10 Tips To Help You Navigate The World Of Voice Search
There’s a saying that the only thing constant in life is change. The same concept applies for technology. The good news is the internet offers a wealth of knowledge as to how to keep up with our ever-evolving digital world. A few years ago, we were all optimizing websites for desktop, but with over 50 percent of all searches now coming from mobile devices, the focus has shifted. Well, the focus is shifting again, and it’s to voice searches. The good news is that many of the optimization processes used for voice search build upon optimizations for mobile search. If you follow these three steps and 10 tips, you’ll not only understand why this voice search trend is significant, but more importantly, what you can do about it.
It makes sense that this trend is gaining traction; after all, most people can speak three times faster than they can type. Several years ago, Google created a voice search app for the iPhone. Then, in 2011, Apple introduced Siri, which was the first widely used voice search application. Since then, the technology has only become more innovative. In recent years, Amazon developed Alexa, Microsoft released Cortana, Google created a Google Assistant and Google Home – the list goes on. The smarter these products become, so to speak, the more people find them useful. Voice search has big implications for companies that rely on search engines to drive traffic to their sites. Voice search is different from typed search, one main reason being that these voice assistants actually retain information and preferences about the person who speaks to it. SEO is still vital to success because a virtual assistant is still searching; it's the process that's different.
Step 1: Mobile
Before voice search optimization can happen, mobile optimization must be taken care of. Think of the last time you wanted to go out to eat but didn’t know where you wanted to go. After playing a round of, “Where do you want to eat? I don’t care, where do you want to eat?” You probably consulted Google. But, your laptop was across the room and your phone was at an arm’s length distance, so you used your phone. This is such a common phenomenon, which is why Google is making a switch to mobile-first indexing. Over 50 percent of Google's traffic is coming from mobile devices. Perhaps instead of typing into Google, you asked Siri or Alexa where you should eat. The mobile revolution was pretty recent, and even more recent is the voice search take over. Don’t fret, just as mobile didn’t kill the desktop, voice search won’t kill typed search. That being said, it is wise to prepare for this game changer. Here are some stats according to Google:
- 30% of people admit to feeling some anxiety when they’re without their smart phone.
- 68% admit to checking their phones within 15 minutes of waking up.
- 87% of millennials have their smart phones by their side 24/7.
- On average, we are on our phones for 177 minutes per day and check our phones 150 times per day.
Tip 1: Responsive Web Design for Mobile
Image via SEJ
Google used to index based on the desktop experience, but it has made an effort to switch to mobile. This means that Google used to rank searches based on the content of a website's desktop experience, but now it's beginning to rank based on mobile experience. If both desktop and mobile content are the same, your website will see no impact. Using responsive web design is vital to making sure your website gets ample traffic.
Image via SEJ
Websites such as this one that have not yet adopted responsive web design could be affected negatively. Since Google will be ranking based on the mobile website on the right, it won’t take all the information on the left into account since the mobile version doesn’t include it. If you haven’t taken the steps to have responsive web design, there’s no more time to spare. Google has made statements that 2018 will be the year they flip the switch to mobile-first indexing. Beyond the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) implications, users simply do not like sites that are not mobile friendly. It’s frustrating when navigating to a website on mobile only to discover there are no changes in format from the desktop version, even though desktop screens are horizontal and mobile screens are vertical. With so many user-friendly options available, users will exit a mobile website if it’s not compatible with their devices.
Tip 2: Google Search Console
Add the mobile version of your website to the Google Search Console, which is a feature of Google where businesses can make sure users are able to find them for the correct search queries. The search console will also show you errors Google finds when reading your site. Each time you create a new page on your website, you can use Search Console to see which terms will lead people to your Google search results. This will allow you to see which pages are the most successful and help you optimize your website further. This is a great way to see if Google “understands” your content, which will also help your visibility on SERPs. This video goes into further detail about the benefits of the Google Search Console.
