Optimizing for Voice Search
Ready or not, voice search is here. And if recent statistics are to go by, it is all set to invade the world of search. Siri, when it was launched first, was at best a novel new technology that Apple users embraced wholeheartedly.
Soon enough, Google Voice made an appearance. As did Microsoft’s Cortana. Most experts suggest that this is just the start.
Here’s an important survey report from Google themselves.
It says that more than 50% of US teens were using voice search every day at the end of 2014. This number reduces slightly to 41% for adults. But that’s still a very impressive number for something as new as this.
Scientists from Baidu have predicted that by 2020, almost 50% of searches will be made through voice devices.
The point is, that you cannot afford to not optimize your site for voice searches.
Just when you thought that optimizing for mobile searches was enough for a while.
Thankfully, optimizing for voice is not as difficult as it sounds. In fact, it is a lot easier than optimizing for desktop searches was a few years ago.
The basics of Voice search
To be able to understand how voice search works, you have to use it yourself. And one of the first steps is to read up on the literature that comes with your smartphone device. For example, Apple has a very detailed guide that teaches you how to use SIRI for searches.
And it’s not as complicated as you’d imagined.
Apple suggests that you talk to Siri the way you’d talk to a friend. So, you can say ‘Hey Siri…where’s the nearest Pizza joint or a gas station’.
Similarly, you can find guides for using Cortana and Google search. The reason why we mentioned all three of the top brands that are spreading out into voice search is because both Apple and Microsoft use Bing instead of Google.
And optimizing for these search engines becomes equally important because Apple users account for almost 15.3% of the total smartphone user base.
That’s a small but important chunk of your business right there.
The difference between voice and text
One of the most significant differences between voice search and conventional text search is that people are more inclined to use longer phrases to search with voice.
The three to four-word keyword combinations suddenly don’t become too relevant.
For example, if someone is searching for a Florist in Miami, the voice query might be something like this, ‘Where is the nearest florist?’ considering that the physical location of the phone will be auto-detected, or ‘Which is the best florist in Miami’ if you are searching from a different location.
That’s six words.
The same thing when searched on desktop or mobile would have been ‘Best florist Miami’
If your website and its pages have largely been optimized for short keyword phrases, it is time to dig deep and bring out those long tail nuggets.
Interspersing Keyword research with speech
Your keyword research for voice search should begin by searching verbally for queries yourself. This gives you an idea of what kind of results are shown for various queries. If you start to find results that are relevant to what you are searching, jot that keyword phrase down as a reference and start brainstorming.
There’s a free online tool called ‘Answer the Public’ that can help you immensely while brainstorming. This tool helps you to add words like ‘to’ and ‘for’ to keyword phrases which allow you to research search intent.
Creating Long Tail Content
Once you have a few keyword phrases to optimize, start off by looking at your existing blog posts that might be closely related to those keywords.
With a little revamping, you can easily add these new long tail phrases to your existing pages and products.
Question and answer styled content might help you immensely while targeting longer phrases.
Go back and check on Mobile Friendliness
A lot of people don’t realize this but voice search and mobile friendliness go hand in hand. That’s because voice is used exclusively on mobile devices. So, take a step backwards and check if your site is optimized for mobile.
If it isn’t, then this is the time to do it.
Also, if there are errors with factors like page speed, navigation and user interface, then correct those. These factors affect your bounce and exit rate and subsequently, your ranking.
You can use tools like MobileTest.me to check how your site appears on various mobile devices.
Optimize for local search
Most of the current voice searches are geared towards local physical locations and businesses. If the user, for example, asks Siri or Google Voice assistant to find the ‘best dentist near me’, then voice search will automatically detect the location of the phone and try to find the closest match near that location.
In this case, the search engine will no co-relate that search with the on-page optimization.
Instead, it will pick the closest match from the ‘Business Listings’ on Google and other local business directories.
If you are already listed on Google Business, update your business name, address, business hours, driving directions and phone number.
Microdata helps Google crawlers understand what this information is all about. Use Google markups wherever possible on your site.
Analyze, rinse, repeat
While Google Analytics does not reveal the exact number of queries that come from voice search, this functionality will be added to it very soon.
For now, you can monitor if there is a huge difference in mobile and desktop traffic. If mobile traffic is dropping off your site, it probably means that there is a problem that you need to fix.
Keep a close eye on the long tail keyword phrases and how they are performing. If you are getting direct organic traffic for some of the long tail phrases from mobile, then chances are that your website is popping up in voice search results.
If not, then analyze, edit and repeat the process. Remember, you still have a headstart as compared to many other online businesses who are yet to figure out mobile search leave alone voice. So take your time.