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Hey Google, how do I optimise for Voice Search?

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We have been talking a lot about voice search recently, here at BrandContent.

It’s fast-growing and something all marketers should be starting to think about. But how do you go about optimising for voice search, and is it all that different from SEO anyway?

Firstly, what is Voice Search?

Voice search is the process of asking a device such as Google Home, Amazon Alexa or Siri something, rather than typing out your query in Google (or Bing or Yahoo).

It’s already sending waves through the SEO world as it’s changing user experiences and delivering quicker and more convenient answers.

The way people are searching is completely new too – keywords are changing and people are expecting one answer, rather than a range of results in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This makes it all a lot more competitive than aiming for positions one and two as there’s nowhere to fall back on.

The Basics

If you want your brand to be a source for voice search results, you should have already implemented the basics. Backlinko did some studies on Google Home’s search results and they weren’t necessarily surprising.

  • Word Count – The average word count of a voice search results page was 2,312 words so keep to the lengthy side if you’re wanting a specific page to appear in voice search results.
  • PageSpeed – The average voice search results page took 4.6 seconds to load, compared to the average page which loads in 8.8 seconds so optimise pages by cutting down on plug-ins, for example.
  • Social Shares – The average voice search results page had been shared 1,199 times on Facebook so encourage people to talk about and engage with content by including clear CTAs.
  • Rankings – Over 99% of voice search results come from the top ten pages of the SERPs and 75% rank in the top three positions so continue optimising content for your relevant keywords.

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets (the short answer often seen above position one in the SERPs) and voice search results go hand in hand. They both need to be short, to the point and easily digestible by the searcher. So, it’s no surprise over 40% of all voice search results came from a featured snippet.

Concise answers are preferred by Google, so much so that the typical voice search result is 29 words in length.

If your content isn’t set up to easily fit into this short section of text then even a position one page could be passed up for position zero – the featured snippet.

Understanding Intent

Voice search has brought with it a deeper need for understanding intent. Is your searcher looking to purchase, to find somewhere or are they researching and looking to gather information?

For example, on desktop or mobile, I might search for “grey sofa”, but when it comes to a voice query, I might say, “Hey Google, where can I order a grey luxury sofa under £1,000?”

The tone gives the signal that I’m intending to purchase, with a much more descriptive search than I would provide by typing. This give marketers the opportunity to do two key things:

  1. Build a targeted user-intent model to understand where the user is in the customer journey and match the messaging and landing pages to the right user intent.
  2. Develop content onsite which matches the tone of the searcher and provides more specific answers to users’ needs and top questions.

Conversational Keywords

Google has started looking for natural language in their top results as seven out of ten voice searches are made with the type of language people use day to day.

Obviously the first place to start is with keyword research and to look at how users are asking their questions. ‘How’ and ‘What’ for example, are called ‘trigger keywords’ and more than 20% of voice search results start with these.

An AHRefs study revealed that of the two million search queries with featured snippets, 2.3% of them started with ‘best’, 1.3% of them started with ‘make’ and 1.2% of them started with ‘can’. Again, all trigger keywords which we see more and more of as voice search becomes more popular.

Location Keywords

While we are talking about changing keywords, it’s also worth mentioning location and ‘near me’ searches.

Voice search provides an opportunity for small businesses to have their say, when usually they might have been drowned out by big brands with big budgets. This is especially true for bricks-and-mortar businesses.

You can see in Google Trends how searches including “near me” have increased since 2013 and how they will continue to grow alongside voice search.

Google Trends

We can already get Google to help users find stores selling goods but, not only that, check important information such as opening hours, parking availability, and even stock availability.

The main thing you can do to capitalise on this is carry out specific location-based keyword research and start optimising your site to reflect it – keeping in mind the basics of SEO and other tips we have suggested.

There are so many other things you can do to start the push towards voice search optimisations, some which marketers probably aren’t even aware of yet, but these are just our key recommendations. Voice search is a growing opportunity and one that marketers need to be acting on now.

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Sharon Flaherty

Hi, I’m Sharon the Managing Director of BrandContent. Day-to-day I oversee client satisfaction and carry out strategic client work. I work on both established financial services brands as well as challengers and love working on both. In a previous life, I was a journalist at the Financial Times and worked in-house for brands including the MoneySuperMarket Group and leading their Content, PR and Social divisions.

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