Tip 3: Test for Mobile Compatibility
Unfortunately, there’s no one-stop shop to make sure your entire website is mobile friendly; it must be done one landing page at a time. This can be done through Link Assist’s Website Auditor, which incorporates Google’s test for mobile compatibility. It works similarly to search engine bots, so it also allows you to step behind the screen and see your site as a search engine sees it. To perform a mobile audit, to go the following:
- Crawler Settings
- Check the Follow robots.txt instructions box
- Choose Googlebot Mobile in the drop down menu
- Check the Crawl as a specific user agent box
- Pick the second option in the drop-down menu, Mozilla/5.0 (Linux…)
- Press OK
- Click Rebuild Project
Image via Link-Assist
Tip 4: Speed that Site
When it comes to the digital sphere, we as consumers are impatient, spoiled, and cannot handle slow loading websites. 2017 statistics show that only 25 percent of mobile websites are meeting the needs of consumers. If you can be one of the 25 percent, you will have a huge advantage over the competition, including a higher performance ranking on Google.
Image via X-Cart
One way to speed up your website is to enable browser cache. This is basically temporary storage for files on your website. It reduces bandwidth usage, which is why it makes your website faster. Utilizing image compression can be a simple way to speed your site up too. File sizes should be compressed by 30-40 percent when being used on the internet. Make sure your image is the exact size it needs to be – don’t let the browser scale the image for you. Using a program like Photoshop is helpful for this, though there are many free sites for this as well. There are numerous ways to speed up a website, but after you have made some changes, test your mobile site speed using something such as Web Page Test. Then, run something like Pingdom, which will help you improve your website performance and compare your speed to other online sites.
Step 2: Keywords- Hello Long-Tail+
When talking to a device, people treat it more human-like than when typing into a device. When typing, people use on average two key words for searches, but when using voice search, people tend to use long-tale+ phrases. The “plus” refers to the conversational language used in these searches. One of the beauties of voice search is your device can get to know you and your preferences better. It feels more natural to say, “Hey Google, where can I buy a last minute birthday gift for my wife?” or “Alexa, what’s the best hotel to stay at in Chicago?” than to type that into Google. A recent commercial for Google’s personal assistant encourages users to speak to the device like another person, or at least as an entity that can comprehend casual conversation. An anonyms voice says, “Hey Google, play that hipster song with whistling.” The language consumers are using to make voice searches are becoming friendlier and leave more room for interpretation. Insert gif
Tip 5: Take on the User Persona
These virtual assistants are aiming to be more and more human-like; like a real assistant. That being said, the way to approach optimizing for this new type of search is quite different from the optimization used for typed searches. You must put yourself in the user’s shoes and come up with questions they might ask in order to be led to your website. Another method is taking advantage of the “People Also Ask” box on SERPs – this is Google’s way of using algorithms to try to understand us.
Somewhere in the deep black hole that is the internet, there is a virtual file for each and every one of us containing all of our search history. Of course, this extensive web history is used to do things like advertise to us, but it’s also used to help other people find what they might be looking for.
Tip 6: Keywords are Key
You can see where your website stacks up with keywords by using sites such as Serpstat. Depending on the host of your website, it’s possible your host has a keyword search as well.
This is great to use to gain some insight into your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses by running them in Serpstat and seeing what their best performing queries are.
You can also use Serpstat’s Question function to find hundreds of questions that contain your core word. In this case, I searched “voice search,” and you can see the most common words associated with “voice search” and the most common questions about it. All of this is extremely helpful to gain a featured snippet on Google, which we’ll go further into in tip 8.
Tip 7: FAQ
Create a Frequently Asked Questions page. Make sure that the questions featured on this page use the long-tail, conversational language people frequently use with voice search. The more specific your questions and answers are, the more likely it is that the information on your page will be what Siri or Alexa answers with. When creating these questions, think less SEO-keyword phrases, and more detailed, natural sounding questions. Instead of searching “best video camera,” specific searches like “What is the best budget friendly camera to start a YouTube channel?” are becoming more and more popular. Offer concise answers that a voice assistant can read aloud to the searcher. This can also help with the next tip, appearing as a Google Featured Snippet.
Step 3: Increase Visibility
In 2016, 20 percent of all mobile searches were made using voice. Beause of this surge in voice searches, it can be key for your business to appear as a “featured snippet” on a SERP, which will increase your digital visibility. If you’re a local business, setting up a Google business page can increase your physical visibility to customers who are trying to find a business just like yours. Using schema can help increase your visibility to search engines, which will make you more noticable to customers too.
