There’s no denying that voice searches are on the up, it’s becoming more and more rare to be in a home without some kind of voice search software, whether it’s Google Home, Alexa, or even Sky’s voice search remote control, it’s getting integrated further with our everyday lives.

In fact, Google Assistant is now available on 400 million devices and its usage is only becoming more popular with consumers according to the latest data from Google. As many as 20%-25% of search queries are done through voice search, 72% of those who own and use voice-activated speakers say that their gadgets are used as part of their daily routines and 52% of those people keep their gadgets in their living room, the most central room in most homes.

what does voice search mean for SEO

You can ask your voice assistant for anything: how to make a meal, how to fix a squeaky door, to play a song, the times of the film you want to see at the cinema or even when the next train is. However, the assistant itself doesn’t know this information, the internet does and your Google Home is getting your answers from the internet. This makes optimising for voice searches something at the forefront of marketers minds, especially since an estimated 30% of online searches will be done WITHOUT a screen by 2020. So, how will voice search impact SEO? How can you prepare for it and optimise your content?

Questions and keywords

Generally, when optimising a page on a website, we focus on keywords and phrases that are likely to rank higher when people search. Google relies on elements outwith the basic keywords, for example, previous searches and search patterns are also taken into account to give the person the results they are looking for. This is known as “semantic search,” and, simply put, this means that Google knows what you’re looking for better than you think it does. As an example, if you were to Google ‘books Glasgow’ vs ‘buy books Glasgow’ you get different results, as shown below.

what does voice search mean for SEO what does voice search mean for SEO

Moving forward into the era of voice search, we can expect to see more keyword phrases, phrased more like questions to be in-line with how someone would use their voice assistant. Instead of optimising for people Googling ‘brownie recipe’ on a phone or laptop, marketers will focus on optimising for people asking their voice assistant ‘how do I make brownies?’. SEO will have to focus on long-tail keywords and optimising for broader searches and question-based keywords. They will really have to get inside the head of the searcher and think about what they would be asking their voice assistant.

Conversational content

The days of keyword stuffing and formal articles are long gone. Write for your customers, not for the search engine. If a voice assistant is to read a snippet of your page, you want it to make sense to the person hearing it on the other end. But, more importantly, you want it to rank for someone searching via a question. Focus on questions you are regularly asked, how do your customers talk about your business? Focus on the questions and language used surrounding your brand on social media. This will give you an insight into the kind of content you should be creating to rank in the voice search age.

If you use a lot of marketing jargon and overly industry based keywords, you will only appeal to the people in that industry, not potential customers. Focus on normal language used by your customers and long-tail keywords.

Structured data and featured snippets

In May this year, Google released an important, but very subtle update. The Structured Data Tool was reworked to require schema information relevant to Google Assistant.

Many of the voice assistant searches are answered using the Rich Answer boxes that show at the top of the search results. This information is public domain information, like how many kilometres are in a mile, and Google answers via Instant Answers. However, featured snippets are taken from any website on page one of the results, and Google will give each page credit for this information. Featured snippets are more attainable, as you only have to be on page one, not position one. So, focus on tweaking your SEO (as mentioned in ‘questions and keywords’) in order to stand a better chance of snatching that featured snippet place.

what does voice search mean for SEO

Looping back to our first point in this section, structured data and schema markup is also an important element in getting that featured snippet. By improving this, you will be able to control how search engines read your content and increase your ranking by enhancing the rich snippets that are displayed beneath the page title. To find out more about Schema and structured data and how to utilise it, check out this article by Moz.

Mobile first and foremost

Google has been pretty vocal about focusing on mobile-first and if you’re not keeping up, you’re going to get left behind. Not being mobile friendly, or loading slowly will cause people to bounce back off. A page that takes five seconds to load is 90% more likely to suffer from bounce backs. Resulting in an increased bounce rate and a decrease in ranking, and being mobile friendly is even more important with voice search.

Over 52% of people utilise voice search while driving, so if your page can’t load quickly while a searcher is looking for information on the go, you won’t be ranking for voice search. Focus on reducing your load speed and creating a mobile-friendly online presence, if you haven’t already.

Local searches

39% of searches are using voice search to find out information about local businesses. Do you have all the right information readily available? Optimise your local SEO to rank higher. Ensure your Google My Business Page is up to date, with the correct address, contact details and opening hours listed.

For example, when I google Italian restaurants near me, those with a Google Business page appear immediately.

what does voice search mean for SEO

If you’re an Italian restaurant, you want to be up there when people are asking “what are the closest Italian restaurants to me?”. You also want to ensure that your business information is easy to access for when people want to know key information, like your opening times or phone number. If someone asks their Google Home for your phone number and it can’t deliver, it’s likely they’ll just find one of your competitors instead. Another way to build your local presence on SERPs, again, is to invest some time into your schema markup and to consider listing your business in online directories. You can also encourage positive reviews, reviews are a great way to climb the rankings and to let customers know about the quality of your business.

Though it may not be an overnight change, voice search is on the up and we would recommend taking these points and working on them sooner rather than later. The sooner you start, the less likely you are to be left scrambling to keep up!