Voice Search Is Exploding – Is Your Brand Ready?

Nearly 45% of U.S. consumers use voice technology daily, and the use of voice assistants is steadily rising.

In addition:

Why is all of this important to businesses and marketers? The primary reason is that in all likelihood, voice search will only keep growing — and this represents a huge opportunity for future-focused business growth.

The rising value of voice

For consumers with at least a touch of tech-savviness, voice search represents an easier and faster way to find the information they’re seeking on the internet — hands-free and without all the typing.

And whether the query of the moment involves getting directions to the nearest hardware store, finding well-reviewed restaurants in the area, procuring a rundown on what’s playing in local movie theaters or reviewing the nearby options for buying a barbecue grill, there’s likely a sizable segment of consumers using voice search on their smartphones or smart speakers to get the answers. Further, as time passes and technology advances, the voice-search numbers are very likely to keep growing …

An opportunity for added exposure

Of course, for brands, voice search’s popularity and sustained growth represents a huge opportunity. Optimizing a website to capture high voice-search rankings requires a slightly different approach than capturing standard search rankings. Because of that, it gives brands a chance to get ahead of the curve and get a leg up on the competition by placing an added focus on voice-search SEO.

Looking to put your brand in a position to capture higher rankings when consumers speak to perform an internet search? Consider these six tips for voice search that could help you move the needle and expose more consumers to your business:

1. Target long-tail keywords that mimic natural questions/speech

When optimizing a website for traditional typed searches, many SEO pros tend to avoid especially long-tail keywords, as these lengthier phrases are much less commonly used in traditional internet searches. But as larger shares of search queries are claimed by voice searches — which tend to be much longer and more conversational than typed searches — long-tail keywords become significantly more attractive as targets.

Think about how you typically ask a question in conversation vs. how you perform the same query when typing it into a search engine. The spoken “Where can I buy a kids’ baseball glove in the Atlanta area?” is likely to be drastically shortened to something like “kid baseball glove” when typed into a search engine such as Google. The spoken version, which voice searches tend to more closely resemble, is not only more specific, but also much less common — which translates into greatly reduced competition when targeting long-tail keywords. And when looking to capture more traffic from voice searches, targeting long-tail queries that employ question keywords such as “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” and “how” can also be especially effective, as spoken searches tend to include these much more often.

A couple of online tools can be a big help when researching long-tail keywords. Google Search Console offers insights on the actual search queries that most often bring visitors to your website. Another is answerthepublic.com, which offers a range of query variations for any keywords provided.

2. … and employ conversational language in your content, too

In addition to targeting longer, more conversational keyword phrases, employing a more conversational tone in your brand’s online content can help deliver more voice-search traffic, too. Beyond making your content easier to read and conveying a sense of authenticity to readers, using more conversational language on your brand’s web pages and in its blog articles is more likely to deliver matches when search engines crawl your pages looking for language that’s relevant to users’ voice searches.

(This is in no way meant to imply that you should lower the quality of your brand’s online content. Rather, you should still strive for your content to consistently provide value to your visitors and answer their burning questions. But by doing so with a more conversational, natural voice, you’ll increase the likelihood of catching consumers’ voice searches.)

3. Ensure a mobile-friendly experience

There’s a long list of reasons your brand’s website should be mobile-optimized by now — not the least of which is that mobile devices account for nearly 60% of today’s web traffic worldwide. And as such, it should come as no big surprise that mobile devices power vast quantities of the voice searches performed each day. But these certainly aren’t the only reasons to ensure that your brand’s website is mobile-friendly. Another is that Google factors website quality — including the mobile user experience — into its search engine results page (SERP) rankings. And of course, once you get consumers to visit your website via voice search, delivering a high-quality mobile experience is a big key to keeping them there and converting them. (Not sure if your site’s mobile experience is up to par? Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool is a great resource for checking the mobile-friendliness of your website and identifying areas for improvement.)

4. Lean into local searches

Large numbers of voice searches are local in nature. (Need evidence? Think about your own recent voice searches — and how many have included the phrase “near me” in the query.) Further, according to Google, a jaw-dropping 50% of local searches on mobile devices result in store visits. So of course, businesses with brick-and-mortar locations have a clear interest in optimizing for local searches.

Some of the things businesses can do to raise their profiles in local-search rankings include:

  • Claiming their Google My Business listing, which provides the search engine giant with important (and up-to-date) business details such as location, business hours, web address and more
  • Ensuring their SEO strategy includes local phrases or nicknames that area residents commonly use to describe their location or neighborhood
  • Incorporating keywords associated with any landmarks located near their business
  • Using “near me” data in their title tags, meta descriptions, internal links and anchor text

5. Focus on earning Featured Snippets

Featured Snippets, the short blocks of copy displayed at the top of a Google search-results page just above the organic search results, account for over 40% of all voice-search answers. And because they appear so prominently on SERP pages — right at the very top — Featured Snippets’ location on the SERP page is referred to as “position zero,” indicating their high value. To lend them even more importance, when it comes to virtual assistants Google Home and Amazon Alexa, the Featured Snippet is the only answer provided for a voice search.

So obviously, earning this prime real estate, which is given to a top results page that most directly answers the question posed in a user’s search, is a high-priority objective for any brand.

While Google doesn’t provide official guidance regarding how to land the Featured Snippet spot, common optimization tactics include:

  • Employing strong SEO tactics to earn a spot on the top SERP page, from which most Featured Snippets are pulled
  • Including query-like search terms in web-page headers
  • Targeting long-tail keywords

6. Put an FAQs page on your website

As mentioned above, targeting long-tail keywords in SEO efforts is among the leading ways to earn more voice-search traffic, as is including content that mimics the way people naturally ask questions when speaking. And FAQ pages offer brands an opportunity to achieve both of these objectives on a single web page in a way that feels natural (rather than forced) and that can be genuinely helpful to any readers with questions.

When creating such a page, brands should make an effort to include all the common questions they can think of on the given topic, then provide a clear answer to each question in a natural/conversational voice. Once created and placed, such a page will give your website a stronger chance of competing for and winning voice-search results, as well as landing Featured Snippet placement.

Seeking ways to boost the effectiveness of your brand’s SEO efforts — for both traditional search and voice search? At Brandon, our team of search marketing experts has a wealth of experience building successful search strategies for our clients — and we’re ready to help your brand reach new audiences, too. Contact us today to discuss how we can help your business grow.


Nick McNeill

Interactive Director

Nick uses his talents in computer science and graphic design to grow the online presence of brands such as Santee Cooper, Southern Tide, frogg toggs, Farmers Telephone Cooperative and Blue Force Gear. A serial marathon runner, his steely determination shines through every brand he grows. As lead user interface designer of the GuestDesk software suite for online hotel reservations, he watched it explode from $1 million in reservations to over $400 million annually.

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