Up Your SEO Game by Optimizing for Voice Search

If you want your small business to get found online, you've got to start 'talking the talk' of voice search.
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If you want to optimize your website for voice search, start small and observe how the world around you is using this feature to consume products. (Photo: panuwat phimpha/Shutterstock)

“Hey, Siri.” “Ok, Google.” “Alexa.” “Hey, Cortana.” If you’re hearing these words and phrases more often, don’t worry, you’re not going crazy.

All major technology providers, not just Google, are investing in virtual assistants — and by extension, voice search. Google Home, Siri, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana and Samsung Bixby are becoming digital doorways to content, and consumers are buying in.

Today, one in six Americans (16 percent) owns a voice-activated smart speaker — up 128 percent since Jan. 2017, according to a new report from NPR and Edison Research. Additionally, Google said voice search accounts for 20 percent of all searches done from their mobile app.

Voice-enabled digital assistants are playing an increasingly larger part in consumers’ everyday lives, so how do you leverage this tech to help people find your small business? To learn more, NCR Silver sat down for a Q&A with search engine optimization (SEO) expert Jay Egger of Fit Small Business.

What is voice searching and how is it different from traditional search?

Jay Egger

“The trend in the marketing world over the past few years is to have long, detailed articles, and I see a shift towards websites needing to provide concise answers to questions.” -Jay Egger (Photo: Jay Egger)

Voice searching is exactly what it sounds like — searching for content on a variety of search engines by using voice commands on your device instead of typing them out. Small business owners should be aware that the capabilities of voice searching are growing more every day and should attempt to get a head start before it becomes as common as needing a website.

Related: How to List Your Restaurant at the Top of the Google Search Page

The big difference between voice search and normal search is that with voice you will need to deliver clear answers to questions in a timely matter. The trend in the marketing world over the past few years is to have long, detailed articles, and I see a shift towards websites needing to provide concise answers to questions. That’s not to say longform content will be dead, it just likely will no longer be the first source any longer.

Why is it important for small business owners to include voice search as part of their SEO strategy?

Since search is moving more towards voice, it only makes sense to adapt. If you’re an iPhone repair shop, you should expect that there will be users using voice search for inquiries like, “iPhone repair near me” or “Where can I fix my iPhone?” If you are optimizing for voice search, you may be gaining some new customers if your shop is the top answer to the question.

Related: Danny Sullivan’s Top SEO Tips for Small Businesses

How do I figure out the top questions people are asking about a product and/or service my business sells?

Although Google is currently not revealing keyword data for voice searching, you can still use general keyword research to have an idea of what people are searching for, although you should think more about long-tail keywords (e.g. targeting “what kind of tea is best for stomach aches” as opposed to simply “healthy tea”).

You can also use tools like Ahrefs and Google Keyword Planner to get the number of times monthly that people are searching for particular keywords, but don’t forget that these keywords are for typed search, so you may need to get creative when adapting [for voice search].

Related: 9 Questions Vape Customers Ask Google

What are People Also Ask (PAA) boxes, and how do they work?

The People Also Ask (PAA) boxes are a set of questions — with answers — that Google deems as being relevant to whatever you searched for.

As an example, if you search for “What coffee has the most caffeine,” you’ll see in the PAA box other questions like, “What coffee has the most caffeine light or dark?” If you’re creating content that answers a question, it’s worth searching the question in Google to see if a PAA box shows up; your article will find more success if you can also answer these questions.

How do Google’s featured snippets play into voice search?

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Optimize for Google snippets to help your small business website with voice search. (Photo: seewhatmitchsee/Shutterstock)

Google’s featured snippets were made with voice search in mind. The answer that shows up as a snippet — the little box at the top of the search results that attempts to give you exactly what you searched for — will typically be the voice search reply. That means that optimizing for snippets will only help you with voice search.

What are your top five tips for business owners who want to optimize their website for voice search?

  1. Learn how to optimize your website content for snippets.
  2. Come up with high-quality, long-tail keywords for your industry.
  3. Focus on user intent and using natural language.
  4. If you have the opportunity, watch how non-marketers (consumers) are using voice search. A family function is the best for this.
  5. Learn how to use schemas for structured data so you can markup your content in a way that search engines better understand.

Related: 4 Benefits of Hiring an SEO Agency

Remember, voice search is optimizing for how humans actually communicate. If you can understand the intent of people looking for your content, you’ll be well on your way to success on voice search. Experiment adjust as you go.

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