What is voice search and why is it setting a new search trend?
In the last couple years, we’ve seen an influx of new devices that revolutionize how we live and how we search. Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant all gave us the chance to use voice commands for everything from turning off lights to finding a restaurant nearby. Voice search is the way of the future; in fact, it’s estimated that 50 percent of searches will be done by voice command by 2050. Why is this search trend skyrocketing so fast? The simple answer is convenience. Back in the day, we would go to the library to learn about any given subject or ask our teachers. Then, we were blessed with search engines like Yahoo and Bing which allowed us to use the internet for searching. Now, we use Google to search for anything, with our voices or our fingers. But, did you know that the average person can type 40 words per minute and speak 120 words per minute. It’s faster to search with your voice than your fingers. Every technological advancement is more convenient than the last; voice search is the latest advancement that allows us to access the internet’s wealth of information with minimal effort.
What are the Differences Between Voice Search and Text Search?
The rise of voice searching has not banished text search into the past, yet. Research shows that while voice search is great for urgent and surface-level searches, people don’t use it for intimate topics. This mostly applies to being in public; we’d rather type our health inquiries than speak them out loud for all to hear. And, there’s some fear over voice-enabled technology recording our voices when they aren’t commanded to. There’s also a difference in how people phrase their search query. When voice searching, users use a more casual, informal tone. They quickly word their queries as full questions and expect immediate answers. Sometimes, they don’t even give the context of their question because they know that their device will understand what they’re looking for. Text searching, on the other hand, takes longer. Users have to provide more detail and context to their question to get the right answer. In terms of business SEO, at SEO Heroes we trust you need to optimize your local SEO effort for both voice and text search. Although voice search is the future, it’s not the present. We won’t see an end to text searches for some time to come.
How are voice searches impacting your local business?
Nearly half of all voice searches are used to find local businesses. Most commonly, they’re inquiring about restaurants, retailers, food delivery, and medical services. They use voice search to find the nearest business for their needs, as well as the best in their area. Here’s the thing: the answer to any given search is displayed on Google’s search engine results page (SERP). Google provides all the options, business information, and contact numbers on that page for the user to choose from. The same thing happens with a voice search, only with fewer results. What does this mean for your business? It means that users are losing motivation to go to your website. All the information they need is provided by Google on Google’s SERP. Google will tell them the highest rated and most relevant pages. How you fill out the Google My Business feature affects if they show it to customers. This means you need to be placing way more focus on Search Engine Marketing (SEM) than ever before. And, your website content needs to be curated in tandem with your SEM strategy. In terms of voice search technology, it’s crucial you create content that answers questions directly.
How to create content that provides direct answers to search questions?
Besides having accurate and complete Google My Business data (read more about this below), you need to tailor your web content to voice searches. Research and brainstorm the questions your customers are asking the voice search engine. They’re likely asking things like, “Where is the closest pharmacy to me?”, “What’s the best Italian food restaurant in Bangkok?”, and “What is the cheapest gas station near me?” If you’re a pharmacy, Indian food joint, or gas station owner, you need to answer those questions clearly and concisely. Do this exercise: Ask your Alexa/Siri/Google Assistant questions that your customers might ask. Is your business recommended before your competitors? What keywords are your competitors using that you aren’t? Now, in your website’s content, answer those questions. You could do this by creating a page titled with the question. In the content, the first sentence should get to the answer. It’s often instinctual to write an introduction paragraph to build up to the answer. But, you want to make this quick and easy for Google to find. Question in the title and straight to the answer in the body. It’s also a great idea to have a FAQ page that follows this question-answer layout.
You should start learning and implementing structured data, also known as schema markup. Schema markup is, simply put, the language of search engines. After making it clear what your web page is about, the page needs to be written in a Schema Markup code. These codes include Microdata, RDFa, and JSON-LTD. This makes it easier and faster for the search engine to find you and display your page to users. It can seem complicated at first, but it’s really not as hard as it sounds. And, it’s vital to succeed in the future of SEM with voice search technology. Check out Google’s Structured Data Guidelines for detailed information on using schema markup.
Why are Q&A sites a great source to maximize your voice search strategy?
We mentioned above that you need to research the questions your customers are asking their voice search technology. Q&A sites are the perfect places to start that research. These sites show you the exact questions people are asking about your industry, which then shows you which answers to include in your content. Here are some awesome Q&A sites you can use:
- Yahoo Answers
- Ask Reddit
Remember that voice searches use conversational language and usually long-tail keywords. Look for phrases that are asked repeatedly about your industry. Include those longtail keywords in your voice search optimization strategy.
How can you Optimize Your PPC Campaigns for Voice Search?
