The fact that you are reading this article tells that you are interested in learning more about voice search. Obviously, that means that you and I both agree that voice is going to play a major role in 2018 and next few years (till the time AI takes control of everything).
Before we dig into this article where we will try to tell you how to optimize yourself (your website) for voice search, let’ see why it is important:
- Google sells a Google home device every second (Techcrunch, 2018)
- Amazon sold hundreds of millions of Echo, their smart assistant solution till 2016
- More people now visit websites from mobile than from desktop/laptops
- 55% teens and 41% adults use voice search more than once a day (Google data, 2018)
Now, let’s track back and let me tell you about my personal experience with voice.
I have never been an iPhone user. I had my Macbook but I always used Android as my cellphone. Androids didn’t have smart assistants like Siri of Apple, so I didn’t have any idea on how those voice assistants work.
However, from all we know, Siri wasn’t that popular (still not) back in the days.
People preferred to type in information than speaking to Siri.
This all started to change when Google & Apple both realized that the world is moving towards a voice driven eco-system. More and more people were operating using voice and podcasts were going big.
Today, I don’t even realize that I do regular stuff like setting up alarms, reminders or weather checks using Voice and “Ok Google”, Google’s stupid assistant.
Voice is not coming, it is already here.
Before we get into the optimization stage (I have really cool strategies to share), let me quickly brief you on why everyone, including me think voice will matter.
There are a variety of reasons but these are the core ones.
Why Voice Search Is Important
Forbes actually said that voice search will change the future of SEO and where I don’t agree with most of the tech predictions that Forbes make, I think I like this one. Here’re the big reasons:
Rise of Mobile
More people now use cellphone than ever before. There was once a time when mobile used to be that social media and chatting device where we used laptop for our core work. That completely changed. Since smartphones started to become “smarter” every year, more and more people are using mobile as their primary device for consuming internet.
It makes sense, right?
After all, your mobile is always with you, whether you are on a commute or on your bed, late at night. Mobile is an easier companion to handle than a laptop.
What comes with mobile?
The ability to operate via voice.
A recent study of more than 850,000 search queries tells us that Google is now able to deliver direct result in 19.5% of the times. When they are able to deliver you the final result, there’s no reason for you to sort through information to click on a site that you think is legitimate. Google is doing that for you now.
Natural Speech Patterns
This also came up in that Forbes article written by AJ Agarwall. You see, when we speak to an AI (Siri, Google or Alexa), we talk naturally. Let’s use an example to understand it better.
Suppose, you are looking for the best cat food on planet. If you are on your desktop, you will probably Google something like “best cat food” or “best cat food on planet”.
That’s about it.
However, research shows that if you are on your cellphone and if you are using voice to search, you will say something like “best cat food on planet for my British shorthair white cat who is 1 year old”
Alright, I might be exaggerating a bit but you get the point, right?
When people use their voice, they do more natural searches and Google loves it.
That’s why they are after implementing a completely different index for cellphone. You remember this news, right?
This was in 2016 and it happened last year in 2017. Google now has two completely different index for mobile and desktop and all our tests tell us that they index mobile version faster which can also mean that they are focusing on that part more than the desktop version.
Anyway, if you look at Google’s history and how they wanted their search result page to be, you will see that Google has always emphasized on a few key factors:
- Relevant search results
- The ability for users to find information quick
- Natural results for natural queries
The third one seems to match perfectly with the voice storm and that’s why we think voice search is going to be super important.
There’s another angle to look at it. As Google now has artificial intelligence which has the lowest error rate in their history (around 8% now from 20% in 2012), Google can better understand your voice and can also show you the perfect results almost all the time.
Long Tail Keywords
This is basic and as SEOs, I am sure you can understand this part. When we search using our voice, we don’t only get precise, we also give Google long tail keywords to use. Google loves it as it is easier for their system to find information if the keyword is long tailed.
What’s a long tail keyword by the way?
A long tail keyword is a phrase of more words that you give to Google. So if we go back to our example, cat food would be a short tail keyword where best cat food for my British shorthair cat would be a long tail keyword (British short hair cats have long tail anyways).
You get the idea.
The longer the “phrase of words” is, the easier it is for Google to find the perfect information for you from it’s directory. That’s why Google wants you to talk instead of typing.
That’s another reason why voice SEO is going to be important.
The moment I am writing this article, Google has delivered a ‘showdown’ of what their AI can do. Google’s artificial intelligence system is now able to chat with strangers like a real person. Here’s the video:
What does this tell you?
This tells me that Google is completely focused on a mobile and AI drivel world where voice would be the primary method of communication.
They are doing all they can to make it happen and therefore, it is obvious that voice SEO is going to go big.
Benefits of Focusing on Voice Search
We all know that there are certain ‘benefits’ if you focus on voice search. Before we get into the details of how to make your site voice ready, let’s talk about some native benefits that voice readiness will offer you.
More Space on Featured Snippet
Featured snippets are awesome. Primarily because when you do a voice search, Google’s AI actually reads out the result of the featured snippet (AKA position 0) to you.
Obviously, you would want to be there.
And voice readiness helps.
If you do your voice seo right, the chance is higher than average that you would land on position 0 which will allow you to steal traffic even from the first ranked site.
Know that Google doesn’t specify on how to appear to the snippet, however, they said on multiple occasions that if your website is ‘mobile optimized’, you have better chances of being there.
You want people to click on your URL from the SERPs. Why do you want that?
