How voice search is changing SEO and how to adapt to that change
19 Feb, 2021
The digital world is in a state of constant change affecting people's behavior online, especially when it comes to the use of search engines. One of the most recent changes was the introduction of voice assistants, such as Siri, introduced by Apple in 2011, which tries to make searching online more convenient for users. Now with more and more voice assistants on the market, it logically led to a strong increase in voice search.
In 2020 around 50 % of the total local searches were done via voice search. People who own smart speakers claim that spoken searches are part of their daily routine. The questions we ask the smart assistants are called voice searches. But what exactly are voice searches and how do they differ from traditional searches?
Unlike written searches in search engines like Google, we don't type in our question, we formulate them verbally. We do this by using voice commands to smart assistants like Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Google voice search, and so on.
But why should this topic concern me? If I already practice SEO and take care of my online marketing, that should also be enough for these search queries, right? Unfortunately, that is not quite the case, but we will go into the why in this article.
The evolution of search queries due to voice search
The main difference between voice search and traditional search is that traditional search is mostly typed and focuses on short, poignant search terms. You get many pages of results with information that tries to give the best possible answer to your questions based on the search terms you entered.
Voice search, on the other hand, is much longer, more elaborate, and closer to an actual conversation. In response to this type of search, only the most relevant search results are shown or rather read out to you.
For search engines, like Google, it is particularly important to find out your search intention, i.e. to understand what kind of result you would want to see. By this, they are trying to provide more and more personal results. This is done by taking certain criteria into account, which are then analyzed. For example, voice assistants can use the voice pitch of the person to recognize if the user is female or male and will then show results according to the gender. If the user is a woman looking for clothes, she will get results for female clothing lines only, and vice versa.
In 2013 Google introduced an algorithm called Hummingbird meaning the search engine has become even better at semantic search. The semantic search focuses on finding out what a user actually has in mind, and then delivering relevant results. For example, does a user want to buy something or just get information about certain things? The algorithm does this by implementing contextual relevance clues or, phrased differently, it takes into consideration the more likely option.
Of course, this has a direct impact on SEO and the selection of keywords, at the expense of generic search terms (short-head keywords) and increasingly favoring the use of longer keyword combinations (so-called long-tail keywords).
Voice search and local SEO
Nowadays search results are influenced by the user's location, meaning the search engine results will be adapted according to their local relevance to the user. This applies, even more, when it comes to voice search results.
Users are three times more likely to search local businesses when searching via voice search. So most of the time, people want local information when they perform a voice search, especially when they use mobile devices. Users then expect quick answers to their questions communicated to them by voice. This development means that local businesses are increasingly being searched for by voice search.
A typical search could look like this: “Alexa, what's the best pizza near me?" Answer: "Here are some Italian restaurants. First, Pizza Taxi maria, at Olpener Str. 35 [...] You can ask me about things like: “What is the phone number of the first."
"Alexa, is there a tailor near me?" Answer: "Here are some matches near you. First, Suna Demirci Änderungschneiderei [...] You can ask me about things like What's the address of the first one?"
If the user formulates a question that has a local reference, they will likely use wording such as "near me". This is an important aspect that must be kept in mind during SEO optimization.
Another essential aspect is to make sure that your company information is stored on your website and in local directories.
When taking care of your local SEO, make sure you include your key business information, including NAP data (business name, address, and phone number) on the website and in directories. Make sure this information is consistent, as Google gives higher ranking priority to businesses that can provide this exact information consistently.
SEO optimization for voice search
To be able to optimize your SEO performance for voice search, it is paramount to have a solid foundation first. Therefore, we will discuss some good basic SEO practices to get your business on the map.
Search engines always strive to provide their users with the best possible results. For example, a person in New York looking for a pizzeria will not get results from pizzerias in San Francisco. The search engines understand the search intention, the user is hungry and wants to quickly find a good pizza in their area.
The search engine will prevent a user from getting a local result from another city, so it will display locally relevant businesses first in the search results. By optimizing for local search, you can benefit from the search engine's effort to display locally relevant results first, especially when users use the term “near me”.
You should also focus on having an optimized and well-structured website. For this, you naturally have to work on basic on-page and off-page SEO. On-page SEO refers to your website, so technical factors such as website loading speed, optimizing your source code with the correct use of keywords for your meta-data, etc. Furthermore, the website's content needs to adhere to a high standard of quality. Off-page SEO on the other hand covers ranking factors that occur outside of your website, such as good and preferably locally relevant backlinks. A backlink is the URL of your website posted on another website so that visitors click on it there and come to your website. These are great for the online visibility of your website and also to improve your SEO rankings.
After this quick reminder on general SEO strategies, here are some first tips to get you started on optimizing your SEO for voice search:
When creating content, be mindful of using natural language. 70% of English-language searches are conducted in natural or colloquial language. Language technology is therefore well adapted to everyday language. The use of natural language in verbal searches furthermore results in longer queries. So make use of long-tail keywords when implementing them on your website! Also keep in mind that users will use question words like who, which, where when posing a question to their devices. So, when creating content try to formulate a question that you then provide an answer to. This will help your content to appear in the user's voice search results since the device will pick up the connection between question and answer in your text.
How can my business appear on devices?
You should determine the assistant or type of device you want to integrate with. However, it would be advisable to be able to appear in as many as possible. There are many voice assistants, but here we will focus on the four main assistants that have to do with voice search.
First of all, there is Google Assistant. This one is important to all businesses when it comes to general information, local information, running ads, and transactions. Users have it on the Google Home Smart Speaker or their computer and mobile devices.
The second one is Amazon Alexa. Alexa is integrated into Amazon's Echo device and gives users general information and works as an amazon integrated shopping assistant.
The third one is Microsoft Cortana, which gives general information, local information through Bing and works on Windows PCs, mobile devices, via Android and iPhone apps.
The fourth is Apple Siri. Siri provides general information and local information via apple products.
As a business owner, you can interact with those assistants and can get listed on them, but how do you get listed on those assistants? It is important to know that all assistants use external information but they all get the information from different sources.
For example, the Google assistant mainly gets the information from Google my Business. So to appear in certain voice assistants, you must create variouslocal entries! Make sure to claim and optimize your Google My Business entry, if it does not exist yet, make sure to create one! To appear on Siri e.g. you need to make sure to have an entry on Apple Maps, especially for regional searches. Siri furthermore uses information from Bing, Yelp, booking.com, TripAdvisor, etc. Cortana and Alexa both use information from the directories Bing and Yelp to provide local information for the user.
As you can see, it is important to create as many listings as possible, since the purpose of them is no longer only to be found by customers in the entries directly but to provide information for smart assistants to share verbally with their users.
You also need to ensure to choose the correct categories, that all the information is identical with the one on your website when creating those entries! Please include your business name, your address, and your phone number (NAP).
Since creating and maintaining all these entries is very time-consuming, rankingCoach offers a practical, time-saving function that allows you to create these entries at the same time with one single click. If you are looking for further information on local directories and why they are becoming more and more relevant, read this article.