3 min read

Hey Alexa, How Do I Optimize for Voice Search?

Hey Alexa, How Do I Optimize for Voice Search?

“Hey Alexa — Can you order more paper towels?”
“Hey Siri — Where is the nearest gas station?”
“Hey Google — How late is Starbucks open?”

If you’re not already using voice search, you’ve definitely seen the commercials on TV.

Each day, more people are using voice search-equipped smartphone apps and digital assistants (like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Assistant) to handle simple tasks, get answers to questions and more — at home, on the road or wherever they happen to be.

The convenience of being able to use your voice, rather than your fingertips, means that voice search is on the rise. According to Google, 20% of all searches on mobile devices are now made using voice search and experts predict that 50% of all searches will use voice search by 2020.

In the digital marketing world, of course, this fast-growing phenomenon means that marketers must develop new ways to tailor their SEO strategies to optimize for voice search. Here’s a closer look at some of the ways that voice search will shape the future of SEO and some best practices on how to go about optimizing.

1. Use of Long Tail Keywords & Searcher Intent

If I were to do a text search for “best laptops for college students,” you would have no idea whether I wanted to research or purchase one, my price range or what kind of laptop I was looking for. But if I were to perform a voice search and say, “what are the best-priced laptops for college students?” this might bring up results for top 10 lists, reviews, forums, stores recommending specific brands for college students, etc. Because speaking a longer, more specific search query is easier than typing one, voice search will often give more context about searcher intent, meaning search engines can deliver more specific, relevant results in response to a query. This also means it’s a good idea to research relevant long tail keywords and integrate them into your content.

2. Recognizing Natural Speech Patterns

If you think about it, most people don’t type an email or text message the same way they might speak to you face to face. Example: You might text message a friend saying, “grab a drink after work?” But if you were to ask the same question in person you’d be more likely to say, “hey, do you want to grab a drink after work tonight?” Your natural speech pattern contains more context about your question than if you were to type or text it to someone.

That’s why the term “natural language” is used to describe queries made using voice search and longer tail keywords. Because of the discrepancy between what people are likely to type versus what they are likely to say, it is increasingly important for SEOs to understand how the nuances of natural speech patterns affect search results.

3. Impact on Local SEO

According to Moz, voice searches are three times more likely to be local-based than text search because most smartphones today search for local listing results. A smartphone knows your location, the weather outside, or whether there’s traffic ahead on the highway. All of these factors help to narrow down your search results for better and more accurate results. Examples of such searches could be “where is the nearest fast food, gas station, department store, etc., near me.” Most local searches are geared around “Where?”, “What?” and “How?” phrases like the examples above.

What does this mean for your local business? You should restrategize your approach to local SEO to make sure you are picking up on voice searcher intent for keyword groupings around your business or industry. Simply put, structure your keywords around the 5 Ws (Who, What, Where, When and Why).

Also, since much of voice search is occurring on mobile devices, it’s more important than ever to make sure your mobile experience is as user-friendly — and as speedy — as possible.

Looking Ahead — 2018 and Beyond

Looking ahead, one thing is for certain: People are adapting rapidly to the fact that voice search is destined to become more of a factor in our everyday lives. As with the release of the iPhone back in 2007 and the subsequent explosion of smartphone technology, voice search is the wave of the future — and the present. This means that businesses (and the digital marketing strategists who work with them) must be ready to tackle this new search optimization challenge to stay ahead of the competition.

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