Watch just about any movie set in the future or a high-tech universe, and you’ll see characters commanding their robotic servants to do their bidding using only the power of their voice. In the future, it seems, buttons are for chumps.
Surprisingly, while we don’t have flying cars or that ridiculous looking tiered chess set, voice commands have become a present reality. They may have began as a novelty at first, but they quickly proved their usefulness in real-world scenarios. As voice recognition and natural language processing technology improved, voice command use has increased. We have even created devices that must be interacted with entirely through voice. The future, it appears, is now!
So what does that mean for your business? Firstly, if you intend to generate leads through online search, having a voice search SEO strategy is no longer optional. More than 20% of all mobile searches were performed through voice commands in 2016, and that number has likely risen.
Furthermore, 39 million Americans own a smart speaker device. That number also leaves out the myriad game consoles, computers, and other voice-capable devices on the market, giving you a sense of the full scale involved with just how huge voice search is and will become.
All told, millions of users are likely conducting billions of voice searches every year. One recent study even found that half of teens and 41% of adults use voice search at least once a day.
Luckily for your business, these queries are tied to the exact same search engines you are probably already optimizing for. You just have to make a few simple additions to your existing SEO strategy. If you’re interested in improving your visibility through voice search and earning more leads in an increasingly voice-focused world, you can use the following four tactics within your voice search SEO strategy.
Aim for More Conversational Language Targeting Long Tail Queries
Unsurprisingly, voice search is making us much more verbose. While short, truncated queries like “criminal lawyer GA” may be the norm when typing out a query, the average voice-based query is more than four words long. These words may also include conversational niceties and specific modifiers, such as “where can I find a criminal lawyer for driving without a license in Georgia?”
Because people tend to be more extrapolative and specific when using voice commands, your keyword strategy should accommodate by using more keyword variations in complete phrases. Rather than focusing on one term ad nauseam (which is already a bad SEO strategy), you can build out a set of natural-sounding variations using different phrasings as well as synonyms.
Your aim is to have a subject semantically related to the query without necessarily needing an exact match. In fact, just 1.7% of all voice search results has an exact match in the title tag.
But just because you’re being conversational doesn’t mean you have to get chatty! The average voice search returned information to the user that is just 29 words long. That’s because voice searches increasingly prioritize offering short, informative snippets of information that can answer the user’s questions in seconds. In fact, when one user tallied up his use of voice search, 40% of non-device action queries returned just a simple answer (10% of all queries total).
However, 48% of queries returned more-complex answers. And, simple answers may still have sourced information from a specific website, which strengthens your opportunity to be a reference point for the next query even if it doesn’t lead to a website visit.
So be informative and conversational, but don’t waste the search assistant’s time or you likely won’t get picked when a query comes along! As a best practice, you may want to build out content in Q&A form since search engine spiders can crawl this content and pull out answers more readily.
Earn Featured Snippets and Use Metadata to Give People Quick Answers
When we used the term “snippets” above, that wasn’t a coincidence! That’s the term Google uses to refer to small bits of information it pulls up using structured data.
If your answer to a common question or search engine query is chosen by Google, your information will appear as a “featured snippet” in a small “answer box” at the top of search results. Some refer to this ranking as “position zero” since it’s shown above what is technically the #1 position on search engine results (SERPs). To earn this position, you need to have short, helpful answers as described above in combination with the appropriate markup on your page’s HTML code.
Even if you don’t stand a chance to earn a featured snippet, using structured data and markup is still a great idea for voice SEO. The more information you tag using this markup, the easier it is for search engines to crawl your site and pull specific information in response to a voice query. That way, if someone asks a question like, “is there a bowling alley open near me?”, the voice assistant can respond with your store hours presuming they have been appropriately tagged.
Optimize for Local “Near Me” Searches, Even if Your Services Are All Online
Many voice searches are conducted while someone is in a hurry and has an intent to purchase a good or service right then. This can mean they are on their way out the door and asking their Amazon Alexa for directions, or it can mean they are already in the car talking to their smartphone.
Voice searches for businesses, especially ones qualified with “near me,” will almost always pull up local search listings. To be visible, you must follow local SEO best practices, including:
- Registering for Google My Business and Bing Places for Business
- Ensuring your information is accurate, including your “maps” location and store hours
- Curating positive reviews
- Providing locally-focused content
Even if your business isn’t technically a brick-and-mortar location the average customer would visit, having these elements in place is crucial since a voice search or “near me” search can still pull up your listing. Besides, someone searching for something like “digital marketing agency” may prefer to work with a locally based business regardless of whether they ever set foot in the physical office.
Don’t Neglect Bing, The Biggest Source of Voice Search Results
Bing has always been the reluctant “Player Two” character — the John Oates to Google’s Daryl Hall; the Luigi to its Mario.
But, when it comes to voice search, Bing just might have the first player controller in its own hand for once!
That’s because Bing is the default search engine for billions of devices, including:
- Amazon Alexa-powered devices, like the Echo
- Vehicles from Ford, Toyota, BMW, Lexus and Volkswagen (Powered by Alexa)
- Apple devices, including iPhones and the Apple Watch
- Xbox One game consoles (roughly 18 million owners)
- Microsoft devices powered by Cortana, including all Windows 10 computers
As you can see, that’s quite a sizeable install base! It equals billions of devices funneling search results through Bing rather than Google.
In response, make sure you brush up on how to optimize for Bing. Luckily, it’s not too different than Google, but it may require you to install a separate software pack so you can accurately monitor your Bing results.
Improve Your Voice Search SEO With an Atlanta SEO Company
So there you have it! Four ways to improve your visibility, ranking, and ability to convert leads from voice search. By making your content conversational, to the point, appropriately marked-up, locally optimized, and aware of Bing’s unique SEO requirements, then you are well on your way to improved voice search marketing results.
And if you need help, don’t hesitate to ask the experts! Everspark Interactive is an Atlanta SEO company that has been helping businesses improve their digital marketing performance and optimize for voice search for over 10 years. If you have any questions or need assistance, contact us today!