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Hear Us Out: It’s Time to Start Optimizing for Voice Search

Marketers have been hyping the impending voice search revolution for what seems like forever. Over the last several years, we’ve heard, “This is going to be the year that voice search really takes off!” But what if we told you that the revolution is already happening—especially given the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased voice assistant usage considerably?

Voice search is here. People use it and the number of people using voice assistants has been growing year over year—pandemic aside. It’s no longer a question of when voice search is going to pick up. It’s a question of when you’re going to start optimizing for it—and how.

Understand the differences between speaking and typing.

People speak to search engines differently than they type to them. Anyone who’s used search engines (and that’s pretty much all of us!) has an understanding—whether explicit or implicit—that you can type a couple of keywords into Google and expect it to return relevant results.

Voice search—booming, but still relatively young in the grand scheme of search engines—is a little bit different. When people use voice search, they speak. They’re more inclined to say things like, “OK Google, show me the nearest bank branches with walk-ins” or “Alexa, what’s the difference between an internist and a family care provider?”

Longer-tail keywords (and questions) are incredibly important . . .

The average voice search is longer than the average typed search, as noted by Backlinko. Long-tail keywords—which are more detailed than others and often express user intent to find a business near them or an answer to a specific question—are critical for voice search optimization.

Additionally, a solid chunk of voice searches are questions—which are, of course, generally longer than typed searches like “bank near me.” It makes sense, then, that voice search results are nearly twice as likely to be sourced from FAQ pages as they are for desktop results.

. . . but you should keep your content brief.

Also noted by Backlinko, the average voice search result is about 29 words long. This further illustrates the importance of FAQs—which are inherently designed to provide concise answers to common questions—but also the necessity of routine content marketing.

Blog posts can contain questions in their titles or in their headings, with succinct answers delivered immediately after. This makes it easy for search engines to crawl and for searchers to find what they’re looking for.

Leverage answer boxes.

An estimated 60 percent of voice search results on Google are pulled from featured snippets (also known as “answer boxes”). For voice searches conducted on devices that don’t have screens (like Google Home or Amazon Alexa), voice assistants often provide search results by reading directly from these answer boxes.

Conveniently, answering questions concisely within website content is one of the best practices for occupying featured snippets. And in addition to being by far the best way to optimize for screenless voice searches, featured snippets take up a large amount of valuable real estate on Google’s results for searches conducted on devices that do have screens.

Keep optimizing for traditional searches.

Many of the other major voice search ranking factors are the same ones we optimize around for typed searches—including page speed, schema markup, and building domain authority through practices like link building.

So, by optimizing for voice search, there’s a good chance you’ll see improvements across the board. It’s a win-win.

Interested in how you can get a voice search optimization strategy into action? Contact us.

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Senior Paid Search Strategist

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