With the growing popularity of virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant, the way people use the internet to search for information is undergoing a dramatic change.
These days, the average person seeking information is much more likely to use voice search to ask a question in plain language than type a few keywords into a search engine. If you haven’t updated your search strategy to adapt to that change, you are missing out on the chance to reach potential customers.
How Voice Search Differs from Traditional Search
Voice searches are phrased in a natural conversational style
Voice searches tend to be longer—an entire sentence rather than a few keywords
Voice searches ask for results “near me” rather than specifying a location
Voice searches are often done on-the-go—Google says 20% of mobile searches are done by voice
The Evolution of Search
Even if your website is perfectly optimized for traditional SEO, voice search optimization requires a different approach. Follow these steps to make sure your business shows up in voice search results.
1. Claim your business.
Virtual assistants are more likely to recommend businesses if they can verify their legitimacy, so be sure to claim your business listing with Google My Business and other local online business listings such as Facebook, Bing, Yelp, and Foursquare. The process is similar across most sites—you visit the Claim Your Business page and search for your business. If a listing pops up, click “Claim Your Business.” If not, you’ll be prompted to create a new listing.
2. Get your business on the map.
When someone searches for something “near me” on a smartphone, the operating system uses map applications like Apple Maps and Google Maps, along with other data sources, to find an answer. To increase your chances of appearing prominently in voice search results, check to make sure your business is showing up accurately in Apple Maps and Google Maps.
3. Focus on longtail keywords.
Because voice searches are more conversational, you need to optimize not just for single keywords, but longer keyword phrases that mimic how a searcher might actually talk—so, rather than “pet store CT,” you might include full sentences such as, “where can I find a pet store near me that sells organic cat food?” You can come up with these longtail keywords using common sense, or by asking your customer-facing employees to provide a list of commonly asked questions.
Google says more than 50% of searches globally are now made from a mobile device, and 30% of all Google searches contain local intent.
4. Beef up your FAQs.
Having trouble incorporating longtail keywords into your website content in a way that feels natural? FAQ to the rescue! Your frequently asked questions pages are a perfect place to include likely longtail queries. Extra bonus: A clear, authoritative answer to a commonly asked question also has the chance of appearing in Google Answers, which can give your business excellent positioning in search results and a huge bump in organic traffic.
5. Get good ratings and reviews.
Not only do voice assistants take online reviews into account when displaying results, people doing a voice search may themselves specify a high rating, e.g., “Find me a four-star restaurant nearby.” Use social media or email campaigns to encourage customers to leave reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp or add a link to your website that will take customers to your review page. To make sure those reviews are improving your online reputation, monitor your reviews and respond courteously and quickly to any negative reviews.
6. Use schema.
Use structured data markup and schema markup on your business’s website—voice assistants will use that information, including address, phone number and operating hours, to return better, more accurate results to people using voice search, and make your business easier for them to find.