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How to Optimize for Voice 🎙 Search – A Layman’s Guide

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If the evolution of search isn’t exciting, then I’m not sure what is!

Remember when our resources for finding answers to questions were the library card catalog, encyclopedias, and the yellow pages? Sheesh.

Thankfully, with the advent of the internet, options for finding answers to questions now include desktop search, mobile search, and voice search. And, we can get answers immediately.

For marketers, each type of internet-based search requires different, continuous, and evolving application of strategies to acquire that coveted top ranking position.

In this post, we’ll cover how VEO (voice engine optimization) differs from SEO, and what keyword strategies will help drive traffic to your brand.

What is VEO, anyway? And, why care?

Voice search is when you ask a smart device (Google, Siri, Cortana) a question and your smart virtual assistant quickly provides you with the most relevant answer.

When someone uses a desktop for search, the SERPS offer up top results with the option of unlimited clicking and scrolling. Mobile searches typically display the top 3 local results with quick links for directions, a phone number, and a website. With voice search, Google/Siri/Cortana usually only offers one answer.

As a marketer, your goal is to optimize your content in such a way that your answer is the answer provided.

You also may be wondering why switch up your strategy and optimize for voice search at all? According to ComScore, voice search is expected to account for 50% of all searches by 2020, and mobile voice searchers are 3X more likely to be local-based than any text search.

If you want to get your search ducks in a row, the time to update your optimization strategy is now. This is especially true if you sell goods, work in the food industry, provide immediate services like plumbing, HVAC, food, gas, etc., and/or location is essential to your business. Optimizing for voice is a tall order, but with the right keyword and testing strategies, it’s possible to master. To get started, let’s talk about how the VEO keyword strategy differs from SEO.

How do different search methods differ?

To get a good grasp on how to optimize for voice search, it’s important to think of how people search on different devices.

If someone is looking for a good restaurant in the area on a desktop, or mobile device, they will most likely type something like “best italian restaurants in Boston.” However, when using voice search, someone would most likely speak to their device in a conversational tone. In other words, they would probably say “Hey Google! Where is the best place to get an Italian meatball sub near me?”

The same formula is true of any search scenario. Text search = short written snippets. Voice search = involved, full, and conversational questions.

Since voice searches are longer and question based, the way marketers optimize for these types of searches will vary significantly.

Here are the top things to consider when optimizing for voice search.


1. Optimize for complete questions

While there is no set Google metric to measure voice searches with complete accuracy yet, we can ascertain by digging into our own search data with smart analytics tools that most voice searches contain question modifiers. This means that when someone uses voice search, they are asking complete questions. They want to know the whats, wheres, whens, whys, and hows.

Here are some ways to optimize your site to make sure you have a chance at appearing in the voice search results.

Use your content to provide answers

Since people are asking direct questions through voice search, one of the best ways to get featured is to aim to answer those questions. And, to provide the best answer in all of the land.

You can do this by thinking of all the possible specific questions a customer might ask that relates to your website. Then, optimize your FAQ page.

Format the exact questions, you have determined through keyword research, your customers will ask with an H2 tag. Then, include the answer as body text.

Then, Google will be able to read your question, match it with the voice search, and turn up your answer as a featured snippet.

Focus on longer search queries

Since, according to Google, 41% of people think of voice queries as talking to a friend, it’s important to optimize your keywords to include longer-tail keywords. It’s rare someone will raise their phone to their mouth and just say “pizza.” Instead, they will say, “I’m hungry and want to find a good pizza place that is open and near me.” That means, if you want to be listed in the voice search results, you need to make sure your content focuses on long search queries, includes a more conversational tone, and is optimized for long-tail keywords.

If you’re struggling to find out which questions and long-tail keywords to focus on, consider checking out the following tools:

  • Answer The Public – helps you find the most asked questions related to your brand, services, or products.
  • Google’s Keyword Planner – You know the drill; This tool provides you information on search volume and competition in order to choose the best keywords for your business..
  • Raven – Great for rank tracking to see where you stand in relation to competitors for specific keywords.

These tools will help you find the right long-tail keywords and questions to include in your strategy.

2. Fine-tune your local optimization

It’s true that sometimes voice searchers are simply looking for a quick answer to a question like “Why is the sky blue?” For this type of question, Google offers up and reads the most relevant snippets. It’s also true that voice searchers are often looking for a local and immediate answer to a problem.

For example, someone may want to call in a drain repair professional immediately and may use voice search to get there. Similarly, they may want to just call in and order Thai takeout from the closest possible restaurant.

The best way to optimize for these local voice searches is to make sure your local listings are ship-shape. Take the time to make sure your site is optimized for local search, 100% accurate, and optimized to include the right local and long-tail keywords.

The last thing you want is to miss out because your information isn’t optimized and/or isn’t accurate. You may be thinking you’d never fall victim to this, but it’s reported that around $10.3 billion are lost every year because of inaccurate listing information.

While you’re at it, consider increasing your site speed and ensuring your Schema markup is in order on your site. If your website doesn’t return results fast enough and/or isn’t optimized for local, mobile, and voice, Google will gloss right over you.

3. Focus on non-branded keywords

If someone asks specifically “Where is the nearest Pizza Hut?,” then Google will find where the nearest Pizza Hut is based on the searchers location and return that result. However, what do you do if you’re a top-notch pizza company but don’t have the brand recognition that Pizza Hut does?

The answer is to focus on optimizing for non-branded keywords like “good pizza near me” rather than trying to optimize for “Mom & Pops Pizza Shop” that no one knows exists.  The more you focus on non-branded keywords as you optimize, the more likely you are to appear for a search result when someone is simply trying to discover a new place to eat pizza.

Remember, Google will look all over the world wide web to find accurate results, so make sure all your listings are updated with non-branded keywords. This includes your website, Yelp, Bing, etc.

4. Analyze and Test

Optimizing correctly for voice search is still new and a work in progress for even the biggest of brands. As of now, there is no one-set Google metric that will give you all the voice keyword query answers and provide a quick and easy optimization fix. However, that doesn’t mean you’re left completely in the dark.

It just means you need to rely on smart data collection and analytics tools like Raven to measure KPIs, gather proper insights, and make adjustments to your voice strategy as necessary.

Wrap Up

Voice search is relatively new and the time is now to get ahead of the game. The more you can do to follow the steps listed above and optimize your site for voice search, the better your site will perform.

Remember, you don’t want to just guess which keywords might work and hope you get it right. Instead use the keyword research tools at your service like Raven, Google, and Answer the Public, follow the advice from professionals offering recommendations for best voice search analytics and optimization strategies and practices, and test and refine your strategy as you go.

It will be fun to see how voice evolves in the future and now is the time to become a part of the excitement.


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