— August 28, 2017
When you think back to the early days of voice recognition software, it’s hard not to laugh and imagine mad gabs. I know you mean to say, “He’s a lady’s man.” But the voice recognition software heard, “easel and ease man.” I know people who spent hours reading to their computers to train their software to recognize their voice – only to spend a lot of time correcting what the system interpreted.
That’s not to say today’s voice recognition software is perfect, but at least you can just push a button and start talking! And that’s what a lot of searchers are doing today – so much so that over half of teenagers, nearly half of adults are using voice searches more than once a day to address their search needs – everything from getting directions to help with homework, and even calling contacts. Voice search is also commonly used while multi-tasking; teenagers are likely to use it most when socializing with friends, while adults report using it while cooking.
Now that the majority of Google’s search traffic is mobile, and Google says 20% of mobile search comes from voice, it’s time to start making sure your site is ready for voice search. When you consider that over the next three years almost 1/3 of web searches will take place without a screen thanks to the number of smart speaker devices (Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod) available on the market, neglecting mobile voice search optimization means risking your business.
Are You Considering Searcher Intent?
With mobile voice search and natural language comes the potential for more long tail keywords. Want to get an idea of the questions people are asking when they search for keyword phrases you’re trying to target? Use Answer the Public. This way, you can be sure you’re crafting content that not only answers the questions, but considers their intent, too.
Take a look at your website analytics data to learn more about the keywords and phrases people are using to find your site. Look at the ones that are bringing you the most traffic and make sure they are naturally weaved into your content where appropriate.
When’s the Last Time You Looked at Local Citations?
Many people looking for something in their local area add “near me” to the end of their query, whether or not they’re using voice search. Adding this to your on-site content doesn’t really make much sense, and would most certainly look unnatural. That’s where your local SEO efforts, particularly citations, come into play.
When Google sees “near me” it pays more attention to where the user is physically located than it would otherwise. That’s why you should make sure you not only have listings with Google My Business and other directories, but you should check and make sure the Name, Address, and Phone Number information match exactly across those listings, and keep those listings up to date. Choose your business category carefully as this can affect the types of searches you’ll appear in the results for. Check other sites like Yelp for your business and claim those profiles if you find one. If you don’t, make one.
Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly?
It should be by now, because Google announced mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor years ago, and we’ve known a while that more traffic comes from mobile devices than desktops these days. Check to make sure you’re on the right rack with the Mobile-Friendly Tool. And if not, switch to a responsive design, or install a plugin that will add a mobile version of your website in just a few clicks.
Are You Using Natural Language?
Natural language is most often used in voice search, so it’s important to use it throughout your website content, too. That doesn’t mean you should use it at the expense of proper grammar, though because you should be writing for your users first, and the search engines second. Users who find websites with poor grammar or content that just doesn’t make sense won’t be happy with what they find… and when they’re not happy, Google isn’t either.
If you’re struggling to find ways to work natural language into your content, create as much as you can in a conversational tone, with words and phrases that voice searchers are likely to use. One way to do this is to add a Q&A page to your website. Remember, Google isn’t the only one you need to think about – Bing (Cortana) and Apple (Siri) are also platforms people use for voice search.
Should You Ignore SEO Best Practices?
The foundation of SEO is still important, because voice search optimization isn’t the only thing you should focus on. Make sure you’re still taking the time to follow other basic guidelines, such as creating and submitting your sitemap, using clean HTML code, optimizing images for fast load times, and using microdata to help the search engines learn what your content means. Ignoring all the other aspects of SEO won’t help you get a better ranking at all, let alone for voice searches.
Is it Time to Revisit Your Entire Approach to SEO?
Voice search has been around for a few years now, so it’s not necessary to completely overhaul your strategy to account for the uptick in usage. But, if you’ve not made adjustments to your content to account for natural language search, you are going to miss out on your chance to get organic traffic from those searches.
At this time, Google Analytics can’t tell you whether your searcher came from a standard text search or a voice search. Though it may never differentiate between the two, there’s always a possibility that as the feature continues to grow in use, we may see it in the future. If and when this data becomes available, it will be much easier to tailor your SEO strategy according to what your audience is doing and compared to what you want the audience to do.
Have you already made adjustments for voice search optimization? Why or why not?