Voice Search: Your New SEO Secret Weapon? Voice search is more popular for e-commerce and other queries than ever. Here's how to optimize your website accordingly, no matter your business.

By Scott McGovern

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Today, voice search is more popular than ever, and this can greatly affect your website's SEO. But because search using spoken queries differs from search using written ones, you need to optimize your site to prepare for the very near future of voice search SEO.

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What is voice search?

Voice search allows users to search the internet by using their voice rather than typing their queries in a search bar. This kind of search is used with digital assistants such as Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and Cortana.

A surge in popularity

According to Google, 41 percent of adults and 55 percent of teens use voice search every day. Not only does this indicate that voice search is a significant way that many people search the web, but that it has stronger appeal for younger generations.

Furthermore, an estimated 30 percent of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020, according to data from research firm Gartner. In other words, voice search is already standard practice for your customers. The next step is optimizing your website and content accordingly.

Why are people using voice search?

One word: multitasking. Google reports that 38 percent use voice search while watching TV, and 23 percent report doing so while cooking. Other users do so when walking or driving.

Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and Cortana are some of the most popular digital assistants on the market today. Juniper Research predicts that the 2.5 billion digital assistants used in 2018 will increase to 8 billion by 2023.

Additionally, 60 percent of smartphone users will use voice search for a portion of their queries.

Using Google Voice Search for e-commerce

Though voice search is a popular tool for finding directions, recipes and weather reports, it also represents an increasingly relevant part of e-commerce sales.

According to a consumer report from research company Narvar, 29 percent of Americans who own a voice search device used to make purchases. An additional 41 percent of people surveyed expect to use it for online shopping at some point.

As more people invest in digital assistants others grow comfortable with voice search on their phones, the significance of optimizing websites for e-commerce speech queries grows even more significant.

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How speech affects SEO

The rise in speech queries has wide-ranging implications for SEO. For starters, the way we search is different when we talk compared to when we write. Natural human language means longer search queries. It's also significantly faster than typing.

For example, while you might type out "best CBD gummies" in Google, you're more likely to ask "What are the best CBD gummies?" when speaking. You might even get more specific and ask, "What are the best CBD gummies near me?"

This highlights another important voice search trend: People are more likely to ask questions when speaking rather than typing.

Optimizing for voice search applications

So how do you optimize a website to cater to the growing demand for voice search compatibility while still remaining competitive for written keywords? Luckily, some of the best ways to improve your Google rankings for speech work with written optimization.

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Whether you're working with an SEO firm or optimizing your platform yourself, SEO for spoken queries should always be a part of your larger digital optimization strategy. Follow these guidelines to start optimizing.

Write conversationally

Whether you're optimizing for written or speech queries, the best way to have your content rank well on Google is to use conversational language.

The best keywords are the most common—not the fanciest—way to search for a topic. For example, optimizing your website for "best leggings" will do better than choosing a keyword like "high-end leggings" because it's a significantly higher volume keyword.

The biggest difference between voice and written search involves long tail keywords. While written queries are typically oriented towards shorter phrases "best mattresses," voice search queries are often long tail, such as "best mattresses for bad backs."

In addition to ranking better in Google for spoken searches, long tail keywords are also more digestible for your reader. Visitors who arrive on your website through written searches will respond better to conversational text rather than content that appears to be written by a robot.

Focus on short answers

Another key aspect of appealing to voice search queries is providing short answers to commonly asked questions. Typically these should be around 2 or 3 sentences long, however, this is subject to change.

Though Google will often pull speech queries from larger bodies of text, it's easiest to provide an answer within an excerpt or FAQ. The simpler it is to access a relevant answer, the higher the likelihood that Google will rank your website first.

Keep in mind that unlike typed Google searches, voice queries read off the first answer. As a result, it's even more important to have your content rank first in Google search.

Write long-form content

Though snippets are important to appeal to speech queries, this does not mean that your content should only be a few sentences long. On the other hand, the current iteration of Google rewards long-form, in-depth content, even with voice search.

It also ranks content with high domain authority higher. Part of domain authority is determined by which other websites link to yours. However, do not interpret this as a sign to implement black hat SEO techniques like buying links.

The best way to build your website's link profile it to create quality, long-form content. This way, other websites will naturally like to yours over time.

Implement local SEO

One of the most popular uses of voice search is finding local businesses. This often includes a phrase such as "near me" or "local."

For businesses large and small alike, this means sharing information such as your address and phone number in different locations. This could mean keeping your Yelp page, Apple Maps, and Google Business Listings up to date. Google will combine these findings to answer a voice search command.

Another important part of local SEO is using schema markup. In simple terms, this is code added to a website to make it more intelligible to search engines. It can improve geographic accuracy and business hours, for instance.

Rich snippets—additional text that Google displays along with your URL and meta description—are another great way to improve your site's SEO.

Voice search is not the future but the present. Luckily, optimizing your website for spoken and written queries can be done at the same time.

For starters, both types of SEO require an understanding of SEO marketing trends regarding keyword, content length, and breaking up content in a way that is easily crawlable for search engines and intelligible to users. Implement these elements to your SEO strategy to improve your site rankings increase on desktop, mobile, and digital assistant searches.
Scott McGovern

Founder of NDXBL, an organic growth co.

Scott McGovern founded Green Rush Daily, a cannabis media platform acquired by High Times, where he went on to serve as EVP. Today, McGovern creates digital content and growth in emerging trends as the founder of NDXBL.

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