More people than ever are looking for voice. So it's no wonder that the question is on everyone's lips: "Hey Google, how do I optimize voice search?"
It's a fair question, but is it even possible?
In this post, you will learn:
In voice search, someone is using their voice to interact with a search engine rather than looking for text.
This may sound obvious, but the important part is interacting with a search engine. "Hey Google, turn the lights on" is not an example of a voice search as it is not a search. You only give a voice command to an "intelligent" assistant. The same is true if you ask Google to call a friend from your phone book. You're not looking on the web.
"Hey Google, where is the next one?" ATM? "is an example of voice search as you ask Google, a search engine, to crawl the web for an answer.
How widespread is voice search?
According to Google, 41% of adults and 55% of teens use voice search on a daily basis. According to a recent survey by Microsoft, the most common ways people use digital assistants are:
- 68% Find quick facts.
- 65% Search for the way.
- 47% Search for company.
- 44% Research products or services.
Three things you should know about voice search
Before we talk about how and if you should optimize voice search, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Google's answer varies between devices
- Google often answers questions with the featured snippet
- Google usually pulls responses from high ranking sites
1. Google's answer varies between devices
Ask Google how to make pizza dough on your phone and the answer is pretty simple.
However, if you ask the same question on Google Home, it will choose a recipe for you.
2. Google often answers questions with the featured snippet
According to this analysis of 10,000 Google Home search results, 40.7% of voice search responses come from the featured snippet.
3. Google usually pulls responses from high ranking sites
Even if Google doesn't pull the answer from the featured snippet, it usually comes from one of the top results. In fact, almost 91% of voice search results come from the first five pages.
How to optimize voice search
It is currently not clear how many people are looking for a particular keyword using voice input. Google doesn't give us this data, and it's not included in any third-party keyword research tool. What we do know, however, is that voice search technology is still quite primitive and that we mostly limit ourselves to using voice search for simple questions such as:
- When was running invented?
- How far is the gym?
- How Much Protein Powder is Too Much?
- Where can I buy swimming goggles?
- What is the number for? LA Fitness of the 79th St?
Because of this, voice search SEO It's mostly about finding, answering, and tweaking relevant questions that people might ask.
Let's go over how you could do that.
- Get a Google My Business profile
- Find the questions people are asking
- Decide if and where you want to give answers
- Answer the question
- Make sure the page loads quickly
- Get more high quality backlinks
- Add schema markup
1. Get a Google My Business profile
People are likely to ask questions that are directly related to your business. The best way to tweak this is to get a free Google My Business (GMB) Profile. Why? Because Google usually pulls answers about your business from here when it's there.
Say I wanted to make an appointment with my local salon. When I ask Google for the number, it comes from theirs GMB Profile.
When I ask for directions on the day of my appointment, they come from GMB.
But GMB is important for more than just search queries that are directly related to your company. This is true, if not more important, of other types of local search as well. For example, when I ask Google Home to find the best local Italian restaurant it reads suggestions based on GMB Profiles.
But it's not just about having a profile. You also need to work to earn reviews and optimize your listing. And an important part of that is keeping things up to date.
Let me go home about how important this is to a true story …
Last year I asked Google for directions to a dental office. About ten minutes after my trip was over, I found that Google was taking me to their old location because they had never updated theirs GMB Address after the move. I almost missed my appointment.
2. Find the questions people are asking
Beyond Google My Business, voice search optimization is mostly about creating and optimizing content for relevant questions. And there are a few ways you can find them.
Find questions that you already rank for
If your website already ranks high for frequently asked questions, these are few ways to optimize voice search. Why? Because Google gets most of its voice search responses from one of the top sites.
How to find this:
Site Explorer> Enter your domain> Organic keywords> Filter the top 5 rankings> Filter by keywords that contain words like "who", "what", "when", "where", "why", " like "etc. included.
Find questions that competitors rank for
If you already have a ranking for questions, it is likely because you have already answered, or at least partially answered, those questions somewhere on your website. However, if competitors are ranking on questions that you have not ranked, it is likely because they answered questions that you did not answer.
To find these, add some competing domains into Ahrefs' Content Gap tool, then add your domain to the "But target doesn't rank for …" section below.
You should see keywords that competing domains rank but not. You can then filter on question type keywords that contain words such as "who", "what", "why", "how", and so on.
Find other questions
There will always be questions that neither you nor your competitors rank for. You can find these in the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer. Just enter a few "startup keys" related to the theme of your website, then go to ask Report.
For example, our website is about SEOso we will "SEO, "Link building" and "Keyword research" as starting keywords.
3. Decide if and where you want to give answers
Now that you've found some relevant and popular questions that Google is asked, you need to find a place to answer them. After all, Google won't be able to read a response from your website if it doesn't exist.
Here is the basic process:
Given that you likely found plenty of potential questions to answer in the previous step, it's worth starting with those that you already rank for. You can then switch to keywords that competitors are ranking for, and finally to other keywords.
Let's go through the process in a little more detail.
Have you already answered the question?
If you already have a ranking for a question, you have probably already answered it on the ranking page. For this reason we rank (in the presented snippet) with the question "How do I start with affiliate marketing?" Our affiliate marketing guide answers this with a shortlist of steps.
And it answers the question "What is affiliate marketing?" With a short definition:
If that's the case with your question, see the optimization tips in the next step.
Can you add the answer to an existing page?
If you haven't answered the question yet, the first thing to do is to see if it makes sense to answer it on an existing page.
For example, we do not rank for the question "What is guest blogging?" Because we did not answer it in any relevant blog posts. However, since we already have a post on guest blogging, it makes sense to add the answer there.
Just know that even when you're looking for a question, it doesn't always make sense to answer a question, possibly by voice.
For example, ask a question like "How do I find all of the email accounts on my behalf?"
