In 2014, Andrew Ng who was a Chief Scientist at Baidu made a prediction about the future of voice search in China. This prediction was then taken out of its original context, and it has been cited ever since by marketers as a prediction about voice search in general.
Despite this hazy statistic, we have experienced a substantial growth of digital assistants in the past few years. You can use voice recognition to ask questions from any internet-connected device and receive a response without delay.
Now, voice search covers 20 percent of all searches on Google apps and Android devices. It doesn’t seem like we’re dealing with a passing phenomenon, either. If the current trend continues, voice search will capture a central place in our everyday lives.
How can you take advantage of the growing popularity of voice search then? Since we’re still in the transition period, there is no rush to make your website voice-friendly, at least not yet. The standard Google search page still gets a lion’s share of the queries.
To prepare for what is to come, you can take a look at these optimization techniques:
Focus on Natural Speech
Devices that use voice recognition are designed to process natural language. The majority of queries that Google Assistant receives consist of natural language. People speak to digital assistants the same way that they would ask questions to another person. This is in contrast with how people use text search boxes. Voice search queries are more conversational and tend to be longer than text-based queries. For example, you may type “Venice to Rome” but a voice search query would more likely be “How to get from Venice to Rome?”
Given this, you should expand your search intent based on the type of questions that could be asked via voice search. Think about the conversational intent.
Build Long-Tail Keywords
This is related to the requirement of natural speech. Long-tail keywords are more specific than standard keywords, usually around three to five words long. As such, they provide an opportunity for smaller business to get a higher ranking on Google for certain searches. Since digital assistants that use voice recognition have a preference for natural language, long-tail keywords will boost their importance in the future.
Optimize for Mobile and Local
Since the majority of voice search queries are conducted on mobile devices, there is an overlap between mobile and voice search. Therefore, to optimize for voice search means also optimizing for mobile. This involves using mobile-optimized content and layouts and optimizing for speed. Faster mobile site speed builds faster business success.
Voice search offers an opportunity for small local businesses to appear in the top results. Take advantage of the local business listings for your firm’s locations by making sure that you complete all such listings and that they’re accurate.
Use Semantics to Structure Content
You should try to create content that answers users’ questions as quickly as possible. Integrate structured data markup into your website, and answer the questions by making long-tail topics a part of the content on your website. By using structured data markup, you can allow search engines to understand and crawl your data more efficiently.
Make Your Answers Short and Concise
Google has developed its own voice-controlled virtual assistant, Google Assistant. Designed for mobile and smart home devices, Google Assistant can engage in two-way conversations without needing a trigger phrase such as “Hey Google” all the time. It can control your devices, access calendar and other personal data, find information online, and play content on compatible devices. For those who create software, there is also Actions on Google, a developer platform for extending the functionality of Google Assistant.
Based on Google’s guidelines for the evaluation of voice search, voice search results should be short and concise. The average answer is only 29 words.
From the example above, we can see the general preference for short answers. The length of the answer should match the complexity of the content. Based on the specific question, you have to evaluate whether a more detailed or concise answer is more useful for the user.
In addition to length, the answers should also be formulated correctly. This concerns the grammar, sentence structure, and attribution to the source. Clear and understandable answers serve the interests of the users.
Elocution refers to clear speech with distinct pronunciation and articulation. Optimal voice search answers make the response sound natural. In the last example about world population, both formulation and elocution suffer from the fact that the number is not rounded and the response wouldn’t sound natural.
Ensure That Your Website Loads Fast
Websites that can load fast have an edge in Google’s voice search results. It has been reported by Backlinko that the usual loading speed of a voice search result is faster than most web pages. Based on their PageSpeed analysis, the average time to first byte (TTFB) of a voice search result was 0.54 seconds whereas the global average is 2.1 seconds.
The voice search result page was also able to load completely much faster (4.6 seconds) than most pages (8.8 seconds).
Build Strong Link Authority
Similar to text-based search queries, websites that have strong backlinks rank higher in voice searches. What separates the two, however, is that voice searches seem to rely more on domain authority than page authority.
This difference stems from the fact that unlike conventional text-based search, voice search provides one single answer to the question. This means that search engines have to be certain that their answer is giving correct information. It’s more important that the answer is taken from a trusted website than how many backlinks it has.
Make Your Content Easy to Read
As already mentioned, elocution is one of the evaluation criteria used by Google’s algorithm. It posits the requirement for clear language that can easily lend itself to natural speech with distinct pronunciation and articulation.
Evaluate your content from the perspective of the user: “Does it provide a clear answer to your voice search question?” If your content is written in simple and natural language, the easier it is for you fulfill the requirement for elocution.
If your content could benefit from some editing, there are many tools and services that can help you optimize your content for both text and voice search. To make sure that your content is as polished as possible, you can check Handmade Writing, Readable, and Slick Write, for example.
Create Long-Form Content
The voice search results on Google come mainly from pages with a high word count. In fact, the average word count for a voice search results page on Google is 2,312 words. Search engines seem to thus draw their results from authoritative pages that post longer content. Keep this in mind when contemplating the appropriate length for your next article.
Focus on Higher Ranking
There is a strong correlation between a higher ranking on the search results pages and the likelihood of appearing as a voice search result. Therefore, by focusing on achieving a higher page rank for your site, your content is more likely to be chosen as an answer to voice search queries.
As digital assistants and voice search continue to grow their popularity, we have to understand how search engines deliver predictive answers to the questions we ask. To make your content visible, you have to adapt your marketing strategies and produce answers to the questions across formats, from traditional text to modern voice search.
While voice search is still in the development stage, marketers must stay up to date. The digital assistants are becoming more and more advanced as they learn from our speech patterns and how we interact with them. Marketers have to innovate new ways to utilize data and represent voice search results on multiple devices. But it’s important not to disrupt the user experience when looking for ways to monetize voice search.
If you want to read more about traditional SEO strategies, you can check our earlier post about expert SEO insights in 2018.