What On Earth Is Voice SEO?!

Thought there was only one way to find information online? Think again. Typing some words and hitting the ‘enter’ button may still be the go-to search method, but a new approach has grown in popularity in recent years — and is expected to become even more prominent moving forward, too.

Voice search has been around for a while, and even if you’ve never used it yourself, you’ll probably be familiar with it. The microphone button on the Google homepage and Apple’s Siri feature are two of the most well-known voice search tools. 

And if you’re a website owner, then it’s in your interest to invest in your voice search SEO. After all, you won’t want to lose visitors — and potential customers — all because you’ve focused all your SEO efforts on type searching. 

In this post, we’ll look at voice search optimisation in close detail, outlining what it is, why it’s important, and how to improve your own website’s voice SEO credentials. 

The Basics of Voice Search

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out voice search. The meaning is in the name! It’s just the act of making internet searches using your voice, rather than typing. It’s a different way to reach the same destination. Instead of using your typing fingers to make a search query, you simply say the words into your device, and then artificial intelligence takes over, showing results based on what you’ve said — or perhaps it’s better to say, based on what it thinks you said. Sometimes the automatic speech recognition system that transforms the speech into text doesn’t work exactly as it should, but these days it nearly always gets it right. 

The technology that powers voice searching sounds new, modern, and fancy, but it’s actually not all that recent. They had voice recognition back in the 1950s, after all. But it’s only in recent years — the last decade, specifically — that voice recognition has become advanced and robust enough to be usable and useful. 

What Devices Allow Voice Search?

These days, pretty much all devices allow voice search. In fact, this is one of the key reasons why voice search use has skyrocketed in recent years — the technology that enables this type of search is in practically every modern device. 

In fact, we’re pretty sure there’ll be a refrigerator out there somewhere that allows you to make searches using your voice. OK, that’s maybe pushing it, but let’s just say that voice search-enabled devices are everywhere. All modern laptops, tablets, and, most crucially of all, smartphones allow this type of search. There are also some devices, such as Amazon Alexa/Echo and Google Home, that have been specifically designed with voice searches/commands in mind. 

The leading search engines, Google and Bing, both allow users to make voice searches from all devices. If you have an iPhone, then you can activate Siri and search via voice.  

How Voice Search Differs From Type Search

People use voice search and type search for the same reason: to get internet results. But how they use each differs slightly. When a person makes a typed search, they’ll typically just throw in a few keywords that relate to what they’re looking for. No one types ‘What is the best pizza in Camden, please?’ — they type ‘best pizza Camden.’

When they make a voice search, they’ll say something closer to ‘What’s the best pizza in Camden, please?’ — just without the please (we’re talking to a robot, after all. We don’t need to be polite). It’s a conversational way of speaking. As such, content that incorporates a more conversational, or human tone, typically performs well for voice search requests. 

The type of searches that people make via voice search tends to differ from typed searches, too. 51% of voice search users look for local restaurants/cafes, with supermarkets, food delivery, clothing stores, and hotels not too far behind. All businesses/websites can benefit from improving their voice search SEO, but it’s especially important for local brick-and-mortar businesses. 

Voice Search Statistics

Need some convincing about the popularity of voice search? Check out some of these key voice search stats, which might just convince you that it’s time to invest in your website’s voice search optimisation.

  • There are one billion voice search requests made each month.
  • 50% of adults make daily voice search requests.
  • Voice search accounts for 20% of search requests within the Google app.
  • 58% of consumers use voice search to find local businesses.
  • Featured snippets account for 40% of voice search results.
  • The number of voice search assistants is expected to double in the next three years.

5 Tips for Voice Search Optimisation

OK, so by now we’ve figured out that voice search optimisation is important, especially for local businesses. It can already impact your website’s success, but given the increasing popularity of this search method, we can expect it to have an even bigger impact in the years to come. 

The bottom line? Your website needs to be ready to receive web users who make voice search requests. 

Thankfully, there’s a step-by-step approach you can take to bring your website up to speed with the demands of modern voice search requests. And, good news: improving your website’s voice SEO credentials won’t impact its traditional SEO credentials. Most of the steps you take to bolster your voice SEO will also have a positive impact on your overall SEO. It’s a win-win formula!

Follow the tips we outline below, and you’ll be ready to take advantage of voice search requests. 

Think Local

People are more likely to use voice search when they’re looking for local results. And this makes sense when you think about where people are making these types of search requests. A big chunk — some 45% — of voice search requests come from within the car. If you’re driving around, you probably won’t be searching for information about who won the 1964 Oscar for Best Picture (it was My Fair Lady). That can wait until you’re back home on the couch. No, when you’re driving, you’ll likely be searching for local businesses. You may need a phone repair shop, florist, or vegetarian restaurant.

