The internet has made it possible to have knowledge of the world in a device that fits into your hands. And it’s easier than ever to access this information with the power of voice search results.
Because of this, voice search SEO has become crucial for optimizing your website for the best user experience.
As more and more people use virtual assistants, it becomes even more necessary for websites to optimize for voice searches to have a better chance of ranking high in the search results.
In addition, it is essential to note that people speak vocal keyword queries differently than they type them in a search, making it necessary to understand keyword intent.
Read on to learn more about voice search optimization and why it is crucial for ranking with Google.
The Connection Between Voice Searches and Keyword Intent
If you’ve used a spoken command to control an artificial intelligence device, you understand the massive ease-of-use of voice search.
Today, there are a ton of virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant. And there are also smart devices that can allow you to operate your entire home, from the lights to doorbell cameras to the thermostat and refrigerator. But many people don’t know that voice search isn’t new.
A Brief History of Voice Search
We can trace voice search technology back to 1939. Although the impressive AI (artificial intelligence) we enjoy today didn’t exist until this century.
Google was the first to release voice search technology for the iPhone – Voice Search App – in 2008. Apple followed suit by launching Siri, the world’s favorite digital assistant, in 2011.
As much as AI has grown, so too has the way search engines interpret and answer user queries. And with the development of voice recognition software, search engine algorithms experience constant changes as they adapt to the way users conduct research.
BERT & Keyword Intent
In response to voice search, Google added a new algorithm update BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) in 2019. This software update helps the algorithm understand voice search keywords and their true keyword intent for better search results.
To make it more simple, BERT allows Google to determine the purpose of a user’s query intent. The essential concept of this update was to increase Google’s understanding of voice search keywords. BERT gave Google the ability to understand better how people search for different things in different ways.
Many of us speak to our virtual devices like we would a person. So, for example, rather than typing “weather in New York” or “local business hours near me,” you’d say something like “Alexa, what’s the forecast for today?” or “what are the business hours of the Italian restaurant?”
MUM & Keyword Intent
Then, in 2021 Google updated even further when it announced MUM (Multitask United Model), a new AI natural language processing model said to be more than 1,000 times more powerful than BERT.
MUM uses feelings and context to help understand long-tail keywords when answering questions. It can also decipher multiple formats – voice, images, text, videos. While this technology sounds super cool and exciting, it’s still in the testing phases.
This means that your website needs to optimize for intent and authority signals such as EAT.
At its core, EAT stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. EAT can be broken down into solid content that users interact with, relevant, trustworthy links, user sentiment, and brand metrics.
Additional Factors Google Takes Into Consideration
Lastly, it’s essential to understand that Google algorithms also rely on other factors to discover user intent, including:
- Search history
- Current browsing
- Current app usage
- Abbreviations and misspellings
These factors allow Google to produce relevant search results for users.
Voice searches are so important that failure to incorporate them into your website could result in your business not showing up in relevant internet searches.
10 Steps to Optimize for Voice Search Queries & Keyword Intent
Now that you have a better understanding of why your business must optimize for voice search let’s look at the ten steps you should complete when optimizing for voice search.
Know Your Customer
Before incorporating voice searches into your website, it’s crucial to know your customer and their needs. In addition, you need to have a clear understanding of audience search intent.
Search intent means the purpose of a customer’s search tr the person’s objective for searching. For example, customers use voice search for three reasons: learn something, find something, or buy something.
Learning – when a customer uses a voice search to ask a question for learning purposes, it’s generally for information. For example, the user may perform a voice search to learn how to perform an action, seek product reviews, or discover something new.
Finding – customers already know what they want in this stage and have a purpose in mind. So, rather than doing research, users do a voice search with a voice search device to seek out a specific target; usually, a brand, such as “How do I get to Target?” or “What time does the Mexicana restaurant close?”
Buying or Taking Action – voice searches are also popular when customers already have all the information they want and are ready to take action. Users may wish to purchase a product, sign up for a service, download something, get directions, or find a phone number.
When customers use voice search, they speak a query to a voice search device, which sends the spoken words to a search engine, and the search engine results pages are then relayed back to the user via smart speakers.
Once you know what purpose customers have with their voice search queries, from the proper conversational keyword intent to the browsing device and the customer’s intent – learn, find, or action – you’re equipped to move on to step two.
Focus on Conversational Keywords
We mentioned earlier that when users perform a voice search, they do so more naturally than when you type an inquiry into a phone or computer web browser.
In the early days of SEO, we were taught to plug-in target keywords to help a page rank better in search results, even if it made the content stiff.
As the technology advanced, so did our options for writing more natural content. We still use keywords to target customers, but there’s a significant difference in incorporating the phrases into our writing.
Conversational, long-tail keywords sound more natural and normal in voice search and often include complete details, answering who, what, when, where, why (the five W’s), and how.
To decide on long-tail keywords when optimizing for voice search, focus on questions rather than statement phrases.
When you’re coming up with keywords for voice search optimization, you’ll want to keep in mind that there are multiple ways that users ask questions.
And when answering these questions, use short, direct answers.
Create Detailed Answers to Multiple Questions Around a Keyword
When creating content with voice search optimization in mind, it is essential to remember that users ask the same questions in various ways. That’s why you must write detailed answers to multiple different voice search queries around the same topic and keyword.
Not only will this allow you to better optimize your content for voice search (and all the different ways users use voice search to answer a query), but it will also help your answer to appear in mobile searches as well.
Use Titles and Headers to Answer Questions Followed By a Clean, Concise Answer
When focusing on voice search optimization, you want to give clear, concise, and detailed answers that provide straightforward solutions to voice search users.
