Voice Search Is Rising: 7 Ways to Optimize Your Website & Content
At the beginning of this year, Alpine.ai reported that there were an estimated one billion voice searches per month. To boot, comScore reports that by 2020, voice searches will account for 50 percent of all searches. As a forward-thinking SEO, it's important that you pay attention to this kind of numbers because they indicate a fundamental shift in the web search habits of the public.
In other words, with the emergence of voice-controlled technologies like Google Home and Amazon Echo, and the introduction of virtual assistants like Apple-owned Siri, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Alexa, people are now increasingly talking to digital devices, as opposed to the old-style typing of keywords into search engines.
And this is having a substantial impact on search engine optimization. You need to start thinking about content and SEO differently.
The data speaks for itself
OC&C Strategy Consultants reported that in 2017 alone, voice-powered commerce accounted for $1.8 billion in U.S. retail revenues and that the figure is expected to reach $40 billion by 2022:
In 2018, Google has stated that “20% of all Android searches are coming from voice!” Google Voice Search queries have also risen greatly in the past years:
According to, MindMeld — an advanced AI platform — many users have only recently begun to use voice search functionality on a regular basis, with almost 42 percent of users using voice search for the first time within the past six months:
The ADI Consumer Electronics Report said that more than half of all owners of voice assistants use it more than once per day, and more than 20 percent rely on it for online shopping.
One-in-six Americans (16%) own a voice-activated smart-speaker, according to a 2018 Edison Research and NPR report, with 7 percent of those having acquired it for their homes in the past two years, outpacing the adoption rates of smartphones and tablets.
If you have yet to get it, this data shows that voice search is becoming mainstreamed and should be taken seriously for the best Internet marketing ROI. And talking about data, Google is even considering adding voice query data to the Google Search Console to make it easy for marketers and webmasters to track, measure, and improve their voice search metrics.
But until then, here's how to optimize your content and website for the voice search revolution.
Optimizing for Voice Search
First off, the good news is that you're not completely late to the party… yet. Voice search is rapidly on the rise, but if you start now, you will still be able to stay ahead of the curve in your niche and take advantage of the growing popularity of voice searchers.
Here are seven strategies you can adopt:
1. Make your content conversational
When a voice searcher needs information, he uses his natural human speech to ask for the information, which makes it conversational. Accordingly, voice technologies like virtual assistants are wired to process this natural human speech.
To gain traction, your content must contain “conversational titbits” and sound a lot more like a human-to-human converse. That's the future of content creation!
The search engine (Google) is already engineered to understand the context of your content by the use of semantics (this started with Google Hummingbird in 2013 and is being continued with Google RankBrain), and it relies on Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand natural-language queries.
How do you optimize your content for conversations?
Traditionally, marketers use the old-fashioned keyword pattern like “gas stations in Seattle.” But suppose you needed Cortana to find the nearest gas station for you, the natural language would sound like this:
“Cortana, which gas stations are open now?”
As you can see, this search term sounds more like you're talking to someone on the other side, thus your content should be optimized to answer such natural-language questions. You would also want to use long-tail keywords… ..because conversational [voice] queries are also normally longer, compared to text-based searches.
Reason? When we type into a computer, we use short phrases because it saves physical effort. But when talking, we tend to use longer search phrases.
2. Provide local content AKA things to do “near me”
The Internet Trends Report 2016 found that 22 percent of all search engine users use voice search to find local information. It makes sense because people find such information mostly while on the go (using their mobile devices). And the use of mobile devices has grown in recent years so much that it has overtaken desktop usage.
Again, in recent years, the phrase “near me” has become very popular in the search landscape, receiving tons of searches.
In fact, within July-December 2015 and July-December 2017, the “near me” mobile search saw a 500 percent increase in volume when combined with phrases like “to buy,” “can I buy,” or similar phrases, according to a comparison of Google Data. A related mobile search that has recently surged in frequency is “near me now.” That phrase increased by 900 percent in the same period.
The “near me” search allows user to find location-specific information without having to mention their specific location. This is possible because internet-connected mobile devices already know where we are, using location-detection feature and IP addresses.
Voice searchers use the “near me” search phrases all the time especially on mobile. And to top it, 50 percent of local mobile searches lead to same-day store visits.
That's why you need to provide locally-focused content, especially if your business targets local audiences.
3. Update your Google My Business listing
Beyond providing locally-focused content on your website, Google My Business is another tool you can leverage to enhance your local SEO. Not only should you claim the Google My Business listing for your biz, but should also update your business information in it thoroughly. The more current and complete the information in your Google My Business listing, the more useful, relevant, and visible it'll be to both Google and local searchers.