You can help to drive your business up the voice search results listings page by investing in your local SEO credentials. This includes adding ‘near me’ to your anchor texts, meta descriptions, and titles, as well as dotting in references to any local landmarks. A restaurant that has ‘vegetarian restaurant near Big Ben’ on its website will perform better than one that simply says ‘vegetarian restaurant,’ for instance.

Use Human Language

The language of voice searches sounds more “natural” than typed searches. And there’s a simple reason for that: people will talk naturally when they’re speaking into their devices. It’s more conversational.

A typed search request may be something like ‘flowers near me.’ But when someone is talking, that is likely to become something more like: ‘Where can I buy cheap flowers in Liverpool?’ Voice search requests tend to be longer because people don’t mind talking, whereas they’ll try to be as quick and concise as possible when typing.

Providing conversational and — crucially — useful content on your website will help to improve your voice search results. But actually, it’ll also help with your broader SEO, too, regardless of how the search was made. If you answer users’ queries in the best way possible, then Google will reward you with a higher ranking. 

The best content is accessible, useful, and in line with the brand’s voice, which is a critical component behind engagement. For this reason, it’s best to avoid having artificial intelligence write your content. You can use it for inspiration, but have a human do the actual writing. 

Mobile Friendly Site

The majority of voice searches are made via smartphones. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, then Google isn’t going to show your site to its users. It’s as simple as that! Even if your website does show up in the search results, a user would only close the page if they clicked through and found that the website doesn’t function correctly on their smartphone.

Most websites are somewhat mobile-friendly. That is to say, they don’t offer the desktop experience when someone visits via their smartphone. But given how frequently people are using their smartphone to search online it’s important to go above and beyond to ensure that you offer an exceptional mobile experience. The vast, vast majority of voice searches are made via mobile, and, in fact, an increasing number of all searches are made this way, too. So don’t sleep on it. 

Some handy tips for optimising your site for mobile include:

  • Include AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) markup
  • Use excellent responsive web design.
  • Compress your images for faster load times.
  • Avoid using Flash.
  • Avoid all pop-ups. 

Give Google What It Wants 

All of the leading names incorporate voice search in some way or another. Apple has Siri. Amazon has Alexa/Echo. But they’re unlikely to be the ones you’re trying to please. It might be nice if Siri pays attention to your website, but it’s not the big one that you’re after. You want Google to pay attention.

So if you want to move up the voice search results page, you’ll need to make Google happy with your site. There are two easy ways to do this. First, claim your ‘Google My Business’ listing. It’s free, it’s important, and it takes next to no time. It’s a no-brainer since it tells Google that you’re there and that you’re ready to be found. Second, provide as much information as possible. That means your address, phone number, email address, website, photos, and opening hours. 

This has a positive impact that stretches beyond SEO. Web users are more than twice as likely to trust a business if it has a comprehensive Google Business page. And the higher the engagement you get from web users, the more Google will promote your page. It’s a win-win situation that can have a big impact, basically. 

Focus on Common Questions

We mentioned above how people tend to be more conversational when making voice searches. They’re more likely to say an entire question, rather than just a few words. As such, one effective way to improve your voice search SEO is to simply provide the answers that they’re looking for.

Need some inspiration for the types of questions you should be answering? Go to Google and type in a question relating to your business/website. From there, look at the ‘people also ask’ box that appears around a third of the way down the results page. They’re the questions you should aim to answer.

You can include the questions directly — as in, word for word — by adding a FAQ section to your website. This won’t just help to boost your SEO in the eyes of Google, but it’ll also just be extremely useful for your visitors. You’ll be giving them exactly what they’re looking for. 

Key Tips

Too Long, Didn’t Read? Follow these key steps for improving your voice search SEO:

  • Add conversational, natural-sounding content to your website.
  • Answer common customer questions.
  • Focus on local content.
  • Set up your Google My Business page with complete information.

You’ll also find that improving your general SEO has a knock-on effect on your voice search SEO, too. The two search methods are not mutually exclusive; what’s good for one is good for the other! 

The Bottom Line on Voice Search SEO

Voice search was slow to catch on, but there’s no denying its recent rise in popularity — and that it’s here to stay. While investing in voice search SEO isn’t essential for all websites, for sites that rely on organic traffic, it’s critical. The good news is that what’s good for voice search SEO is generally the same as what’s good for general SEO, so it’s not as if you need to select between voice and type search. Both will benefit from any steps you take to improve your voice search SEO.

By making adjustments to your searcher intent and enhancing the user experience — via content, mobile readiness, and so forth — you can increase your chances of grabbing the growing audience of voice searchers.

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