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How to Optimize Your Content For Voice Search

Learn how to optimize web content to rank among a voice search that drives motivated customers to your door.

The switch to Google’s Hummingbird algorithm in 2013 changed how website creators designed content. It changed how consumers interacted with search engines, too. Searches that use natural language have become predominant since the Hummingbird update. The popularity of voice search is proof of it. Research says that 58% of internet users have conducted a search via voice within the last year.

Why Voice Search Matters to Your SEO Strategy

When you think about your SEO strategy, you likely weigh factors such as content and social media marketing. You probably worry about capturing consumers through different channels. Ranking in a voice search is another way to reach your target audience.

Gaining traction with voice assistants is increasingly important for locally driven businesses in particular. An estimated 46% of consumers who use voice search conduct daily searches for local businesses. These are customers who want to walk in the door and buy products or services right away. It’s important to rank among their searches.

Obstacles to Voice Search Success

There are some drawbacks to directing SEO efforts at voice search rankings. A primary concern is that mobile users who conduct a voice search get only one top result from Google. This means that the competition to rank in these searches is tougher than it would be to rank in a text search. If you run a local business, you may be able to rank by using SEO strategies for local searches.

Determining how well a given site ranks in voice search is complicated. With a text-based search, you can easily identify where your page ranks on SERPs. There is no equivalent results list for voice searches that shows your ranking, however. This makes it difficult to adjust your strategy if you’re not ranking in customer searches but aren’t sure why.

Google’s John Mueller also cautions business leaders against focusing too much on voice results. Using questionable tactics or short-term approaches to winning voice results could negatively impact your site in text-based searches. Providing high-quality, easy-to-ready information for site users should always be your top SEO priority.

Voice Search Optimization: Best Practices

Despite the challenges, optimizing your website for voice search can be a smart strategy. As you weigh your SEO options, remember that your SEO strategy should be aimed at humans, not robots. Use these best practices to craft content that provides high value for visitors while helping you rank for voice search as well.

Master Voice Search Keywords

One of the biggest changes Hummingbird brought was an increased focus on high-quality content that offers direct value to the reader. As the demand for useful content has become common, natural keywords have become important to SEO strategy. This is especially true in voice search, where users speak conversationally and ask questions.

Text-based users might enter “Chinese restaurants in Dallas” in a search engine. Voice users ask questions, like “where can I eat Chinese food in Dallas?” Using long-tail keywords that incorporate natural phrases can help your site rank for voice-based searches. Keyword research tools will assist you in identifying the long-tail phrases you should be using.

Understand Intent, Answer Questions

Google weighs what it believes to be a user’s intent when returning search results. To rank among voice searches, you need to understand what your potential customers are looking for. If you’ve done SEO research, you probably know what type of content your website visitors need. Focusing on providing content that meets those needs is a cornerstone of any digital marketing strategy.

The bulk of your content should be designed to answer the common questions or demands that bring visitors to your website. A Q&A section on your site is a great idea, but avoid structuring answers in a chart or table that a voice assistant won’t be able to read. Focus on answering the question as you would if asked it in person. This means avoiding jargon and buzzwords that look impressive in written copy but aren’t used in spoken conversation.

You can add value to your site and improve your ranking by identifying additional questions that only customers using voice assistants tend to ask. Think about what potential clients in your local market would ask about your services, and be sure to address those inquiries. Answering questions also means avoiding marketing content. Voice search users are looking for honest answers. It’s disruptive to hear a marketing-driven answer to a search query. Focus on serving your customer first as you design your website.

Build Strength With Featured Snippets

Google search users are familiar with the informational text box, known as a SERPs snippet, that is often displayed above page results. The snippets provide valuable information that Google believes directly answers the user’s question. Structuring your content well and making it easy to find important information will help increase the chances that a snippet will be drawn from your page.

A snippet can also drive voice results. When a consumer conducts a search using a voice-based assistant, the assistant will read the answer from the snippet if it’s available. Businesses that are competing for search results rankings should prioritize providing information that’s likely to make it into a snippet. One of the best strategies for landing in the SERPs snippets is based on crafting strong meta titles and descriptions.

Use Structured Data

Structured data is information written directly into your website’s code that helps Google contextualize information. When you see recipes displayed in the snippets section of SERPs, you’re seeing an example of structured data. Code has been included on the recipe page that helps Google determine how long it will take to prepare the recipe and what ingredients are needed.

Without structured data, search engines can only scan the actual content of your site and attempt to interpret it. When you add structured data, though, you make it easier for search engines to analyze the what and why on your pages. For example, specific data markup can help Google easily identify your business’s name, address, operating hours, phone number and website. Search engines can only guess at this data if you don’t provide context.

Structured data is the best way to contextualize data for search engines. There are several formats for adding this data to webpages, but the most popular system for structured data is called schema markup. The website offers a comprehensive tutorial on getting started with schema markup.

Focus on Local SEO

About half of consumers who use a voice assistant on a daily basis conduct local queries. That means you need to focus on local SEO if you want to rank. Remember that someone using a voice assistant isn’t going to ask a generic question. Consumers tend to use their location or the phrase “near me” to find local businesses. To rank highly among voice searches, it’s essential to focus on local SEO.

Design content that is specific to your local market. If you’re accustomed to doing that for text-based searches, you may include your state’s abbreviation or zip code to rank. While there’s no reason to remove this information from your website, make sure that you alternate that strategy with spelling out full state names. A consumer using a voice assistant is going to search for “Nevada,” not “NV.”

Make sure that your business information is accurate on Google My Business, too. Voice assistants use this information to determine where a business is located, when it’s open and more. Missing or incorrect information can prevent you from ever ranking in voice-based searches. Don’t neglect updating your information on Google just because you use structured data. Both are important strategies when it comes to local SEO.

Eliminate Slow Load Times in a Voice Search

Remember that users conducting voice searches are often on the go or multitasking, so they’re looking for quick answers. Pages that don’t load quickly will not rank for searches conducted by voice. Use the PageSpeed Insights tool from Google to find out if your page loads quickly enough. If your load speed is slow, it’s essential to find out what’s causing the slowdown so that you can fix the issue.

A mobile version of your website is also a must. After all, many voice-assistant users are conducting searches through a smartphone. If they want more information about your business after the assistant reads out an answer to a query, they’ll land on your webpage. If it isn’t optimized for mobile, you stand to lose the attention of a potential customer. Creating a mobile site is a great opportunity to build content for local SEO, too.

Is Capturing the Attention of Voice Searchers Worth It?

Adding structured data or overhauling your website content to focus on local SEO might seem like an intense time investment. While there’s no need to scratch your current site, incorporating strategies to rank in voice searches is worthwhile. Experts believe that more than half of all searches will be conducted by voice in 2020, and the percentage of voice searches is projected to rise even more from there. Now is the time to get on board with voice-driven strategies to update your online content.

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