You can improve your PPC campaign results by optimizing for voice search. Not only will it boost your lead acquisition, but it’ll increase sales and revenue. To get these results, it takes some research and testing.
Start by looking at your current PPC analytics. You’ll need to conduct an AdWords Search Query Report. If possible, set the time frame to at least the past month. Then, set the filters to find specific terms that are used by voice search devices. For example, the term “Ok, Google” is used by people with Google Assistants. You should also enter “Alexa” and “Hey, Siri” for the Alexa and Siri devices. Once you’ve filtered the data you want, export the report to Excel for easier viewing and analyzing. Voice search queries are usually five words or longer. In Excel, create another column for search queries over five words. The results in this column will inform you on what your voice search users are looking for and how they word their searches. You can use this information to tailor your website content.
Next, you need to utilize your negative keywords. These are the keywords in your PPC campaign that you don’t want your page to show up for. Some people will use the word “free” as a negative keyword to avoid users who don’t want to pay for their services. In terms of voice search queries, add the ones that aren’t directly relevant to your products or services. For example, if you’re a horse trainer, your negative keywords can include “different types of horse breeds” and other phrases that don’t garner leads. Instead, keep phrases like, “best horse trainers in Chicago”. Make sure key voice search phrases aren’t in your negative keywords, like “near me”, “how to”, and “where do I”.
Gather more information about your voice search users. Google Analytics can tell you about their age, gender, location, device used, and date of search. This is important for voice search optimizing because users of different demographics will use different language. What phrases do your customers use most? What demographic are these customers mostly from?
Optimize Your PPC Campaign
Now that you’ve gathered all the important information, you can start updating your campaign for voice searches. You may want to use an additional keyword research tool to beef up the keywords you know are working well for you, like SEMrush. Enter the longtail keywords that your leads are using and check out the “related keywords” section. Pay attention to the suggestions that use conversational language. For example, “where can I buy a” and “find a _____ near me”. These keywords are more likely spoken by people that are looking to buy, not just doing casual research. The key to optimizing your PPC campaigns for voice search is to build on already-successful keywords. A little bit of research, editing, and voice-tailored add-ons can make all the difference in appearing in voice searches.
What is PASO (digital assistant) and how does each personal assistant work?
Personal Assistant Search Optimization (PASO) is another way of saying voice search optimization. When you ask your PA device (like Alexa or Siri) a question, it gives you a smaller list of results than a text-question results page. Google only wants to give users the highest-rated and most accurate answers to their question. Sometimes, that means only one answer will show up for their voice search question. When your business is suggested as that one answer, it means you’re in position zero. This is a monumentally great place to be. Position zero results are the pages at the top of the SERP featuring rich snippets (read more on snippets below). To get ranked in this section, you need to understand how each unique digital PA works. Catering to their specifications for voice search will ensure you rank higher in the SERP. Here are some specific qualities about each digital PA you should know.
This digital PA uses Alexa Voice Services to process your requests. The speakers used, Echo and Echo Dot, are woken up by voicing the command, “Alexa”. Everything you say to or ask Alexa is stored in your Amazon account. This contributes to your tailored ads to buy certain products in and outside of the platform. Alexa can be used on Amazon speaker systems and Android smart phones. iPhone users can get Alexa through the app, but it’s a somewhat watered-down experience, thus less common. Alexa has voice training capabilities. This means it can differentiate the voices of each family member and give tailored results to each person. When buying things through Alexa, it knows which money source to use based on the voice. While you can dial out any number on the Alexa, you can only receive calls from other Alexa systems. In terms of queries, Alexa excels at trivia questions. You can ask her about basically any topic on the internet and receive an answer. It can also pull up local results for questions based on your location. Unlike other devices, Alexa excels at booking flights, hotels, calling electricians and other services.
Siri operates on the iPhone and Apple’s HomePod and can be woken up by a simple, “Hey, Siri”. Unlike Alexa, Siri can send and receive calls from anyone on the user’s contact list, not only those who also use Siri. It’s integrated with WhatsApp so you can also send and receive messages through the app. Here’s the catch: the HomePod only acts as a speaker for these functions. You have to give the command to Siri on your iPhone and then switch the audio to play through the HomePod’s speakers. Unfortunately, Siri does not have voice training capabilities. Anyone with access to your device can wake Siri up and get information. This offers little customization or tailored banking sources. Siri is on par with the other devices for recommending local businesses. However, her trivia question answers were inferior to Alexa’s and Google Assistant’s. She has very little contextual intelligence and will only provide answers to the exact question asked. Apple prides itself on respecting its users’ privacy. But, this means Siri will know less about you and be less able to cater specific products and services to its users.