You want it because the traffic then converts into customers for you or maybe you send them to a 3rd website to generate affiliate income.
Whatever it is, understand that passive consumption is going to go higher once voice becomes the primary method of search. When you do a search with voice, you don’t use fingers to select a SERP results. Google’s AI does it for you and it even will read the content of that particular page for you.
What does that mean?
It means that if you have a solid voice position, you will always be seen as a friend by Google’s AI which means more passive consumption of your website.
More Direct Businesses
The ‘funnel’ of acquiring a lead, nurturing it and then making a customer is going to be super fast on the voice world. The search queries often ask AI to make a call and if you have a voice ready website, your site will get more calls from potential clients. As you saw in that AI showdown, Google’s intelligence is now able to call on your behalf and even setup a meeting.
Therefore, the opportunities to get direct businesses will increase.
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room.
How to Optimize For Voice Search?
There are at least, 1000 things you can do to start appearing on voice SERPs. However, most of them are basic. You already know that you should have a decent website that’s mobile optimized and all those basic stuff. I would be trying to tell you only the important steps that you should think about immediately.
Focus on Microdata
Some of you know that I have been an affiliate marketer for a long time and when I used to build affiliate sites, I never thought about micro-data. The basic xml sitemap and robots.txt file were enough for me.
They are still important.
But you should feed Google more micro-data now.
How do you think Google was able to know the population of China in this query? The right side result that you are seeing is taken from World Bank and the reason?
They are good at schema and structured data.
Google actually has a tool that you can use to check if your website has structured data or not. They call it the Structured Data Testing Tool.
Basically, this tool tells you what information Google has about your site and you should always try to feed it as much as possible.
How to do that?
There are different ways. You can code data and put it in your header but I mostly go with Schema Markup Plugins. If you are on WordPress, simply do a search for these plugins and you will find a lot of good ones.
These plugins will allow you to put structured data about your website that Google can read easily. This will dramatically improve your voice search appearances.
The art of writing generic ‘essay type articles’ are gone. You now need to answer specific questions that people have to appear on SERPs.
Remember, when we search using our voice, we almost never say generic words. We ask questions and the SERPs therefore, expect to see web pages that answer questions.
How do you know what questions to answer in a particular article?
I like to use a tool called Answer The Public. This tool allows you to gather questions around your topic and you immediately know what questions to answer in an article. For example, If I was writing an article about cat food, I would do a search on Answer The Public and this is how the result would look like:
See the number of questions you have that needs to be answered?
Use this tool right and you will never be short on ideas.
Also, try to incorporate everything that revolves around answering questions within your article. Try to add more FAQ sections on your website if possible. They all add up.
Optimize For Mobile
Optimizing for mobile does not mean having a theme that’s mobile friendly. Obviously, that’s a must but you need to do way more than just that to appear on voice SERPs.
Make sure that the UX is done right so that you do not leave vacant spaces for mobile users. The loading speed should be super fast so use good hosting and use light images + all the caching plugins you can to ensure faster load speed.
When you are optimizing for mobile, make sure that you are not using stuff like full screen pop up or auto-scrollers as they will hamper user experience.
Fix Your Tech
This is not only important for voice SERPs but also for your overall rankings. You should make sure that all the technical issues have been taken care of before you move for rankings. I use Screaming Frog quite frequently to check everything that’s wrong with my domains. Though everything is important, focus should primarily be on these topics:
Meta Description: Your meta description should be within 320 characters and it should encourage people to click on the link. If it has a decent CTR (click through rate), voice assistant is going to pick it up. Google recently changed their meta description limit to 320 characters from 160 and you should take that opportunity to push down your competitors.
Multiple Redirection Hops: Google can read as much as 3X hops so if you have URLs on your website that redirects for more than thrice, make sure that you fix them; otherwise, Google will be showing a 404 error page.
SSL Certificate: You must have SSL certificate and every http link should be redirected to the https version. Google doesn’t rank http sites anymore even in their desktop result so you can expect them not to rank them on voice too.
There’s a lot of them but I don’t want this to be an on-page SEO guideline. If you want, I can write a separate article about that. Do let me know in the comments.
LSI Is The Key
Those days are long gone when you used to put the main keyword everywhere 100 times and get ranked. The world is all about LSI keywords now and I recommend that you use a tool like LSIGraph to find all variations of your main keyword and try to incorporate them within your content.
The voice search study tells us that only 1.71% results on voice search shows the exact keyword in the title tag which simply means that you shouldn’t try to rank for one particular keyword only. You should write content about a particular topic instead of writing content for a ‘keyword’. This will get you placed on voice SERPs.
Long Content Rules
When you have more words in a particular page, you simply offer more opportunities to Google for a match. That’s one reason to have long form of content. Our desktop SEO experience tells us that an average result on the first page varies from 1800-2500 words which means that Google likes longer form of content.
If you combine these two, you can expect them to be biased for long form of content even in the voice world.
Google never confirmed this. Being a giant competitor to Facebook, they probably will never do. According to Google, social share has never been a ranking factor and it will never become one.
However, the facts tell us that the more a content gets socially viral, the more is the chance for the website associated with that content to appear on the first page.
Now, it might not be the case too as we don’t have evidence. However, who doesn’t want to get more traffic from social media, right? It is a win-win for you.
So there you go.
This was my quick guide about how to optimize for voice SEO in 2018 and beyond. Feel free to ask your questions in the comments. I would love to answer.