While it's a popular question, it wouldn't make sense for us to answer it in our post on Finding Email Addresses as it has nothing to do with it. Trying to find the answer there will only confuse and alienate the rest of our visitors.
If you're not sure whether an answer to a question will fit on one page, check the parent topic in the Keywords Explorer. If this matches your page's main target keyword, it is a sign that the question falls within the broader topic of the page.
The parent topic for What Is Guest Blogging? For example, is "guest blogging". This is the target keyword for our post:
You can check those too SERP Summary to see if pages similar to yours are already ranking for the question. If so, it is another sign that the question falls under the general topic of your page.
Here we see that most of the top ranking pages are broad guides for guest blogging:
Does it make sense to answer the question on a new page?
It rarely makes sense to create new pages just for voice search. However, sometimes you will find questions on topics that you have not yet covered. For example, when researching questions for our post on influencer marketing, I came across the question of how to find influencers on Instagram.
Judging by the types of pages that rank for that term in Keywords Explorer, it probably wouldn't make sense to answer this question in our Influencer Marketing Guide. It would make more sense to write a new guide specifically on how to find Instagram influencers.
4. Answer the question
Answering questions on a new or existing page is relatively easy. Just add it to the page as a short paragraph or list.
How do you know which format to choose? Ask Google your question and listen to the answer. If it reads a short paragraph, go with it. If it reads a picklist of steps or bullets, handle it.
However, there are a few other things to keep in mind when writing answers.
Keep it short and sweet
You may have noticed that Google rarely reads out long answers. Hence, you need to keep things short. How short? Google doesn't give a final number, but a study found that the average response from Google Home is 29 words. So that gives you a decent baseball figure.
Make sure it reads well
In 2017, Google said this about the evolution of the language for the Google Assistant:
It is much easier to understand a poorly formulated written answer than an answer that is not spoken grammatically. Therefore, more care needs to be taken to ensure grammatical correctness.
Is this a confirmation that grammatical correctness is a "ranking factor" for voice searches? Not at all, but it certainly suggests that it's important.
They also say:
spoken answers must have correct pronunciation and prosody.
While most of the work is on Google's side, as it is mostly about advancements in text-to-speech technology, having well-formatted and punctuated content is still important. No matter how well Google translates text to speech, long paragraphs with no commas and too many large words always sound bad.
5. Make sure the page loads quickly
This study found that “PageSpeed appears to play an important role in voice search SEO, ”Because the average voice search result loads 52% faster than the average page.
However, it is important to note that this is correlation data and does not prove a cause. It could simply be that fast loading pages tend to rank higher as page speed is a ranking factor and Google typically pulls voice search results from pages in the top 5.
Either way, it's important to have a page that loads quickly SEOand it certainly won't affect your chances of ranking in voice searches.
6. Get higher quality backlinks
Backlinks are arguably one of the most important ranking factors. Google talks about how search works on their site, and we found a strong positive correlation between links from unique sites and search traffic in our study of over a billion pages.
Of course, this is regular organic search, but this applies to voice search for the same reason as page speed: Google is more likely to get voice search results from high-ranking pages.
For more information on creating links, see the videos and resources below.
7. Add schema markup
Schema markup is code that helps search engines understand your content better and better display it in search results.
Given this definition, it is not inappropriate to assume that this could be helpful in optimizing voice search. However, Backlinko's study seems to show the opposite: 63.6% of voice search results use no schema at all.
While this might be the general conclusion, schema markup is absolutely important when optimizing certain types of content for voice search.
For example, here's what happens when you ask Google Home to find a recipe:
Answer "yes" and Google will ask if you want to read the ingredients or steps.
Google pulls all of this information from the recipe markup on the page.
However, it's not just recipes where the schema is important for voice search. Google also sometimes reads out information from events and other types of pages. For example, here's the answer when you ask Google Home where the Download Festival is:
For more information, see Google's structured data documents and our structured data guide.
Should you go out of the way to optimize for voice search?
Clearly, there are steps you can take to improve your voice search, but is it worth the effort? This question is difficult to answer as it depends on your goals. However, there are some positive and negative aspects to consider here.
1. Ranking in voice search may not send you a lot of traffic
Think about the questions you ask Google. If you're anything like me, it's probably simple things like:
- What does (term) mean?
- How do I do (food)?
- Where does (event) take place?
- How do I fix (disruptive technological problem)?
You will find that most of these questions can be answered in just a few sentences.
For example, I recently asked Google, "How do I turn off WiFi calling on my iPhone?" and it responded by reading this featured excerpt:
The interesting thing is that these types of searches are practically dead ends. By that I mean that searchers probably don't need or want any further information.
Bottom line: the voice search ranking for these queries is unlikely to send a lot of traffic your way.
2. Ranking in voice search can improve brand awareness
It's good to remember that traffic isn't everything. There are other advantages as well SEOhow brand awareness. This also applies to the optimization of the voice search. Whenever Google reads out an answer, it tells you where it came from.
Is this reason enough to optimize voice search itself?
Probably not, but it's a nice added benefit.
3. Ranking in voice search can help you reach more people
Another important point is that not every website exists to make money. Think government websites like that IRS. Most of its content is used to provide important information to citizens. So it is important that you consider the different search methods – including language.
For example, imagine someone asks where to submit a tax form and Google reads out an answer. If this address is inaccurate or from a third party, it is not a good thing.
You can of course argue that getting voice search results from trusted sources is more of Google's responsibility than yours. While this is true, Google won't be able to get a response from your trusted site if it doesn't exist.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about voice search best practices is this: It's not just good for voice search. It also helps you find selected snippets and land placements in "People Also Ask" (PAA) and are shown for some regular text searches.
Have any questions? Ping me on Twitter.