This PA device is available on Android and iOS phones as well as the Google Home system. One of the many things that set Google Assistant apart from the rest is that it’s tied to Google’s massive database of information. With all this knowledge, it’s smarter than both Alexa and Siri. It also knows almost everything about you and your habits. It collects your queries, requests, and purchases to make future searches faster and more efficient. Google Assistant can answer almost any trivia question or local business search. Plus, it’s voice training capabilities allow it to show the specific user personalized information. You don’t even have to use full or proper sentences when voice searching; it’s so contextual it can guess what you’re looking for. It’s been recognized as an excellent device for giving driving directions, among other common tasks.
What Does This Mean for Your PASO?
Given the differences between these three digital PAs, your PASO strategy should pivot based on your target. Since Google Assistant is the most contextual, you don’t have to be as precise with your longtail keywords. But, for Siri and Alexa users, you must use the exact words and language voice searchers use because these platforms aren’t great at guessing the context or filling in the blanks. Look at the devices used by your customers in the Google AdWords Search Query Report. If there’s a clear majority of your users coming from an Alexa device, you may want to continue tailoring your strategies for her. Research the most popular devices used by your customers in your industry. Wherever your potential customers are is where you want to target your voice search optimization for.
Voice search – New guidelines for quality raters
Quality raters are employees of Google that are tasked with rating the quality of its SERP. While their opinion of pages being low or high quality doesn’t directly affect ranking, they affect Google’s algorithm. Recently, the guidelines for these raters have changed. Here are current factors that they base their ratings on: – Satisfaction: Does this page obviously and clearly answer the search query? Was it easy to find and clear to the search engine? – Length: How long is the answer to the search query? Answers that are too long won’t be read and answers that are too short lack detail. The length must be exact to answer the query adequately. – Formulation: Is this web page formulated with grammatical correctness? Does it use language the user will understand? It must be readable and grammatically correct. – Authority: Is this web page considered an expert on its topic? Do other sites link to and reference this page? Does it have a good reputation in the community? These are some factors to consider when optimizing your website and voice search strategizing. You can read the full quality rater guidelines here.
Why 80% of Google Home results come from snippets?
The featured snippet, or answer box, is a selected search result enclosed by a box. It’s placed above all other search results, and right below the search form. 80 percent of Google Home results are taken from the page in the answer box. Getting chosen for the featured snippet is lucrative. But, why doesn’t Google Home use it for 20 percent of voice searches? According to ROAST’s report, many questions that don’t get an answer from Google Home also don’t have a featured snippet on the SERP. But, after rewording the question, an answer is given. This proves that the way voice searches are worded makes a huge impact. The report also says that certain types of questions fall into that 20 percent. For example, questions about flight times and local businesses often don’t match an answer box, if there even is one. What does this mean? It means that while optimizing your page to get answer box status is important, it isn’t always necessary. It depends on what questions your page answers. In terms of local voice searches, it’s more important to optimize your Google My Business Page than aim to be a featured snippet.
Optimize your Google My Business Listing for voice searches
Your Google My Business (GMB) Listing is extremely important for showing up in voice search results. There are even specific ways you can optimize it for voice searches. First, start by filling out every box on the form. You need to give as much accurate detail to Google as possible. This is crucial for competing against others in your industry who are likely filling out each section. Then, start making regular GMB posts. These are blurbs under your business’s information showing your recent posts. You can use these posts to advertise sales, events, blog posts, or even give your customer’s a seasonal greeting. Posting regularly shows Google that your page is active and live. Be sure to use keywords for voice search optimization (see point six above) in these posts. Perhaps the best feature of your GMB listing for voice searches is the Q&A section. Here, customers can publicly ask your business a question and you can answer back. Be clear and concise when answering these questions; get straight to the point. Another way to optimize your GMB listing is to focus on garnering positive reviews. The higher your business is rated, the more likely Google is to recommend it. You may want to offer an incentive to customers to leave a Google review, like a discount off their next purchase or service. Lastly, don’t limit yourself to only GMB. As we discussed with the digital personal assistants above, not all voice search technologies use Google. Some use Yelp, Bing, or another search engine. To show up in more SERPs, list your business with each platform. Put effort into optimizing each platform’s listing so that the corresponding digital PA can find your information.
Voice search is the way of the future for businesses and digital marketers. If you don’t start implementing it, you’ll quickly miss out on potential conversions and sales. Although it seems intimidating at first, it’s not as hard as it sounds. By simply understanding how users search on voice-activated devices, you can optimize your content to show up in their results. Start by analyzing your current search queries and then implement voice search strategies listed above in this guide. The world of digital marketing is advancing every year; your business must keep up with the changes to increase traffic and sales. Want more information on optimizing your business’s website? We can help with all your SEO, SEM, and voice search optimization needs. Get in touch today to discuss the right solutions for your business. The next generation of customers are waiting!