By 2020, half of all queries will happen via voice search. Whether they’ll happen on Alexa, Google Home, Siri, or some as-yet-unreleased killer speaker remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: voice search is only going to get bigger.
That presents a unique challenge (and opportunity) for SEOs and content marketers. So, how can you optimize your website for voice searches?
Start with these important voice search tips:
1. Use Long-Tail Keywords.
Voice queries go beyond even long-tail keywords. They’re long-tail+, meaning they contain various conversational phrases you’ll want to target. Users aren’t searching “best hiking backpack” — they’re more likely to ask “what’s the lightest hiking backpack to buy if you’re hiking the Appalachian trail?”
Google Search Console can show you the long-tail keywords that are already bringing people to your site, and tools like Answer the Public can be helpful for finding natural language solutions surrounding a keyword. Or, get even more hands-on and ask a voice query yourself — the result that comes up will have a structure you can learn from.
2. Pay Attention to Local SEO.
Often, people use voice search to find information about their surroundings, and they use language like “Chinese food near me.” That means Google will be pulling results from Google My Business listings, not your on-page keywords.
Getting your business listed on Google My Business is a crucial step in appearing for local voice searches.
So check your local SEO strategy. Make sure your listing is accurate and up-to-date, with information about your business category, location, hours, etc. — and that this information is consistent across the web.
3. Target Answer Boxes with Q&A Content.
For voice searches, speakers like Alexa and Google Home pull their results from Google’s answer boxes, the featured snippets that rank above organic results.
These results can be pulled from any result on the first page, which lends the added bonus of letting you leapfrog over higher-ranking competitors in conventional searches in addition to nabbing the voice search answer.
A key tactic for answer box ranking is to put your answer within the first hundred words of a page. Additionally, you’ll want to phrase your content as a direct answer to a question — for example, “how do I retile my bathroom?”
4. Create User-Friendly Mobile Content.
The vast majority of voice search happens on a mobile device. If you capture traffic with voice search only to lead users to a site that doesn’t work smoothly on a phone, you’ll see a serious increase in your bounce rate. Google has a handy Mobile-Friendly Test to see if your site’s design is up to snuff.
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In addition to improving basic usability, you’ll want to make sure your content is user-friendly and scannable. Break things up with headers, images, bullet points, graphics, and short paragraphs. That way, once you get the voice traffic, you’ll be sure to keep it.
Voice search is in its wild west phase — we don’t even have reporting for traffic from voice searches, although Google has hinted that may become available in the future. The field will almost certainly change substantially as voice search becomes even more prominent and evolved. But in the meantime, these tactics should go a long way towards putting you at the top of the charts.