Voice search optimization is changing how users are searching for, and consuming, your content. Here’s how marketers can optimize their content for voice search.
August 30, 2018 by Mark Brownlee

Voice search optimization: The essential guide for search engine marketers

Marketing’s “voice revolution” has arrived.

More users than ever before are opting to interact with brands through voice rather than on a screen.

And that’s just the beginning. Voice search is only going to grow in popularity as more voice devices hit the market.

Which makes a voice search optimization strategy a must-have.

In this post we’ll look at how you can get out in front of – rather than falling behind in – the voice search revolution.

What is voice search optimization

Voice search optimization (VSO) is a strategy for designing your content so it is more likely to appear when users conduct search engine queries using their voice.

It seeks to take advantage of the shift many users are making from conducting searches in the traditional way – with either a keyboard or touch screen – to using voice command devices.

This includes everything from home smart speakers such as the Google Home or Amazon Echo to voice programs for cars such as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

The Apple HomePad is another home voice device that will make a voice search optimization strategy a must-have.

The Apple HomePad is another home voice device that will make a voice search optimization strategy a must-have.

How voice search optimization is different

Optimizing for voice is different from “traditional” search engine optimization (SEO) in a few important ways.

Searching in questions

Short keywords are king in on-screen search.

With voice search, though?

It’s totally different.

In an on-screen search users will typically search using short phrases, such as “local pizza restaurants”.

Voice searches, by contrast, tend to be longer and more question-based.

That means someone searching for “local pizza restaurants” using voice would be more likely to use the phrase “where can I find the best flat crust pizza near me”.

Top results are really important

Ranking high in search results has always been an essential part of driving traffic from search engines.

But even if you couldn’t rank for the first or second spot, getting on the first page was still a pretty good way of getting results.

Voice search takes the importance of ranking to a totally new level.

Many searchers will only hear the first or second results when searching with voice.

Which means that, if you’re not ranking high for a keyword, you’re probably going to miss out on voice traffic entirely.

Site speed is essential

There are a ton of advantages to building a fast website.

Quick loading speed creates a better experience for the user.

It also makes your site more likely to rank in traditional search results.

Now you can add another one: A quick-loading website is essential for ranking in voice search results.

If your website is slow then a voice-controlled device will be less likely to present it as a result when people are searching.

How do people use voice search

Voice search is in some ways similar to its on-screen counterpart.

People still search using phrases.

And in general they’re still searching for information.

In key ways, though, voice searches are different in nature than more traditional searches.

Here’s how.

They start using voice…then move to a screen

One of the key features of voice search is that it’s not all about voice.

Many users will start a search using their voice, then scan the results using a screen.

Other devices allow users to start gathering information using voice results then pick up a device such as a phone or tablet to learn more.

Local content is important

Voice searches are three times more likely to be about something local than a regular on-screen search, according to Search Engine Watch.

For example: Someone who is driving around in their car might be conducting a voice search to find the nearest gas station.

This means that optimizing your content to appear in local search results is essential.

People search when they can’t get their hands on a device

There are lots of scenarios where, for one reason or another, it’s just easier to use our voice.

We might be driving around in our car, plunging our hands into a bucket of flour in the kitchen or on a bus so crowded we can’t even reach into our pocket to grab our phone.

Thinking about these scenarios – and planning content around them – can be key for designing content that will most likely appear in search results.

The Android Auto, a software system for cars, makes it easier for drivers to search using voice.

The Android Auto, a software system for cars, makes it easier for drivers to search using voice.

How can I optimize content for voice search results

Target snippets

Optimizing your content so it is more likely to appear in a search result “snippet” is a great way of boosting your voice search result appearances.

Snippets are the featured pieces of information that Google presents to users more prominently than regular, organic search results.

For example: When you search for “what is a concussion” on Google, this result appears at the very top of the page.

An example of a SERP featured snippet that will be a boon for voice search optimization.

An example of a SERP featured snippet that will be a boon for voice search optimization.

To target snippets, think of some of the basic questions your content could help answer.

It doesn’t need to be complicated!

Even answering a question like “what is this person’s age” or “how old is the city of Ottawa” can help boost your snippet appearances.

Consider your audience’s journey

With voice you need to consider every aspect of your audience’s life – not just when they’re most likely to be sitting in front of a screen.

Ask yourself: When will my audience be searching with voice for something my brand can help with?

Maybe they’re cooking dinner and have a question that your brand can help answer.

Maybe they’re driving around in a car and are looking to quickly book an appointment.

Maybe they’re already using one of your products or services and have a question about how to set it up properly.

By answering these questions you can begin to consider how a voice search optimization strategy can help better connect to your audience.

Ensure your basic contact info is up-to-date

Many voice searches are pretty straightforward in nature.

How late is a business open?

Where is an office located?

Will you be able to quickly change a tire for me?

These are the sorts of questions people ask using voice.

Make sure your able to take advantage by keeping your basic information – opening hours, street address, services provided – up-to-date.

Use microdata

Google wants you to make it as easy as possible for its search engines to crawl your site.

That’s why they offer “structured data” that allows you to clearly spell out the information you are offering.

Using this will allow Google to interpret the information you’re providing on your site.

That makes it a lot easier to serve those results to users using voice search.

Target long-tail, “semantic” keywords

As mentioned above, people search differently using voice.

“Long-tail” keywords, which tend to be longer and more specific phrases, are used frequently in search.

That means you need to be changing how you design your content so it better serves those sorts of searches.

For this it’s important to consider not just what your audience is searching for.

You also need to consider how it is searching.

There isn’t currently a tool that will allow you to parse out which of the searches for your brand took place using voice.

But there are a few workarounds.

Tools like Answer the Public and even the “searches related to” feature on organic search results can give you an idea of the sorts of questions your audience is asking.

Conclusion

Voice search is changing how users interact with brands.

If you haven’t yet thought about how a voice search optimization strategy can help you, now is the time to start.

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