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All you need to know about voice search

Once upon a time, speaking to an inanimate object may have been seen as a little bit odd… But now, Google, Alexa, and Siri are three companions that lead to many of us speaking to devices on a daily basis. And with over a quarter (27%) of online users around the world using mobile voice search, it’s essential to consider it in your SEO strategy. What’s more, that percentage is expected to rise exponentially in the next few years.

If you’re wondering how to make the most of voice search technology and ensure your website is optimised for this search method, read on!

Evolving SEO and the rise of voice search

The world of search engine optimisation (SEO) is always evolving, but it remains a crucial part of a business’s online presence. SEO is the process of ensuring your website appears as high up on a search engine results page (SERP) as possible. Higher visibility leads to more traffic and sales.

As consumer behaviour and Google’s algorithms update, SEO strategies must adapt to keep up. In recent years, one of the biggest shifts in how people search online is the rise of voice recognition and voice searches.

What is voice search?

Voice search allows a user to search for something online by speaking it out loud rather than typing. Using artificial intelligence, a device such as a smartphone recognises your voice and uses it to enter your query into a search engine.

Usually, a device will have a ‘virtual assistant’ who enables you to do this. For example, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant are the most popular helpers for smartphones. Alexa is the Amazon assistant, frequently used in the home via smart speakers. For desktop, Microsoft’s Cortana is frequently employed.

According to one study, 71 per cent of consumers prefer to use voice searches instead of typing. Why is this?

Well, for one thing, it’s quick and easy. When you need information on the go, it’s much more convenient to speak a query into your phone than keep your eyes fixed on a screen while texting. (We’ve all walked into things while texting, right?)

Perhaps you need to check some measurement conversions while you’re baking but have hands covered in dough. Simply asking Siri to search for what 100ml is in fluid ounces (3.38 fl oz, by the way) is a handy way to keep your recipe on track and protect your phone screen.

That’s not to mention smartphone users who may have vision impairments, learning disabilities or limited mobility that prevent them from typing comfortably. Optimising your website for voice search makes it more inclusive and accessible for all.

Who’s using it?

With any form of digital marketing, knowing your target audience is key. Who are you trying to attract, and how will they find you?

When it comes to voice search and SEO, it’s also vital to ensure you know how your target audience is engaged with the method. For example, if your target demographic is aged between 18 and 40, you really can’t ignore the importance of optimising for voice search.

One PwC survey highlighted that 18-24-year olds are adopting voice technology at the fastest rate but 25-49-year olds are the most likely demographic to speak to their devices at least once a day. Either way, there’s significant potential to capture the attention of these age groups by improving your voice search SEO.

However, as you’ll see, that’s not to say that you should forget about voice search SEO if your client base is older.

Additionally, voice searches do occur on smart speakers and desktops. However, smartphones account for a majority of them, making smartphone users a significant demographic to focus on. Considering Google’s mobile-first indexing, a focus on mobile SEO is unavoidable if you want to rank well at all.

Why optimise your website for voice search?

Regardless of your target audience age group, optimising your website and content for voice search has a number of benefits.

Firstly, content well suited to voice searches tends to rank more highly. In fact, around 75% of voice search results rank in the top three SERP positions for that query. And, considering those three positions get 55.2% of all traffic, ranking as highly as possible is vital — only 12% of searchers venture onto the second page of search results.

Secondly, more visitors to your site equals more conversions and revenue. Therefore, the higher you rank for voice search results, the more traffic and sales you’ll get.

And did you know that ranking for voice searches can also boost your website’s authority? If you’ve read our guide on SEO and EAT, you’ll know that Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (or EAT) can support your SERP ranking.

Although these aspects aren’t official ranking factors, they play a role in several different areas of Google’s algorithms. They also inform human reviewers about precisely what type of content Google considers high-quality. Authoritativeness relates to the quality and reputation of the content, its creator, and the website as a whole.

SEO tips for voice search

So now you know about the importance of voice search, how can you optimise your website and content to make the most of it?

Use conversational content

Generally, when we search for a query by typing, we focus on keywords rather than fluid sentences. When using voice search, on the other hand, our searches tend to be more conversational. We speak to Siri, Alexa or Cortana much as we would speak to another person.

One of Google’s key updates, Hummingbird, means that searches are geared more towards the user experience than keywords only. This is why keyword-stuffing can actually damage your ranking.

Use questions

A big part of this conversational tone is using questions. We may type ‘cafes near me breakfast’. But we’re more likely to ask questions such as ‘which cafes in my local area serve good breakfast?’ when using voice search.

Including relevant questions (and answering them within your content) can help you improve your ranking for voice searches.

Include long-tail keywords

Similarly, voice searches don’t tend to work so well with short keywords. Again, this comes down to the fact that many people pose their searches as questions, using natural phrasing.

Voice searches tend to be longer than typed ones, including at least seven words. To ensure your site is suitably primed for voice searches, it’s a good idea to include long-tail keywords (phrases or questions of three or more words) and long-form content.

Keep your meta descriptions concise

40.7% of voice search answers come from a ‘featured snippet’” At an average of 29 words, these snippets are short, meaning your content needs to the point. This is especially true of meta descriptions. When writing these, consider user intent and make sure you include relevant keywords.

Use local SEO

Often, people use voice search to look for local businesses. After all, when you’re out and about looking for the best lunch spot, it’s quicker to speak to your device than stop and type. As such, an effective local SEO strategy can ensure you’re not missing out on potential customers.

Integrating SEO for voice search

A well-rounded search engine optimisation strategy integrates a focus on voice search with other SEO aspects. For best results, you want to be aware of all the different ways Google and other search engines rank content. Why not visit our SEO Hub for more resources on optimising your website?

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