Are your users asking questions to their smartphones and smart devices? The answer is a resounding yes – more than 50% of them are. After the mobile browser, voice is now the second most popular method of searching on mobile devices, with:
- 68% users seeking for a quick fact
- 47% looking for a local business online
- 44% researching a product or service
If you are looking to drive more traffic from voice search it is essential to rank well on desktop and mobile. According to SEMrush, close to 80% of answers returned by voice assistants were taken from the top 3 organic results in the SERP, with 70% of these answers occupying a rich result, and 60% capturing a featured snippet.
As content sits at the base of these good search results, consider creating content or refreshing current content to capture traffic for voice queries. Before diving into keyword research, it’s crucial to first understand the users and their behaviour behind voice searches.
Define the Audience
Defining the audience is the base of any marketing strategy, and voice search is no exception. Audience-building will provide further insights into which devices customers are using, helping to identify - and optimise for - the differences between them and their functionalities.
Although every household in the UK has at least one smartphone per person, only 22% of UK homes are currently using a home assistant. The market leader is Amazon Alexa, with a 63.8% market penetration in 2019.
Smart speaker penetration in the UK: 2018 versus 2019
Which devices are your customers using to search? Do they prefer smartphones, home assistants, or tablets? Would they typically be searching for your product at home or on the move? Consider how your consumer will interact with voice as search results are delivered differently on each device. For example, home assistants provide audio responses, while smartphones will also populate the search results with visuals.
Example of different voice search results
If Alexa, Siri, and Google aren’t meeting your customer’s needs – for example, if you’d like customers to be able to make an appointment – consider creating a branded voice assistant. An example of a branded Voice Assistant is Diageo’s assistant, which enriches the way users interact with the brand. Diageo gives users an experience that goes beyond basic voice search commands by helping them create their own cocktail at home.
Identify When People are Utilising Voice Search
People are more likely to depend on their smart devices at certain times of the day, usually when their attention is directed towards something else. These are ‘hands-free moments’, which tend to follow the same pattern:
- Home alone – the most common setting for voice-assisted search is in households. People are asking questions about news, weather, recipes, music, products, and more.
- In the car - when driving, people are seeking information about directions and store details. According to Search Engine Land, receiving travel directions is one of the top uses for voice search, with 52% of consumers using smart assistants when their vision or hands are occupied.
- On the move – whether it’s cooking or doing a make-up routine, your customers’ hands are full. People are more likely to ask for help using voice when they’re in the middle of a task.
These patterns can differ from one device to another, and from one brand to another. Identifying which hands-free moments customers are typically engaged in when they seek assistance is the key to building a successful SEO voice strategy.
Build a Voice Search Strategy
Evaluate content for voice search
The voice search landscape is significantly different to desktop and mobile search, with long-tail keywords capturing a large majority of traffic. It’s important to consider the natural flow of a one-to-one conversation, capture the key terms that surround your brand, and make sure that the content on your website addresses these keywords directly. Once you have a final list of keywords, have a look into Google Search Console to see what pages are ranking for them.
With the most common keywords found across voice search phrases being ‘how’, ‘what’, and ‘best’, it’s vital to discover and answer your users’ questions. Leverage opportunities to implement FAQ pages or ‘How-to’ tutorials, as these features may help drive more voice traffic.
Segment customer intent
As with desktop and mobile, the intent behind a voice search is a key consideration. Voice search queries generally fit into a handful of categories - questions, directions and store information, ‘how to +’ keywords, and transactional requests.
Tailor content to each relevant category for your business. For example, if you have physical store locations, investigate branded queries with a local intent. Does your GMB listing currently provide all the information users are searching for? Are there any additional unbranded queries for which you could optimise, such as ‘where is the closest makeup store’? According to Bright Local, besides directions, consumers want the most to be able to make a reservation, hear business prices, and to find out which products businesses have available.
No matter the category, optimise content to target rich snippets and featured snippets in the SERPs. Along with the well-documented benefits for clicks and impressions, these snippets of text are frequently chosen by voice assistants to be read out as the response to voice queries.
Example of different rich results
Utilise structured data
Implementing certain types of structured data can produce enhanced search results. There are various types of schema mark-up available, but these are the most valuable for voice search:
- FAQ Mark-up aims to provide a quick answer to users’ questions. Voice assistants will analyse the mark-up and read out the appropriate answer from the FAQ page. Use this as an opportunity to invite follow-up questions and keep the conversation going.
Example of FAQ Mark-up
- ‘How to’ Schema is used to walk users through a set of steps to successfully complete a task, and can feature video, images, and text. When displaying videos, remember to include video transcripts as these are key to help search engines better understand the video.
Example of text ‘How To’ Schema
- Product Structured Data allows detailed product information to be displayed in rich search results, including price, availability, and review ratings. Currently in the UK, customers can only buy products via voice using Amazon Alexa, and brands must be selling on Amazon. However, this could be expanded to other voice assistants and retail platforms in the future.
Example of Product Structured Data
- Speakable mark-up is well suited to news content. Adding this mark-up allows search engines and other applications to identify content to read aloud on Google Assistant-enabled devices. Currently this is only available in the US as a BETA version but is likely to be rolled out across other countries in the future.
Track performance of long-tail keywords and optimise for Google Actions
When users ask the Google Assistant for one of the available content types, Google will display an Action, such as podcasts, recipes, news, how-to guides, and FAQs. Traffic coming from these Actions can be tracked afterwards in Google Analytics in the Actions console. Navigate to Analytics > Directory to discover how your Actions are performing.
To track users interacting with other voice assistants, analyse the traffic your site receives from long-tail keywords in Google Search Console. If the source of these keywords is from mobile or tablet devices, this can be an indicator of a voice search.
Voice search optimisation is part of wider SEO strategy
Voice search is becoming increasingly important to brands and businesses. Brands need to understand which devices users are using and what they’re searching for. After defining all the aspects of a user’s journey to a voice search, the content needs to be optimised for it. Identify which pages can generate voice results and utilise structured data to generate rich results.
Optimising for voice search and optimising for SEO are inseparable. Merkle recommends building the above tactics into your overarching organic search strategy to make sure your brand voice is heard.