Voice based queries are on the increase and at the same time Google is rewarding (e.g. providing greater visibility to) sites that have the best content. Best content is considered that which answers all of the possible questions a reader might have.

For example, on my desktop I would search for “teal dress.” But when it comes to a voice query, I might ask, “Hey Cortana, where can I find a teal jersey knit cotton dress?”

You simply speak your question into your device, and it gives you the answer… actually the answer is typically spoken out loud to you (slightly different than speaking to your phone). For example, you might ask it, ‘what is the current temperature outside?’ and your device (Google, Alexa, Cortana) will say, ‘the current temperature outside is 6 degrees’ as opposed to just showing you a list of websites with the weather.

Despite the fact that this technology has been around since 2010, it has become far more advanced over recent years. It’s more common than ever for people to use voice search on their mobile devices or even to buy voice assistant devices for their homes (my 75 year old mother uses Alexa to turn lights on and off!).

Given this trend and Google’s announcement that it will include queries from voice search in the Google Search Console, it’s become more important than ever to include voice search in your SEO strategy for 2020. Note that there are both technical and content requirements for your site to be the source of information that is used as an “answer”.

Why Do a Voice Search?

Speaking is faster than typing and is hands free therefore is ideal when you are on your way out the door and want to know if it will rain today (and your phone is buried in your bag); when you are up to your elbows in floor and forget how much water to add to a recipe or when you are driving.

Where Does the Information Come From?

With most types of search you’ll get a list of the various websites you could visit to find the information that you’re looking for, but with voice search you’ll only get one result (which will be read out loud to you).

This information usually comes from a relevant featured snippet (the featured snippet is a piece of info that has been taken directly from a website and displayed in a box of its own above the list of regular search results)

Here’s a great example where I ask a question and a featured snippet is used to present the answer – this would be what is read back if you speak to a device:

featured snippets example Superbowl 2021

Why Does Voice SEO Matter for Your Business?

According to Search Engine Journal, there have been more than 420 million voice assistants like Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant sold and approximately half of Americans now use the technology.

Additionally, the voice search market is set to be worth $30 billion by 2024, according to Quora Creative.

This alone would be enough reason to give voice search SEO your full attention, but there’s more:

  1. Like other technologies, voice search looks set to grow and improve in the future as natural language processing improves.
  2. Google announced that they plan to add voice search to Google Search Console, suggesting that they will place a similar emphasis on voice search as for other aspects of SEO.
  3. You use similar strategies for voice search as you do for regular search, making it well worth investing your effort into for the future.
  4. Voice search helps your business to stand out in a crowded market.

How to Optimize Your Website for Voice Search

Here are some great ways you can get noticed and steal that top spot.

1. Consider the differences between how people speak and how they write

There’s a huge different in the way people search for answers when they type into a search engine box compared with how they do it when speaking.

For example, if you wanted to find out where your local branch of Walmart was, you might type something like:

‘Walmart + [neighbourhood]’ or even ‘Walmart near me’.

But if you were to do a voice search, you’d ask a natural question such as ‘Where is the nearest Walmart?’

As you can see, the first type of search is unnatural. You wouldn’t ask your neighbour for help in that way, would you? However, the second example feels completely natural. It’s exactly what you could ask your neighbour.

So, when you focus on voice search, it’s important to tailor your content towards these natural questions.

Avoid those strange and awkward keyword phrases and instead use real words, real sentences and remember that you’re there to serve real people.

When it comes to creating content, focus on natural language SEO and aim to create content around a question and answer format for best results. If you’re struggling for ideas, check out the great free tool Answer The Public.

2. Create content for every stage of the buyer’s journey

Whenever you create content for your website, you should think about where in the buyer’s journey your customers might be, and ensure you have something just for them.

To explain how this works, let’s imagine that your friend has just started running and is considering buying a watch that can keep track of the vital statistics such as heart rate, pace, distance and so on.

As they think about their purchase, make their purchase and enjoy their new smartwatch, they’ll move through six broad stages. This is known as the ‘buyers journey’ and guides all kind of purchases from buying a new car, to ordering groceries online to choosing a vacation.

Continuing our smart watch example, these six stages would be;

  • Awareness: “What’s the best smart watch for runners?”
  • Interest: “Can you get email notification on a Fitbit Charge 2?”
  • Evaluation: “Whose GPS is better, Fitbit or Garmin?”
  • Purchase: “How much does a Fitbit Charge 2 cost?”
  • Customer support: “How can I change the home screen display on my Fitbit 2?”
  • Loyalty: “Which running shoes sync with the Fitbit 2?”

Create content that caters to each of these stages and you’ll become the business that seems to have all the answers. Your brand image will shine and you’re much more likely to convert those casual browsers into paying customers.

3. Be relevant

By being as relevant as you can, you’ll stand a better chance of fighting your way past the competition and grabbing that coveted top stop.

So, get yourself clued up on the real questions that your customers ask (your FAQ page is a great place to start) and again, make sure you create content around these topics.

In the process, you’ll also improve the experience your website visitors get and potentially improve your rankings.

4. Make sure your website is mobile friendly

No excuses. These days your website simply has to be mobile-friendly if you want your business to survive.

It’s one of the key criteria that Google uses to rank your website, it also affects how easy your website to use and importantly, it improves user experience to keep your customers happy.

But not just this. Because around 20-25% of voice searches are done on mobile devices, developing a mobile-friendly website is an essential part of getting you ahead in voice search.

5. Optimise for local search

Voice search tends to be used most by people looking for more information on the businesses in their area. For example, they look for opening hours, reviews, contact details and so on.

Get ahead of the game here by ensuring your local SEO is top-notch. Start by claiming your business on Google My Business then include content-specific keywords in your content and web pages.

Whether you’re a big fan of voice search devices or you’d much rather stick to a traditional ‘type-and-choose’ approach to web searches, voice searches will continue to become more important for businesses through 2020 and beyond.

That’s why you should focus on optimizing your website for voice search and see how your business grows. If you’d like help with this, contact the team today.

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