7 tips to make your website voice search friendly

“Hey, Goolexiri, tell me about SEO for voice.”

Search is changing. What used to be a text-only endeavor is morphing to focus on speech — kind of like evolution reversing itself. Now it’s all about search engine optimization for voice.

“Hey, Goolexiri. Let’s rewind!”

Around 100,000 years ago, give or take a day, humans developed spoken language. It then took about 90,000 for us to figure out how to write that spoken language down. (NYT)

Johns Hopkins University cognitive scientist Brenda Rapp presented findings that suggest there are “two quasi-independent language systems in the brain.” That is, speaking and writing seem to be the work of two different parts of your brain.

Reverse the human story and you have the computer story, especially as it relates to search. In the beginning, there were words, and then voice.

And as search moves more towards speech, your search engine optimization (SEO) practices are going to have to adapt and expand.

But don’t be scared. Tweaking your content for voice searching will make your online content more accessible to everyone.

Wonder how your content stands up? Ask us (get it?) for a free content scorecard review.

"Hey, ADG, let's talk."

Voice search is just for ecommerce, right?

Most people think voice search is just an ecommerce thing. It’s easy to believe that with OC&C predicting $40 billion in voice-assisted online shopping in 2022 (twenty times larger than their 2017 findings). At the beginning of 2019, Amazon reported over 100 million voice assistant devices sold with Alexa built in. And since Amazon is one of the biggest ecommerce companies in the known universe, you might think “voice search is just an ecommerce thing.”

Well, Adobe’s State of Voice Assistants study found that 30% of those surveyed use a voice assistant for ecommerce. But that was just slightly higher than the 28% who use it to research store information. And, speaking of research, 47% report using their voice assistant to search for and research products, which matches the 47% who use it for general search.

Adobe’s report shows that voice search is being used to find out information about things to buy, but not so much doing the actual buying. It also shows that almost half of all respondents report using voice search for … just search.

But that’s not all. By 2021, an estimated 40% of users will use a voice assistant as their main search tool. And once they have searched, 37% will share their positive experiences. To make sure your business doesn’t fall behind, get your website voice search friendly now.

Voice search impacts SEO

For example, once speech begins to develop in a child, as any parent can attest, the questions start. Children explore their world by asking for information. Think of these little humans as the perfect example of someone using voice search.

When people search online the traditional way, they input short search terms: “Safest cars,” “Ugly cats,” “Brand strategy” (By the way, We can do that!). We’ve been trained to base our SEO around this online pidgin language. We build content surrounding and focusing on those little terms. We make sure they appear all the places on our website they should to show we know what we’re talking about. They are the terms we champion on social media. (#hellohashtags!)

But our current SEO methods will fail due to how people use voice search.

You don’t just shout “Ugly cats!” to your smart speaker. You say, “Hey Goolexiri, what is the ugliest cat in the world?” Just like the developing child, you ask questions of your voice assistant. You ask full questions and expect full answers.

Optimizing for voice search

The key to surviving the voice search revolution is adjusting your thinking. For optimizing SEO for voice searches, you have to think like a searcher.

Here are seven tips to get you on the road to search optimization for voice.

  1. Create conversational copy. Write your copy as if you are talking to someone. Analyze all your keywords during your SEO prep like normal, and then create questions customers might ask around those topics. Use these questions to guide how you phrase your copy. Make it natural. Speak it back to ensure it flows like a conversation.
  2. Use long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are hyper-targeted phrases. These are used to better define and refine the search. To go back to the example in the previous section, a standard keyword would be “safest cars,” while a long-tail keyword would be, “safest family cars 2019.” No one would ask a voice assistant for the former; they’d be querying about the latter.
  3. Add location information. This goes hand in hand with tip two, as location information adds to the long tail of your keywords. “Okay, Goolexiri, tell me the safest family cars in 2019 near Accident, MD.” People ask voice search to find things nearby or in a specific area. Having that information on your site is key.
  4. Make copy super mobile-friendly. This is where you can employ your normal SEO skills. You want simple language, short paragraphs, and all the appropriate headings and subheadings. Voice search likes mobile-friendly; test your site to make sure it is.
  5. Ensure your site is responsive and secure. Backlinko reports that average voice search results load in 4.6 seconds and 70.4% of results returned by Google’s voice assistant are HTTPS. The secure part is easy, but that short load time is going to take a lot of compressing and optimizing. You can do it.
  6. Control your Google My Business listing. Make sure it is complete and accurate. Also, monitor it routinely to make sure it stays up to date. Voice search that uses Google as a search engine pulls info from this resource.
  7. Engage on social media and champion long-form copy. That same Backlinko report discovered that voice search results tend to have a large amount of social media engagement and long-form content (average word count of voice search result page is 2,312 words). Engaging your customers on social media and providing thought leadership content seems to help voice search just as much as its written cousin. Keep it up!

These seven steps are also a great way to tidy up your regular SEO, so it’s a win-win: Optimize for standard search engines and be in the vanguard of those sites optimized for voice search.

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