Three Steps to Achieving Better Results in Voice Search

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With years of experience in both SEO and digital marketing, Steve Wiideman is a trusted pro in his field. In this article, he sheds light on the ins and outs of voice search and explains how you can optimize your website content for voice search. 

Contents:

What Is Voice Search?

Voice Search refers to the technology behind searching the internet without the use of a keyboard, where an assistant (such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana, or Google Assistant) replies to a query with an answer or action. This technology was built to encourage safer driving and provide general convenience over using a keyboard.

How to optimize for voice search

As humans continue to untether themselves from handheld devices, technology companies push forward to bring in innovations for performing tasks using Virtual Assistant software. This software leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to make tasks faster and easier than ever. 

Tasks might include making phone calls, checking the weather, booking appointments, making purchases, playing music, interacting with smart home devices, and searching the internet.

We obviously know which search engine powers Google Assistant, but what about the rest? As it turns out, Alexa currently uses Bing search results, as does Cortana (which is owned by Microsoft), and Siri uses Google for search, but Bing for images.

Why Is Voice Search Important?

Beyond the obvious safety reasons of not touching (or being distracted by) a smartphone while driving, boating, walking, or performing any other task, Voice Search is already starting to play an important role in how we access information and automate tasks without the need for portable handheld devices.

Voice search statistic

Source: Think With Google

Need to find a type of place? Ask “find me” and the service you need followed by “near me” (e.g. “Find me pizzerias near me”), and you’ll hear an answer that lists pizzerias near you. Need directions? Simply ask “Can I have directions to…?” and state the place you need a route for.

As a business owner, a goal might be to have your listing appear as the first option suggested by a digital assistant. However, quantifying the need for resources to start optimizing for voice may require a business case or data. 

Here are a few important statistics to keep in your back pocket for this purpose:

  • 20% of the global online population is using Voice Search (Google, June 2020)
  • 48% of consumers use voice assistants for general web search (Adobe, July 2019)
  • 47% of voice users search for a business, 44% for a product or service (Microsoft, April 2019)
  • Roughly 75% of voice search results will rank in the top 3 positions for a particular question on a desktop search (Deloitte, June 2020)

Optimizing Your Website and Content for Voice

In addition to the work already being performed to rank a page in Google’s organic results, such as following tips from Google and from your own experiments, there are three primary methods of making your website voice search-ready:

Add speech to text API in the search bar

Start by replacing the magnifying glass icon in internal search boxes with a microphone icon, and adding a Web Speech API. Try this demonstration to see how the feature might work on your website. 

Add a short summary or list at the top of each page

Adding a short summary to the top of each page makes it easier for visitors to copy and paste the answer they were looking for, rather than forcing them to read the entire page or scroll to the bottom to see your summary or conclusion. Go the next step, and add a “Copy to Clipboard” icon next to your paragraph to make curation even easier. Keep these summaries under 375 characters, or your list items under 10 words for best results.

Add schema (or structured) markup wherever possible

Schema markup can make it easier for search engines to classify content and media they find when crawling a page, all of which might be used to create Rich Results. In cases where there are few competitors, moving to the top of the results in search engines can happen quickly, so this is very valuable. Browse the schema.org library for ideas, and choose JSON-LD as the encoding method. When you’re ready to test, try the Structured Data Testing Tool to validate your code. 

Syndicating Short Summaries and Lists

This is the controversial segment of the page where we exploit the real method used by businesses to get that coveted Position Zero (Featured Snippets) in web search. It’s critical because Featured Snippets are used by in 75% of Google Assistant voice search results.

The more competitive the industry, the more often spam techniques ( such as automated content syndication software) are used. I recommend staying away from any technique that feels unnatural or forcefully attempting to game search results. 

An example of a Featured Snippet (achieved through curation and syndication) would be for the query “how important are Yelp reviews”, where my company’s summary has been shared 34 times, with only a few of those curated instances coming from particularly trustworthy domains. The article itself offers shareable data, and unique content (as opposed to mere commentary or fluff), which has helped it to earn links and citations of its own over time.

Featured snippet

With our web pages curation-ready with short summaries and lists, it’s time to look off the website at ways to get the lists and short summaries syndicated to as many Googlebot-crawlable places as possible. 

The first place to start manually building links back to these pages is your own backyard, including your social media posts, image-sharing destinations (Pinterest, Reddit), video-sharing sites (YouTube, Vimeo), Q&A platforms like Quora, and using description fields in these destinations to drop in the content. 

Set up a Google Alert for the questions the page provides the solution to, making it easy to simply drop your answer in new pages, resulting in more credit to your answer. I call this method using ‘Featured Answer Points’.

Claiming and Testing Google Actions and Alexa Skills

While a business can’t control voice search results creating Google Actions or Alexa Skills, it can protect the business name and product names, while giving users the opportunity to interact with the business in ways a website simply can’t offer.

For example, you can ask Google or Alexa to “ask Tide how to remove stains” or to “ask Isaacs and Isaacs if they handle truck accident cases,” and these invocations will trigger answers set up by the businesses themselves, as opposed to the typical “I found something on the web” response we’re all used to hearing.

Here is a link to help you get started with Actions on Google Assistant. For Alexa Skills, click here for their official guide. If you’re starting with Google (which you probably will), here’s a quick start guide:

  1. Login to Google Actions and create a project (start by using your business name)
  2. Decide how your action will be invoked (start with your business name here too)
  3. Create your first intent, usually a default welcome message where you can have Google Assistant say “Hello, and welcome to {your company name}, how can we help you”?
  4. Create new intents to answer common questions your customer support team receive, such as questions around price, hours, refunds, shipping, contact information and so forth.

Once set up, you can test and submit your action for review by the Google Action Team. Have some fun with questions and answers before moving on to more difficult actions, such as scheduling an appointment or making a purchase.

Citations and Voice Search

As local search engine optimization specialists know, there are primary pillars of Local SEO to achieve higher placement in Map Packs and Map Search results:

  1. Data accuracy and consistency – an authentication and trust signal
  2. Local landing page optimization – a relevancy and helpfulness signal
  3. Business visibility across the web – a popularity and trust signal
  4. Business reputation – mostly playing into user behavior, which affects rankings over time

There’s a lot of speculation regarding the impact of citations (directory listings) on business visibility as it pertains to voice search. The reality is that effective optimization of citations in local-social directories such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and others can only help when assistants (such as Alexa) choose to use those directories instead of search engine results. There is as yet there no direct link between building citations and appearing in voice search results. 

Summary

Voice Search isn’t as complicated as it sounds, and with 27% of users sounding off commands to Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant, it’s no wonder businesses are searching for help to optimize for voice search in 2020. 

With a little effort on the website, webmasters can incorporate voice into their own internal search functions and offer short summaries at the top of content.

If resources permit, the marketing team can syndicate lists and summaries to help achieve Featured Snippets, which are used in 75% of Google Assistant voice answers.

A final step to addressing Voice Search would be to claim and test Actions and Skills from Google and Alexa to provide an amazing hands-free experience to patrons. 

These three areas of focus could give you the head start you need to flank the competition as voice search continues to grow and to become more important to overall inbound marketing efforts.

The post Three Steps to Achieving Better Results in Voice Search appeared first on BrightLocal.

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