When Google My Business is optimized to work with the “near me” tack, it becomes even more remunerative as customers will be able to easily find you through hyper-local queries.
What can I do to optimize my Google My Business listing, you ask?
Use your business domain for your Google My Business login as opposed to a free Gmail account. This gives your business website more visibility and further ups your brand.
Add your correct business name, address, and phone number (NAP). This is very important because when searching for local businesses, some of the core information users often look for are your NAP details.
Choose a category to help Google understand what your business is about. Choosing a category can mean the difference between appearing at the top vs. disappearing from the voice search results.
Complete the introduction field with a detailed description (about 400 words) of your business.
Upload a handful of handy high-quality pictures of your business to persuade prospective buyers to visit your store. Product images work great for this.
4. Give users immediate results
Given that voice searches are performed mostly while the user is on the go, it's not expected that the user should visit and start navigating your website.
What they're looking for is an immediate answer.
Let's say that a user wants a laundry service nearby. After performing a voice search, Google pulls some information from Google My Business to return the nearest laundry services with their addresses, operational hours, directions, etc., to the user.
Based on the user's preferences, he can choose a laundry service and click on the “Message” button to chat directly with the service provider.
That way, the user has been able to reach his end goal without having to spend time browsing your website. In the case of informational queries, users still want an immediate result.
Optimizing your website to load at lightning speed can go a long way to help in this regard. You should also aim at getting your content rank on “position zero”; that is, to appear as featured snippets above the fold. The reason is that Google Home and Google Assistant are engineered to read out featured snippets when they answer voice search queries.
5. Use Schema markup
Schema markup (also called structured data and found at Schema.org) is a form of microdata or a semantic vocabulary of tags that you can add to your HTML to improve the way search engines read and present your page in SERPs. It provides search engines with additional information about the information on your website.
It's not usually visible to users, but can determine what information they see. It’s also one of the most advanced yet significantly underutilized SEO practices, so by simply creating schema markup for your site, you’re already putting yourself way ahead of the competition.
Here's an example of a schema markup:
So how does schema markup influence voice search?
As mentioned earlier, when users search for local businesses, they often look for details like operational hours, addresses, contact information, directions, distances from the user's location and so on.
Using schema markup, you'll be able to describe the above specific information to search engines (telling them “this is my contact information” for example) who will in turn understand such information and present it to voice searchers whenever needed.
Side note: Google has announced official support for the Schema.org Speakable specification… which means the speakable specification will help Google Assistant and Google Home find and select which content to read aloud.
6. Become mobile-friendly
Google always aims at providing the best user experience (UX) to their users. That's their #1 drive. To do well on SERPs, your website has to be optimized to offer great UX. It's starts with making your site responsive. In the case of voice search, that would mean making your site mobile-friendly given that voice search mainly happens on mobile devices (and digital assistants). According to Think with Google, 88 percent of “near me” searches are performed on mobile:
You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to test the mobile-friendliness of your site and fix what needs fixing.
7. Answer customers’ questions
Voice searches are mostly usually framed as questions.
Hey Google, what are the best hotels in Yorkshire?
Alexa, what's the latest in sports tonight?
Most businesses only answer user questions with just their FAQ page. But you can take it up a notch by incorporating user questions into your web copy and blog content.
First, you'd need to think how your audience speaks about your business, products, and services. Then create their most frequently asked questions and sprinkle those all over your content with precise answers. Use effective SEO tools to find common questions for your niche, and use that as a basis to create your content. Include the question as an H2, and answer it in the body text directly below. Doing this will significantly increase your chances of appearing in featured snippets and in voice search results.
With Cortana now having 133 million monthly users according to Microsoft and 19 percent of iPhone users making use of Siri daily according to Hubspot, voice search is rapidly rising and its growth is not slowing down anytime soon. That’s both good and bad for SEOs.
It’s good for savvy SEOs who understand the power of voice search and start optimizing their content and website for it. And it’s bad for those who disregard the trend and continue creating same ol’ content and implement outdated SEO strategies. You need to get back to the drawing board and rethink your SEO strategy to incorporate voice search optimization Of course voice-activated queries are now being used in an interactive manner to find (mostly local) information. But over time, those queries will become more transactional as virtual assistants are improved to complete bookings and purchases.
In fact, it has already started. For example, Google announced that it has already integrated a batch of third-party transactional services into Google Home, including Ticketmaster, Uber, Pandora, Spotify, and OpenTable. Also, users can now use Amazon Alexa to complete transactional actions like book a Uber ride or order a pizza from Domino’s.
Bottom line: It's time to optimize for voice search.