Google is yet to release any official guidelines on how voice search results are generated or how Google measures the data generated from voice search, but they have hinted that it will show in Google Search Console how people are finding their pages through voice search.
We’ve been following voice search studies and combined their findings with what we already know about SEO, to highlight some key areas we anticipate will contribute to your search result success using voice search.
What is Google Voice Search?
Voice search is the user using their voice via a device, usually a smartphone or home assistant, to carry out an action via a search engine or digital assistant.
Searches made by voice have increased in popularity since the introduction of the smart speaker for the home. Market leaders include Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, Apple’s HomePod and Microsoft’s Cortana.
Voice search enables people to interact and engage with devices and technology in a conversational manner. Users can request information by asking a device a question, which will then return an answer directly to their screens or announce the answer out loud via a smart speaker.
Users can instruct their device using their voice to perform a search, get directions, and carry out actions such as create reminders.
How does Voice Search work?
Voice search uses speech recognition to understand a query or instruction that is made by the user. The search engine will then try to find an online answer to match the query. When a voice search is made using a mobile device, the user will usually be directed to a web page. For a query made using a smart speaker, the digital assistant will read out the information from the result that best answers the query, usually ranking in position zero, a snippet from a high ranking site, or position one in the search results page.
Traditional Search V's Voice Search
People who perform a voice search will use different terms for their search to those that would key in a search term or phrase, known as a traditional search. Voice search means searches are becoming longer and more conversational, where complex search queries are on the rise.
A traditional search is often an unclear query using a few words. A voice search is more conversational meaning the query is longer.
Traditional Search: “new laptops in 2018” = 19 characters
Voice Search: “What are the newest laptops in 2018?” = 36 characters
= 89.5% increased character count
A traditional search query consists of 3-5 words. When a digital home assistant is being used, users will ask longer and more natural questions.
Once you optimize your site for long tail keywords and phrases, it is likely that you will begin to target the ‘lower hanging fruits’ of your market. These niche, low volume searches carry greater intent, meaning they reach your site due to their search queries being relevant to your content. This will help Google develop a better semantic understanding of your website and associate you with certain niches.
Voice search usage compared to text search is three times more likely to be used for local purposes and be location specific. Location signals are developing as crucial optimization aspects that every company needs to take into consideration. Consider Local Search Ads in Google Maps to improve your visibility.
How to optimize your website for voice search?
Voice searches are typically made from a mobile device and are often locally focused. This type of search is more conversational and has a natural tone to it.
For example, you live in London but visit Southampton. While you are in Southampton, you search for a restaurant. Your smartphone will anticipate where you are based on your location, and return results for restaurants based in Southampton.
Google wants to return the best results for on-the-go searchers in answer to their search query. In order to do this, Google requires easily identifiable, short and relevant content to serve back.
If you haven’t already claimed your Google My Business listing, then what are you waiting for?
Your Google My Business listing is a quick and easy way for Google to find out more about your business. You can update your area of business, address, phone number, email address, and more.
Claiming and maintaining your Google My Business listing can help to increase your chances of exposure when a voice search is done, relevant to your local business.
Find out more about Google My Business and how to get started.
Keyword research is an imperative part of SEO, but it is important to understand and recognise the differences in keywords for voice search. A voice search query is “conversational.” Think about how you may ask a question of Google if you were to type the search, and how you would ask Google by voice search.
Traditional search: “opening times Blue Frontier” = 27 characters
Voice search: “What are the opening times for Blue Frontier?” = 45 characters
= 66.7% increased character count
Assess the search terms that people may ask that your site can answer, and the keywords that have brought searchers to your site. If the user typed in a search for “best restaurant Southampton”, think how this may be spoken as a question, “What is the best restaurant in Southampton?”
Traditional search: “best restaurant Southampton” = 27 characters
Voice search: “what is the best restaurant in Southampton?” = 43 words
=59.3% increased character count
The voice search query uses conversational phrases that you need to incorporate when optimizing for voice search. Begin to write a list of the most popular questions people ask about your business. If you’re not sure, try making a note of what questions you are asked when somebody calls your office with an enquiry.
Now that you have your list of questions, you can begin to update and create new content to answer those conversational search terms.
A page of frequently asked questions provides an opportunity to source long-tail keywords about your content.
Using your list of questions that you are often asked regarding your business, products or services, answer them in this section of your website. You’re expanding your content by answering relevant and valuable subject questions. Your questions should sound natural so try not to focus too heavily around the SEO-keyword phrases you’re used to concentrating on.
Phrase each question in the first person and it may just be what somebody asks in their search query. Your answers should be short and informative, delivering a concise answer to the question asked.
Structured data, also known as schema mark-up, is a form of HTML data embed into your website's code used to increase its visibility to search engines, and help optimize your content for voice search.
It is important for search engines to be able to read your structured data to better understand the context of the content of your website, so search results can surface the relevance of the content you produce.
When adding structured data to your website content, it is important to ensure that your structured data is relevant and accurate to your business and industry. Avoid spamming your structured data as this may result in a manual action from Google for violating their Webmaster Guidelines
Get in Google’s Answer Box
Ask yourself; have I provided the best possible answer to the question?
Google’s answer box is the results that are featured right at the top of the results page, also known as a “featured snippet” or position zero.
By optimizing your content, you gain more opportunity to be a featured snippet in search results, giving you a greater advantage and immediate benefit.
• How-to guides
• Calculations and conversions
• Health (particular symptoms of illnesses)
• Question based queries
• Rank well organically. Without solid SEO and rankings, your content won’t appear at the top of the SERP
• Short and easy to digest paragraphs
• Includes how to or answers questions
• Optimized for long-tail questioning keywords
• Contains lists that Google is easily able to understand
• Short, concise answers. Answers are typically 29 words in length with an average word count of 2,312 characters.
As we mentioned in the introduction, Google is yet to release official guidelines on how voice search results are generated, but in the meantime, follow the points we have mentioned in this article and don’t forget the fundamentals of SEO to keep your site up-to-date and healthy.
• Regularly update and create new content that is simple and easy to read
• Well-structured content is easier to read so ditch the tables or list of links
• Content with high levels of social engagement
• The average voice search result page loads in 4.6 seconds. Site speed is important to user experience
• HTTPS – an SSL certificate protects user’s sensitive information by encrypting website and secure communication between browser and server
• Build links with authoritative domains
• Appearing in a featured snippet may help
• Build up your domain authority
• Consider AdWords location extensions for “near me” searches