How Voice Search is Changing SEO

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, voice search is beginning to take over the way we search for everything. The speech recognition technology lets users speak their searches out loud, analyzes their words, and performs the search automatically, allowing us to find answers to our questions without ever lifting a finger.

As humans, we’re constantly searching for the fastest, most convenient way to do things; we’ll always take a shortcut instead of the scenic route. Because of this, the way we do just about everything is always evolving, sometimes at speeds that are hard to keep up with. Voice search is no different — its invention took the world by storm and has no sign of slowing down.

In 2011, Apple launched Siri and changed the way we search for information forever, and as this technology has grown, so has our trust in it. We are more comfortable using voice search devices than ever, allowing us to multitask like never before. In fact, Google announced that 1 in 5 mobile search queries are done by voice searches. 

“Alexa, what’s the weather today?” 

“Google, who is married to Beyoncé?” 

“Hey Siri, how many ounces are in a gallon?” 

Any of those sound familiar? You’ve probably heard questions like that spoken aloud and promptly answered by a robotic voice that delivers a (mostly) accurate response. Like with any technology, there are still some bugs to work out, but voice search programs have gotten scarily good at understanding what the searcher is, well, searching for. 

But what does this mean for SEO? In a field that specializes in utilizing keywords for search queries, how do you adapt your strategy?

Adapting Your SEO for Voice Search

As search engine optimizers, we’ve been taught to optimize our content for short-tail keywords that can broaden the results. When typing into a search bar, the queries usually consist of short, to-the-point phrases like “apple pie ingredients”, so we focused on that as a keyword. Voice search, however, consists of much more conversational searches such as “Alexa, what ingredients do I need to bake an apple pie?” 

Here are a few tips on how to prepare your content for voice searches:

Tip #1: Perform thorough keyword research

This hasn’t changed — you still need to perform keyword research when planning your content — but its purpose is a little different. Because people are speaking the commands out loud, you have to optimize for spoken questions, but everyone speaks differently. This is why it’s important to sprinkle your content with keywords that will grab a search engine’s attention; because people speak with unique dialects, they may phrase questions in ways that Google might not recognize, but keywords will make it clear. 

Tip #2: Predict the searcher’s intent

Once you’ve performed keyword research, you’ll have a better understanding of what users are searching for and how they’re searching for it. This will give you enough insight to predict their intent, or why they’re searching. There are three main types of intent that you should optimize your content for: informational, navigational, and transactional. 

Informational intent means exactly what you think it means — the user is looking for information. Consider posting how-tos and guides related to your business that will let the searcher know you’re an authoritative voice in your industry. 

Navigational intent means they’re looking for something specific like a store location or a contact phone number. Make your content on “about us” pages clear and concise so that it’s easy for them to find the information. Google My Business pages are a huge play here as well. Rumor has it that Google My Business optimization is becoming even more important than a site’s actual homepage!

Transactional intent refers to the intent behind buying something from the start to the end of their buyer journey. To optimize for this, you should post product information, customer reviews, and price comparisons to show the user that you are the best fit for them when they’re ready to make a purchase. However, keep in mind that transactional intent searches are typically searched towards the end of the buyer’s journey.

Tip #3: Add question keywords 

Like we mentioned before with the apple pie example, voice searches are much more conversational than traditional ones. This means people are going to ask a question as if they were actually talking to someone, so adding question keywords like who, what, when, where, and why will help you stand out for search engines. 

Tip #4: Utilize long-tail keywords

Keywords are classified in two ways: short-tail and long-tail. The search for “guacamole” is an example of a short-tail keyword search, which would give you a very wide range of results. When speaking aloud for a voice search, you’re more likely to elaborate or ask a question such as “how to make guacamole”, which acts as a long-tail keyword. Use these to your advantage — long-tail keywords are very specific and include several short-tail keywords in one phrase, ultimately increasing your chances to show up on the SERP.

Tip #5: Optimize for location-based searches

According to Search Engine Land, 53 percent of smart speaker owners search for local businesses every single day. Because of this, you should be highlighting information related to being a local business such as phone number, store location, and products available. After including these keywords, you’re more likely to show up on SERPs when searches include things like “near me.” Optimizing your Google My Business listing is also huge for location-based searches! 

Saying Goodbye to Hashtags (Literally)

Voice search isn’t going anywhere, so it’s important for you to get with the times and start optimizing your content for this technology. Don’t focus too much on the super broad, short-tail keywords, and move toward the long-tail, specific questions and queries. 

For more information on improving your SEO, check out our free, downloadable SEO Guidebook to learn more about increasing your business’ visibility on search engines. 

This blog was originally published on March 31, 2017, and refreshed on April 6, 2020.

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