest post office," instead of typing, “post office,” uses one of the Five Ws and How (who, what, where, when why, how), which inherently gives you an idea of the searcher’s intent. Likewise, "where" tells you (and search engines) the searcher is looking for a location, "when" that they’re looking for a date, "what" that they want general information on something, and so on.
Because we talk to digital assistants as if they were real assistants, i.e., a human as opposed to a machine, we tend to be more informal, which leads to content that’s easy to read and understand. In fact, considering that the average voice result page is written at a 9th grade reading level and contains simple words that are easy for assistants like Siri to pronounce, it’s clear that voice search optimization requires language that’s been somewhat toned down, not the flowery and technical language many marketers seem to prefer.
3. Create a FAQ Page
Due to their nature, frequently asked questions (FAQ) pages are absolutely perfect for voice search. Think about it: Where better for Siri or Alexa to pull an answer from than a page filled with conversational questions followed by short, concise answers directly underneath?
In other words, simply because of the way their content is formatted, FAQ pages are recommended if you plan on optimizing your website to capture any voice queries coming its way.
As to what to include in said pages, place yourself in your audience’s shoes and think of what they would ask that could lead them to your site. For example, as part of a digital marketing agency, I would include questions such as, "How can I optimize for voice search?"
If you find yourself unable to come up with any, use resources like Answer the Public to flesh out your list, which provides auto suggest results from Google and Bing.
For instance, continuing with our digital marketing example from above, using "voice search" as the keyword leads to the following:
- What is voice search SEO
- Is voice search free
- What’s voice search
- What can voice search do
- Who uses voice search
As you can see in the image above, you can get A LOT of results from a single keyword. From here, pick and choose the ones that seem most pertinent, and then group questions with common themes in the same section/page. In doing so, you’ll essentially be feeding search engines voice search fodder they can pull up as soon as one of your audience members says, "Hey Siri…."
Voice search is the newest way to search; it’s both easier and faster than traditional search, and even leads to answers that are more closely aligned to the searcher’s original intent.
But that's also what makes optimizing for it different. To do so, you’ll need to switch up your strategy and incorporate the tips above. Ready to get started with best practices?