Tip 8: Getting a Featured Snippet
A featured snippet, AKA “Answer Box” or “Instant Answer,” is what appears at the top of a Google SERP. When you voice search for something, if there is a featured snippet, your virtual assistant will read that back to you. If you aren’t looking at the screen with your own two eyes, this is the only answer you get. Even if you are looking at it, this featured snippet takes up most of the screen for mobile devices and is still the first thing shown on desktops.
You may assume this featured snippet is also the first result on the SERP, but that’s the interesting thing, it’s often not. In some cases, Google has been known to take a snippet from positions 50 and beyond! Being a large brand or site doesn’t necessarily yield advantage in this case. The Google algorithms are looking for the right format, so it will move down the SERP from site to site looking for this. According to SEMRush, the optimal number of words for “snipp-able” content is 40-50. Answering an important question, using a case study, and/or including a visual or table can increase your snipp-ability.
Other indicators of whether a site is snippet worthy is its CTR, time spent on page and new visitors. Larry from Moz explains it quite eloquently in his diagram below:
After updating to create a more “snipp-able” page, make sure to use the Google Search Console again so Google instantly updates its index.
Tip 9: Location Location Location
Voice searches are usually location focused. Nearly one third of mobile searches are related to location. Most of our phones know where we are at all times, and since the majority of voice searches are mobile based, it makes sense that voice searches are more location centric than desktop searches. If you are the owner of a local business, a few adjustments to your website can go a long way.
-Set up a free Google My Business page. Make sure information like phone number, business hours, and address are accurate because this is what will potentially be read aloud to the searcher. With a seemingly infinite number of options, why would any consumer do extra work to learn if a certain business is open at that hour? Having quality photos is another great way to add credibility and appeal. Getting positive reviews is also huge for Google’s ranking. Providing incentives for honest reviews can be a great way to jump start this process.
-Google Maps now has local search ads. This will enable users to see local coffee shops, convenient stores, restaurants, etc., while navigating the world around them. Using a service like AdWords to run an ad for your local business can be further utilized when enabling location extensions to include your phone number, address, and photos within your ad. This is great for both mobile and voice search. When Nissan UK ran a set of mobile ads, they found 6 percent of these clicks resulted in a trip to a dealership. This delivered an estimated 25x ROI.
Tip 10: Utilize Schema
These virtual assistants give proactive suggestions and advice. They do this by collecting data from websites through schema markups, which are pieces of code that help SERPs show users (or on our case, speak aloud to users) pertinent information. This is why it’s critical for you to mark important information on your website using tags from Schema.org (which was created by Google, Bing, and Yahoo). If you’re a local business, you can use the local section of Schema.org. Using schema markup can also help boost your site on the SERPs. Not only can schema tell the search engine what your data is, but also what it means. According to Schema.org:
“Most webmasters are familiar with HTML tags on their pages. Usually, HTML tags tell the browser how to display the information included in the tag. For example, <h1>Avatar</h1> tells the browser to display the text string “Avatar” in a heading 1 format. However, the HTML tag doesn’t give any information about what that text string means — “Avatar” could refer to the hugely successful 3D movie, or it could refer to a type of profile picture—and this can make it more difficult for search engines to intelligently display relevant content to a use.”
Learn more about how to set up schema here.
Bonus Tip: Do Try This at Home
If you don’t already, start using voice search more often. You’ll surprise yourself when you start treating Siri more like a human friend than a device. The voice technology accuracy is at about 95 percent and is getting better every day. In fact, some of these devices (like Google Home and Amazon Alexa) can actually recognize and remember your voice. That way several people within the same household can use it and still have personalized responses, such as having his or her calendar read. Adobe recently created a voice software called Project VoCo that, after listening to you speak for 20 minutes, can recreate your voice and say things you never said. This voice technology is here to stay, so we might as well learn about it and learn how to use it to our benefit.
This may seem like an overwhelming amount of information, but knowledge is power. Even small steps toward change are beneficial, and the further along in your voice search optimization journey you get, the more it will all make sense. The longer this technology is around, the more analytics will be gathered, and the clearer steps to success will become. For further information, please visit our website at: www.internetmarketingatlanta.org.
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