SEO is still a hugely important asset in 2017, and the way we optimise websites continues to evolve. Voice search has grown in popularity over the past few years, and so now comes the time when you need to ask yourself if you’re fully prepared for the inevitable rise in voice searches and usage of digital assistants over the next few years.
Local SEO is particularly affected by voice search, as people will search on their phones for the nearest suitable businesses. In fact, Google has shared that 20% of searches on the mobile app and Android phones are done via voice searches.
If you consider other smart assistants and devices such as Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, you can see why this figure is getting higher. It’s said that 30% of searches will be done without a screen by 2020.
Why is Voice Search Important Now?
Voice search started as a novelty, but is now more a necessity for people on the go, around the home, and on multiple devices.
Voice search is also more accurate than ever. 15 years ago, the error rates were around 20-30%, and Microsoft’s latest voice system has now got this down to 5.9%, which is around the same error rate as a human scribe.
Voice search has become more helpful with the rise of digital assistants, that seemingly understand, and answer queries in a human-like fashion.
The public is adapting, and now know how to use this form of functionality. So it’s important to consider how your website can adapt to cater for people searching in this way. In fact, Google Trends shows that Google voice search queries in 2016 are up 35x over 2008.
Consider How Digital Assistants Generate Results
Digital assistants may find results in a similar way a user might on a search engine, but there are some differences.
- Searchers will use a more conversational tone and different phrases to typing
- Some digital assistants search files and on apps that are on the device too
- Past questions, searches and learned preferences can influence results
- Assistants look to provide immediate answers instead of a lengthy browse online
- Knowledge graphs are more useful for digital assistants
Tips for Voice Search Optimisation
Research More Long-Tail Keywords
The first tip is to research more long-tail keywords relevant to your business.
Whether this is for content such as blog posts or downloads, or whether it’s for important service or product pages, people will be searching in a different manner.
When searching via voice, people will have a conversational tone, and use longer sentences with colloquial phrases. Consider optimising your content around searches people will say aloud.
Adding more natural language to your website can help with voice search results.
Question and Answers
Many people use voice search to ask questions and will expect answers. Whether this comes from the digital assistant or the search results can differ, but the end result is the same.
In this way, consider optimising your site with pages or content that answer questions people may ask about what you have to offer. Especially if it’s something people will need to know on-the-go, in the car, or if it’s a local business.
If you can generate content around long-form questions that the public may ask in order to find your business, this should work well for voice search.
Consider Incorrect Words and Spellings
It’s been found that outside of the 35% of normal recognition errors, 31% were related to noise and 22% were down to pronunciation. So consider any pronunciation or dialect issues that could arise, and address this in your SEO.
Also, another issue could be words that sound the same, if the digital assistant cannot decide between two different phrases. Also, there may be common misspellings that people will use, if particular products or services have long names.
Digital assistants may also not know how to spell brand names, especially if including specific family names or more complicated terms.
The fact that many voice searches are done on mobile devices, instead of desktop devices, means that a lot of searches will relate to location. Search Engine Watch reported that mobile voice-related searches are 3x more likely to be local-based than text.
Smartphones will have access to location data, and so people may say “near me” instead of a place name, which means it’s important to be listed on the right websites. Many people will simply ask something like “where is the nearest Italian restaurant” instead of typing in and searching for “Italian restaurant in Cambridge”.
Ensure your business is claimed on local directories and the right websites related to your location. Also make sure your listings are correct, with the right name, address, and phone number. Listing on Google’s My Business and map listings are also essential now. It’s advantageous to put your NAP (name, address, phone number) across your site on every page, and to ensure any citations are correct.
Now that Amazon, Google, and other manufacturers offer dedicated devices which listen to home-based conversations and offer guidance, consider how you can best optimise your site for this.
While location-based searches on mobile devices are easier to guess, home-based searches could be different. It could be someone wanting to stock up on supplies they have just found out they’ve run out of. And there’s a host of other examples.
Most people who own these kinds of devices are likely to be tech-savvy, which may influence their searches and their intent. But it’s still worth considering.
Keep it Easy to Crawl
Keeping it simple for Google and other search engines to crawl is fairly normal, but is also more important for voice search.
Make sure you submit a sitemap to Google and Bing, and incorporate microdata, schema, and rich snippets where possible.
Reviews are great (as long as they are positive) for winning over customer trust. This is often more relevant when it comes to voice searches.
As many voice searches are related to location, such as “best takeaway” or otherwise, ratings and reviews will play a big part in a user’s choice. If voice search is being used, they’re likely in a rush, and will have a quick glance. If you have the best reviews, that’s a good sign.
Consider Voice Search Intent
Consider the searcher intent behind people who come to your website. And then consider what people would be looking for or searching when using voice search. Brainstorm what people might be asking when looking for your business.
Look at your analytics. While you can’t see who came via search, it will give you a good idea what people are searching for.
In this way, short-tail keywords could become less important. Where a “typer” may be looking to research, browse, and read content online, a voice “searcher” will usually be looking for quick answers.
Google will often present simple answers displayed in the knowledge graph on the search results page itself. Consider ways around this, if you can’t reach the knowledge graph. Even getting your content in the knowledge graph can often not be the best option, as people are less likely to click your page.
A mobile-friendly site is a necessity, as most of the voice search traffic is going to be from mobile devices.
If users have a bad experience, they will go to a competitor, and you will get a high bounce rate which will negatively impact your SEO anyhow.
At the end of the day, voice search is likely still not the most important form of search, but worth considering.
People may be looking for directions, to call your business, to find the best business within a local vicinity, or simply use it in a normal manner. But voice search is certainly being used a lot more than in the past, and digital assistants are surely on the rise.
It’s important not to ignore voice search, and consider how you can optimise your SEO for conversational search in the future.
Below, you can see a video of how Google views the future of searching, with Google Assistant.