How do you prepare a website for the voice search revolution?
At the start of 2018, some of the world’s biggest media brands including Forbes started warning businesses that a voice search ‘revolution’ was coming and that they should begin to prepare for it.
Eleven months into the year and there will still be thousands of small to medium businesses out there that haven’t even had time to think about how to get ready for this search phenomenon, let alone do anything about it.
If you fall into this category, here’s the nutshell version of everything you need to know about voice search and a selection of quick and easy tips for making sure you’re not left behind.
What is voice search?
If you’re one of the millions of people worldwide that owns a voice-activated smart speaker like an Alexa, Amazon Echo or Google Home you can probably skip this section and jump straight to the business tips.
Basically, voice search refers to any internet search that’s carried out by a user giving verbal commands to a speech recognition device or service.
Google suggests that as many as 55 per cent of teenagers and 41 per cent of adults use voice search to get information from the internet at least once a day.
According to the search giant, teenagers are most likely to use voice search to find directions, to get help with homework, and to load songs. Adults, meanwhile, use voice commands to check the time, dictate text messages and to find out movie times.
Google also suggests that 23 per cent of adults use voice search when they are cooking and 15 per cent use it while exercising.
So how can you prepare your website for voice search?
First things first, it’s important to note that the below tips are not intended to completely replace conventional search engine optimisation wisdom. They’re meant to complement your current SEO tactics.
Plus, the following tips have been cherry picked for small to medium businesses because they’re easy and quick to implement.
TIP: Season your content with long-tail keywords
SEO experts already advise website owners to use longtail keywords on their websites, but as voice search really takes off these types of keyword will become increasingly important.
The phrase ‘longtail keyword’ simply refers to the search terms that people use that feature four, five, six, seven or even eight words at a time.
Research shows that people tend to use more words when using voice search than type-based search.
Longtail keyword research can be time-consuming, but there are a few ways you can get a legitimate but quick fix.
Google offers a helping hand in its search engine results. When you type a word or a sentence into Google that relates to your business, Google will always display a ‘People also ask’ and a ‘Searches related to’ section on the results page. These sections can offer helpful insight into the sort of longtail phrases your potential customers are using.
You can also download a free app called Keywords Everywhere, which will offer a list of ‘related keywords’ and a list of ‘people also search for’ terms whenever you type a word or phrase into Google’s search bar.
As with all keywords, best practice is to use them naturally on your site. Pepper your web pages with them and/or – and this is often more effective – use them to inspire the topics for helpful informative blog posts.
TIP: Ensure your site uses natural language
In 2017 Google revealed that 70 per cent of voice searches through Google Assistant used natural language. But what does that mean exactly? Well if you’re watching a television show one night and want to know the name of the actor in the lead role, you’d probably type a search query like ‘lead actor name of show’ into your laptop or tablet.
If you’re carrying out the same search via voice, you’re more likely to ask a full question like ‘Google, what’s the name of the lead character in name of show.
This also has implications for jargon and abbreviations on your website. Ask yourself whether your customers tend to use these when they’re talking about your products or services. If not, then you need to adapt the words on your website to better reflect the way they talk.
Finally, in early 2018 SEO experts Backlinko carried out a huge study into the way people used voice search and they concluded that the average voice search matched the reading level of a 15 to 16 year old.
Again, this could have ramifications for your website if your content is written in Booker Prize-worthy prose. Of course, the words you use play a big role in your brand identity. You might want your brand personality to come across as intellectual in order to attract the right audience. If this is the case, just make sure your site isn’t so verbose it won’t be found in voice searches.
TIP: Prepare for on-the-go searches
A high percentage of voice searches are carried out on mobile phones. What we can take from this statistic is that increasing amounts of people are using voice search as a quick and convenient way to get answers on the go.
In May this year, Google reported that more and more people were using voice search to find products or services ‘near me’.
The search engine giant revealed that ‘near me’ mobile searches, especially those including the word ‘buy’, had gone up by 500 per cent in the last two years.
So what does this mean for your website?
Essentially, it means that you need to make sure that your website content is as localised as it can be. Are your address and handy local facts like your opening hours clearly available on your site? Have you set up a Google My Business profile and added your website address? Are you listed on Yelp and Facebook Local?
TIP: Add FAQ pages
Another recent finding by Backlinko reveals that Google tends to answer voice search questions with short responses that contain 29-words on average.
Because of this, Backlinko claims, voice searches are 1.7 times more likely to return an answer from an FAQ page than a desktop search. So, it’s important that you feature frequently asked questions on your website.
This advice may seem like it contradicts the tip given above to use longtail keywords to inform blog articles. However, it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.
If you have well-composed FAQs and helpful blog articles on your website and take note of the other tips above, you’ll be well on your way to being ready for the voice revolution.