Voice control is gradually ceasing to be a gimmick. Today, a voice interface is present in smartphones, tablets, home appliances, etc. The pace of life is accelerating, and people worldwide are often using voice commands to do something on the go or find some information they need right now.
Large companies follow these user needs and develop their own voice assistants that recognize and fulfill user requests.
Voice search is definitely a hot trend as 43% of users aged 16 to 64 already use their voice to search for something on the Internet. That is almost half of all Internet users! This information is impossible to ignore.
If your goal is to stay on top of the search results and get more traffic, optimizing your site to voice search peculiarities is a must. So, let’s take a closer look at voice search and local SEO in this article.
Why is voice search becoming more popular?
We often do something on the go, from shopping online to chatting with friends. Voice dialing and short voice messages are becoming more and more popular. Many household appliances also often have voice control. Therefore, it is not surprising that more and more people prefer to search for information on the Internet using voice search as well.
Voice search has several clear benefits:
- Giving a voice command is faster than typing on a keyboard.
- You do not need to hold a phone or other gadget in your hand to submit a voice request.
- You can find the information you need while driving, doing household chores, sitting with friends in a cafe, etc.
- The request can be formed in natural language (just like you communicate in everyday life) without choosing the exact wording.
Voice search has already become a trend, and this definitely affects search engine optimization. If you want to get more traffic to your site, you should start optimizing your site for voice search now without waiting for your competitors to do it.
How do people generally send voice requests?
First, let’s see which gadgets have voice assistants and how you can give voice commands to them.
Voice assistants are AI-based programs that perform specific actions at the request of users. For example, they can add an event to your calendar, play your favorite song, send another person a notification about your meeting today.
Supported languages and general functionality vary by manufacturer. Many voice assistants cannot only follow instructions but also maintain a full-fledged dialogue with the owner.
Thanks to machine learning, voice assistants can recognize the language and essence of the request and find the appropriate answer. The system turns a voice request into text by going through several stages:
- Filtration of extraneous noise;
- Digitizing sound waves and converting them into code;
- Dividing the request into speech constructions, analysis;
- Comparison of words and phrases in the query with templates in the database.
Modern voice assistants can recognize commands in natural language (in a conversational style) and take the context into account – analyze the history of previous requests, current location, time, and so on.
If the program does not understand the request, it asks the user to reformulate the command. However, today’s most popular voice assistants recognize queries with an accuracy of close to 100%.
Here’s a list of the most popular voice assistance right now:
- Siri by Apple;
- Google Assistant;
- Amazon’s Alexa;
- Samsung Bixby;
- Cortana by Microsoft;
- AliGenie by Alibaba.
If a user asks to find some information on the Internet, voice assistants use search engines’ data. Google Assistant obviously uses Google, and Siri also uses this search engine. Cortana and Alexa search Bing for information.
Samsung has its own Kngine search engine. AliGenie does not yet know how to search for information on the Internet but can order goods in the T-mall online store.
Smart speakers with voice assistants
Smart speakers are small multifunctional gadgets that recognize and execute various voice commands, including searching for information on the Internet.
The most popular smart speakers today are:
- Apple HomePod;
- Google Home;
- Amazon Echo;
- Samsung Galaxy Home.
It is expected that in the near future, the market will actually be split between Google Home and Amazon Echo with a small share of Apple HomePod.
It is noteworthy that when using smart speakers to search for information, you get only one, the most relevant result, which the gadget reads out loud.
Voice search in the search bar
The Google search engine also provides voice search, regardless of which device you use. All you need to do is click on the microphone:
Google has special algorithms that recognize the meaning and purpose of the entire query, not just particular words. The Hummingbird algorithm and the RankBrain artificial intelligence system are responsible for this. In a very simplistic way, it works like this:
- The user says, “where to buy milk near me”;
- The algorithm focuses on the phrase “near me” and looks for grocery stores near the user’s location (if geolocation is enabled).
It is worth noting that the search is carried out according to many factors that Google does not fully disclose. Therefore, the voice search results from the desktop browser and smartphone may differ.
Does your business really need to adapt to voice search?
Optimization of an existing marketing and SEO strategy is needed first of all if:
- You represent a bar, shop, restaurant, etc. As a rule, users that want to attend such a venue use words such as “near me,” “now,” “near,” etc., in their search.
- You provide services such as car repair, dry cleaning, beauty salon, and so on.
- You run a taxi company. Users often search for a taxi service by sending a voice request from their phone.
- You have a theater, cinema, gallery, or other similar establishments. In this case, users will be interested in the schedule, opening hours, dress code, and other details.
