As of 2017, 13 percent of U.S. households owned a voice search assistant (like Amazon Alexa), and this number is poised to rise to 55 percent by 2022. With voice search assistants taking over smartphones and homes, the time is ripe to optimize your website for voice search. Find out what that means (and how it’s different from the keyword game you may have mastered) to stay accessible no matter how your customers search.
How Does Voice Search Work?
While mobile and desktop search are more alike than they are different, early results suggest that voice search will differ markedly from text-based types of search. Whereas users readily type simple keyword phrases (for instance, “grocery store hours”) they’re unlike to say, “Hey Siri, grocery store hours”—in part because Siri probably won’t deliver useful information to that prompt.
With voice search, users favor natural language phrases over keyword strings (for instance, “Hey Siri, what time does the grocery store on Main Street close?”).
While users may search in different ways, your overall goal with search is the same: To get found. Thus, your keyword strategy should shift to match the way users search using voice assistants while also reflecting existing SEO best practices, since you’ll need to be found by both camps of searchers.
Tips for Voice Search Optimization
While you may not know what searchers are asking Alexa for, you probably know your audience’s most common questions. Answering these questions is a great place to start when optimizing your website for voice search. When you create blog posts or white papers that contain variations of your FAQ, you can not only guide customers through the sales funnel but get found by customers who are asking these questions through voice search—and who make great leads.
While you should still work keywords into blog posts, mix in long-tail keywords target voice searchers. These are multi-word phrases that have less competition than commonly searched phrases—”24-hour grocery store” instead of “grocery store,” for instance.
Shifting toward long-tail keywords, which are more specific and relevant, will also boost your website’s placement in web search results. Short-tail keywords are hard to compete for—the page one results for “grocery store” are hardly what a web user looking for a grocery store would consider helpful—so contextualizing phrases add value for searchers.
Taking a cue from your FAQ, use conversational language when writing for the web. When your content mimics the way someone might talk to their digital assistant, it will be found in voice search. Blog post headers and introductions are natural places where conversational language works well, but you can experiment with a more casual tone across your web presence if it seems right.
If you haven’t already incorporated local SEO across your website, now is the time. This means including your service area and contact information in your website footer, using cities you serve in conjunction with keywords—so now you’ve got the “24-hour grocery store Charlotte NC”—and making sure you’re listed on local search databases from Yelp to TripAdvisor.
Optimizing for voice requires a slight pivot from the SEO work you are doing now, but once you understand how users search out loud, the necessary shifts should be clear. By implementing voice search optimization now, you can attract early adopters and dominate the search methods by the time it matures.
Lindsey D has 10+ years of experience with content marketing. She enjoys helping clients create blog posts, landing pages, case studies, and web copy that educates, informs, delights, and engages their target audience, whether that’s B2B or B2C.