The title, headers, and the first few paragraphs of your piece are crucial for optimizing voice search and Google’s algorithms. When you target keywords in headings, Google knows right away what your page is about and is more likely to share it in the search results or as a featured snippet.
Then, immediately after the header that includes the keyword for the voice search, answer the question with a detailed yet simple and straightforward response. When you write content that has the correct keyword intent and the right keywords with supporting details for an easy-to-understand answer, you have the proper formula for voice search optimization.
Although the introduction is hugely important to your SEO strategy, the rest of your content also needs to be on point. So, for the remainder of the piece, you’ll want to focus on expanding the meat of the article, going into great detail to include everything users want to know about the topic.
Google’s ranking algorithm loves SEO-optimized websites that use this formula. The beefy, detailed body encompasses everything under the topic’s umbrella. And the concise, direct answer in the intro is perfect for voice search and can inspire a featured snippet.
Use Schema Markups
Schema markups are like a roadmap to help Google understand the layout and information contained in your site.
Sites with structured data submitted to Google have a higher probability of snagging a rich snippet which is what a smart speaker will read out to a user performing a voice search.
When your site has a structured data schema markup, it becomes easier for search engines to find your site for specific keywords.
Schemas also help search engines index the topics and answers you provide. And it helps to narrow down your intent, so you get more relevant traffic.
Getting 1,000 visitors who follow through with the purpose of their visit is better than having 4,000 people who navigate to your site but leave without following through on a call to action.
Quality is better than quantity.
Include FAQs on Your Site
When you include an FAQ section in your content, you’re providing multiple opportunities for your answer to be the one provided to users performing a voice search query around that topic.
Because most users do a voice search using the five W’s, a frequently asked question section is the perfect place for Google to pull answers for voice searches and featured snippets.
Use your FAQ real estate as another way to target keywords and related questions to expand the information you provide for a more rounded project.
Question-Related Keyword Research
If we haven’t said it enough already, questions are an important way to optimize for voice search and keyword intent.
But, incorporating voice search optimization into your site doesn’t mean you have to eliminate your existing SEO keyword research practices. Instead, you can use your past and current SEO campaigns to make a list of question keywords that you can use in future content or that you can use to enhance your existing content.
A few searches on a search engine on any topic can also help you develop question keywords to use in your content. You should also check your competitors’ sites to get ideas about what kinds of question keywords they are using and if any of those questions have been turned into featured snippets that you can snag from them.
You can also use the five W’s and How and your favorite keyword research tool to create strings of words. Or work with the autofill results using a modifier and a short keyword in your preferred search engine to get longer keyword phrases.
Answer the Public is also an excellent resource for questions.
When coming up with a list of question-related keywords, keep in mind that your goal is to obtain featured snippets or real estate in Google’s “People also ask” section.
Don’t Forget to Include Local SEO
Did you know that most voice searches are for questions about local queries?
If you want to target local traffic (you do – especially if you’re a brick-and-mortar business), it’s a necessity to optimize your site for local SEO.
For your site to appear in voice search results when a user searches for a keyword with the phrase “Near Me,” search engines must know your location and what services you offer. Therefore, if you want your business to be listed in the voice search results for a local query, you must optimize your content for local SEO.
Most users performing a voice search based on their location are at the final stage of their research process. This means that the users have a need that your business can fill.
It’s time to do your part to lure them in to complete the transaction. Try these six steps to help optimize your brand for voice search and local SEO.
- Claim or create a business listing on the Google My Business website. You’ll need to add the complete business name, address, a marked location on a map, business category, website, and phone number.
- Optimize for mobile (82% of people use a mobile device to perform a near me search) with a mobile-friendly website with CTC (click-to-call) icons.
- Include authentic customer reviews to help boost visibility and enhance your reputation. Check sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, or Thumbtack.
- Expand on building local links. Sites with quantity links help boost rankings and appearance.
- Use citation/NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency and feature your site on domain authority directories – Facebook, Bing Maps, or Yelp.
- Get insights through social listening. Please pay attention to what customers say about what they like and don’t like about your site. Then use these insights to change your existing strategy, services, or products to satisfy your customers better.
- You should also keep your site updated with current contact information.
Optimize Your Page Speed
Slow website speeds can negatively affect your rankings in Google. Therefore, your ability to optimize your website for voice search, regardless of how suitable your answer is for a featured snippet.
For this reason, optimizing your site for the fastest page speeds could be the difference between hundreds of paying visitors and dozens of unsatisfied bounces.
Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Friendly
If your website isn’t optimized for mobile browsing, you’ll lose out on a significant amount of traffic.
In addition, Google and other search engines are less likely to include your site high in rankings for search results if you’re not optimized for mobile use.
But, how do you know if your website is mobile-friendly?
The first thing you should do is test your website for mobile-friendliness. Depending on how well your website performs, you may or may not be on the right track for ranking in Google’s top search results.
To be mobile-friendly, you’ll need to focus on the following site aspects.
- Responsive design that automatically adjusts for screen size
- A separate app designed for mobile devices (if applicable)
- Avoid flash
- Use light CSS and images
- Focus on placement and button size
- Go with a large font that’s easy to read
- Prevent pop-ups
You should also make sure that Google’s spiders can crawl your website and collect all necessary data for your site to be mobile-friendly.
Voice Search Optimization & Keyword Intent: What’s next?
With more and more voice queries each day, voice search optimization is a necessity that you shouldn’t skip.
Every day it becomes more crucial for you and your brand to focus on content with conversational, question-based keywords that lend themselves well to voice search queries.
If voice search optimization sounds like a difficult task that you’re not ready to tackle, visit our contact page and let Lancaster SEO company Trusted Search Marketing take the reigns.
As experts in how voice search is changing SEO, we’re ready to help you improve your website rankings and SEO practices.