Among mobile device users, voice search isn’t the future — it’s here now. Virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa make it easy for mobile users to find information online without typing. Machine learning has enabled virtual assistants to continually improve the information they provide, and the technology has caught on with consumers.
If you’ve done a good job of optimizing your website for text searches, it’s likely that you’re already benefiting from voice search. Many people interact with virtual assistants using the same language they’d use with a search engine. As people become more familiar with the advanced abilities of virtual assistants, though, they’ll begin to use different language with voice search so voice search SEO will become more important.
Now is the time to optimize your SEO strategy. Here are a few tips for preparing your website for the changing nature of mobile search.
Use Synonyms Liberally
In the time leading up to the introduction of voice search, Google improved its algorithm’s ability to process natural language queries. Latent semantic indexing (LSI) is one method Google uses to understand queries no person has ever used before and to identify great content. LSI is the reason a page can appear as a result of a query even if it contains none of the words used in the query. It also helps Google identify content that’s truly relevant and helpful, rather than content that simply contains the right keywords.
LSI analyzes the correlation between words. By analyzing existing text, LSI lets Google determine the words an article about a given topic is likely to contain. If your company’s content creators and digital marketing team are doing a good job of optimizing your website’s content for Google, it’s likely they already write with LSI in mind by using synonyms and terms that relate closely to the target keywords of their articles.
While LSI is already an important part of SEO, it’s even more important for voice search SEO, because people don’t use keywords to interact with virtual assistants like they do with standard search engines. Instead, people speak in complete sentences to express their search intent more clearly. More than ever, your website’s content should focus on satisfying user intent rather than using a target keyword phrase repeatedly.
Optimize for Long-Tail Keywords
Because people are more likely to construct their searches as complete sentences when using voice search, optimizing your website’s content to satisfy user intent isn’t just a matter of focusing on quality — and it doesn’t mean keywords aren’t important anymore. It does, however, mean your content needs to be much more specific.
Typing can be cumbersome — especially on smartphones. People conduct text searches using the fewest words possible. When a person types a search such as “life insurance,” Google has to guess the intent behind the search. Voice search gives people the opportunity to express their true intent.
Instead of searching for a short keyword phrase like “life insurance,” someone using voice search might ask questions like:
- How much should I expect to spend on life insurance?
- Is there a life insurance agent in my city?
- What type of life insurance should I buy if I’m under 30?
- Can I still get life insurance if I’ve had a heart attack?
Voice search hasn’t made keywords irrelevant. It’s actually made long-tail keywords more important than ever.
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Use the Language Voice Searchers Use
If your business sells products to consumers, you may want to look for potential opportunities to adjust the language of your website’s content. For example, if your website voice and tone tends to be more formal, you might make it a bit more conversational to match how potential customers will find your company with voice search.
Another good way to ensure that you’re effectively communicating with consumers is to add questions and answers to your website’s content. Here are some ways you might change article titles and subheadings for better voice search SEO:
- [Product] Free vs. Pro
- Could become: What Are the Differences Between [Product] Free and Pro?
- [Product] Feature
- Could become: What Are the Features of [Product]?
- Supported Operating Systems
- Could become: What Operating Systems Work with [Product]?
Bonus Tip: Use LSI techniques when writing website content in a question-and-answer format. You can also phrase the question “What are the features of [Product]?” as “What can [Product] do for me?” or “Why should I buy [Product]?” Use question variations in your text for the maximum possible voice search SEO benefit. Additionally, adding structured data to your content can help search engines better understand it and make it more likely to be served as a result in voice searches.
Answer Follow-Up Questions in Your Content
A virtual assistant can process a question in the context of the question that preceded it. Here are a few ways a virtual assistant’s ability to process natural language can work in practice:
- Question: What is the matinee film at the Regal Theater today?
- Follow-up: How much is a ticket?
- Question: What is the closest coffee shop to where I am now?
- Follow-up: Do they have iced coffee?
- Question: Who did the Dodgers play today?
- Follow-up: Did they win?
If your website includes words people would use when asking follow-up questions, virtual assistants will do a better job of responding to people who search for information about your company. And your business will provide more of the micro-moments that delight customers and generate sales.
Improve Your Local SEO
A lot of people who search the web on the go are looking for information with local relevance. They want to know which restaurants near them are open right now or which local store carries that hot new video game. They want to find hours of operation and driving directions. If your business has a brick-and-mortar location, make sure Google knows as much about it as possible.
Optimizing your website for local SEO begins with creating a business listing on Google My Business. Through Google My Business, you can tell Google your location, hours of operation and primary business areas. It’s also helpful to claim or create listings on popular business directories such as Yelp.
Ensure that your business’s address, phone number and driving directions are easy to find on your website. You can also use schema.org markup to embed location data in your website’s source code.
Bonus tip: When describing your business’s location on your website, mention local landmarks. A question such as “Where can I get coffee near the post office?” could lead a potential customer to you if you mention the post office when providing driving directions.
Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
Since most of Google’s users use mobile devices, Google has implemented mobile-first indexing and adjusted its ranking algorithm to favor websites that look good on smartphones and tablets. But when you’re focused on SEO for voice search, mobile-friendliness becomes even more important.
When your website comes up as the result of a voice search, you have an opportunity to create a micro-moment. When the person conducting the search clicks through to your website, you could express your company’s uniqueness, convince the searcher to visit your local store or even make an immediate sale. The fact that your website came up as a result of a voice search query will have little value, though, if your website isn’t mobile-friendly.
Remember that true mobile-friendliness isn’t simply a matter of having a website with a responsive design. You also have to structure your website’s content for fast consumption on mobile devices. Most people who browse the web on their mobile phones don’t typically stay on any particular website for long. Use short paragraphs, bulleted lists, tables and subheadings to make your website’s content readable on the go.
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