- You are developing an online store. In this case, the request that should lead the client to you usually sounds like this: “where to buy a yellow dress now?”.
Regardless of whether your business is on the list above, you should still think about optimizing your site for voice search, as this trend is only gaining momentum and will not disappear in the coming years. If you’re ready to get started, the guide below is for you.
How to optimize your site for voice search?
Brian Dean from Backlinko analyzed how 10,000 Google Home smart speakers process user requests and what information they provide.
According to the expert, pages with the following characteristics are selected as a relevant response to a user request:
- Fast page loading (about 4.6 seconds).
- Reliable and authoritative domain, connection over HTTPS.
- The text is written in simple language, understandable even for a child.
Dean also found that the voice search results are often excerpts from a long read (the average number of words per page selected as a search result is 2312). Also, the answers are often found in the featured snippet. It also matters how viral the content on the page is (social media shares).
The presence of Schema.org markup and the exact keyword in the title have little effect on the choice of a particular page for a voice search result.
Now let’s take a look at what work your SEO specialist can do to tailor your site to voice search.
Keywords not only do not lose their relevance but also become even more important. Look for long-tail keywords to optimize your site for voice search. Users literally ask their questions out loud the way they are used to, which is why 5-7 word keywords are replacing short queries.
What else can you do:
- Expand semantics with medium- and low-frequency queries. High-frequency keywords often sound unnatural and are not used in voice searches. Compare: “buy cakes in New York” and “where can I buy delicious cakes at night?”
- Use natural language, slang, and LSI words.
- Choose keywords that are specific to your niche and for which you have lots to tell in detail.
- Remember that people often start their voice searches with words like “how,” “where,” “when,” and “why.” Pay special attention to such keywords.
- To get to the featured snippet section in voice search results, the answer to the question must be at the very beginning of the text, ideally in the first 29 words.
- Use professional services for collecting semantics, such as SE Ranking – they will allow you to get more ideas for keywords in a few clicks and see real user queries.
- Expand semantics with various services on which users search for answers to their questions: Quora, AnswerThePublic, Ubersuggest, and others.
- Page loading speed is at the forefront. The faster the page loads, the better. You can check the current indicator using the Google PageSpeed Insights service. To speed up loading, compress images and scripts, set caching, implement lazy load. You can also implement AMP and Turbo Pages technologies.
- Move to reliable hosting and use an SSL certificate.
- Provide a responsive design if you haven’t already.
- Remove obsolete technologies and plugins such as Flash.
Although the research above does not confirm the importance of microdata markup, we still believe that it will not be superfluous.
In particular, Schema.org will definitely come in handy for you because there you can specify contact information and opening hours – this is exactly what search robots will look for to find the answer to the user request.
First, add FAQ blocks to important pages. This format is most suitable for voice search because it contains conversational questions and answers in simple language.
Talk to your support and sales teams to find out what users are really asking them. Collect all frequently asked questions in one document and give the fullest possible answers to them.
The structure of the content is also of great importance. You should tell the robots in which section of your article they should look for the answer to the user’s question. Use the following types of markup:
- subheadings H2-H6;
- numbered and bullet lists;
- highlighted paragraphs with particularly important thoughts.
In subheadings, also use interrogative keywords more often.
Create expert and detailed articles that cover a specific topic as fully as possible. Don’t write an article for every request, and don’t mix topics with each other.
Do not use complex terms; write in simple language, short and clear. You need to convey information to the widest possible audience, and then Google robots will most likely choose your page to display in voice search results.
In addition, remember about user intents and the fact that all requests are divided into informational and commercial ones.
A large proportion of voice queries are about local issues. People are looking for the nearest restaurant, the opening hours of the bank, and so on. Voice search works great exactly for local businesses.
To succeed, fill out all the fields in your Google My Business card – often, Google often displays search results from this same source as it seems the most reliable. Also, take a look at the Q&A tab in Google My Business. Do not leave it blank, but answer users’ questions instead.
Related topic: Unpacking SEO for the Google Local Pack
Let’s sum it all up
About half of Internet users use voice search today, which will grow from year to year. For SEO specialists, this means that sites need to be optimized for more conversational and longer user queries.
To get it right, put yourself in the shoes of your users and think about what questions you could answer. Make a list of these questions – in fact, these are the keywords that you should use in your content.
In addition, you can always get more ideas for keywords using special programs that collect and cluster real user queries.
Also, do not forget about the importance of having a mobile version of the site, page load speed, and other technical nuances that we’ve talked about in this article.