With the fast adoption of mobile on-the-go searching and the exponential growth of the smart speaker assistant market, we've all known that voice search is the future. Well, the future is here now. Today, one-in-five mobile phone owners in the United States speaks to their mobile device when searching (source) and one-in-six US residents owns a smart speaker (source).
That's a huge market already that is expected to grow very fast: comScore, predicts that by 2020, 50% of all searches on the Web are going to be voice-driven. That is absolutely insane to think about... half of all Web searches will be done via speaking, due almost entirely to the importance of rising mobile searches and digital assistants.
Now, are we doing enough to prepare for the voice search revolution that is already happening? Are we doing anything at all? As intimidating as it seems, there are steps you can take to get your site optimized for voice search.
Google's featured snippets (Learn more about featured snippets) are selected search results that show up on top of organic search results in a box. When it comes to voice search, featured snippets are what is being read to a user in response to their voice search query. This makes optimizing for featured snippets
The Featured Snippets+ Tool allows you to analyze your (or your competitor's) featured snippet opportunities and better optimize for them in order to get featured by Google and rank for voice search queries.
Simply input your domain name and let the tool retrieve its rankings to find your Google's featured snippet opportunities:
[Note those "low-hanging fruit" results : Those are opportunities for which your domain organically outranks the featured domain. These featured snippet results should be yours in the first place because you are losing that organic visibility.]
When preparing your content for voice search, think about how people will speak when searching by voice. Spoken speech is less standardized (and less influenced by Google Suggest results), which makes it less predictable. People tend to speak in full sentences, whereas when typing, they may only query a few words in order to save time.
What this means:
Optimizing for question-based search queries also provides additional search visibility through the possibility of showing up in "People Also Ask" results:
That being said, optimizing for "People Also Ask" helps you:
The Featured Snippets+ Tool helps you with both by collecting and analyzing questions that show up in "People Also Ask" for your important queries:
[Simply grab these questions and include them in your content.]
Voice search users are either on-the-go or in the middle of a task. According to Google, the new generation of search users need answers "right here" and "right now". They will not scroll your page in search for the answer and would rather move on to a different result that answers their question immediately.
Google is already adapting their search result pages to match the immediate need and striving to show answers right away by featuring publishers who do a good job at giving concise well-structured answers. Brands that optimize their content for these micro-moments will survive the voice search revolution. But how exactly do you do that?
To optimize for mobile- and voice-search users, you need to structure your content well using <h3> and <h4> headers followed immediately by the exact on-point answers.
Structuring your content like this helps Google to quickly find the answer, feature it (to read in response to a voice search query) and, more importantly, cater to the user's immediate need for information.
The Featured Snippets+ Tool helps you create this content structure with its snippet editor. Simply click "Create" next to the query you want to optimize for voice search and type in your subhead and the quick answer below:
Once you are done creating snippets, export the HTML and update the copy on your webpage.
As mentioned, spoken words are less predictable than written text. What this means for search and content marketers is that they need to consider all possible ways the same query can be worded, beyond the obvious core terms.
Including synonyms and related or neighboring terms in your copy helps your content rank for a wider variety of queries and get featured more often.
The Featured Snippets+ Tool makes it easier to discover related terms by collecting and organizing Google's "Searches Related To" results. Keep an eye on those when creating and optimizing your content:
Additionally optimizing for questions is an important step to optimizing for natural language.
Voice search SEO is not much different from traditional SEO: optimized targeted content is still the foundation. The fundamental difference is that with voice search on the rise, SEO relies more on long-tail, natural-language-driven queries and the structuring of the copy the way it catches the user's attention at every moment they need information. Searching behavior is becoming faster, more fragmented and less predictable, but there are still ways to get your content properly optimized for it.
There's no single number yet, but the above stats will give you some idea.
To use voice search, one needs a mobile phone or a smart speaker device (e.g. Google Home) which is activated by voice. When you search by voice on Google Home, the device will read the top Google search result (which is usually a featured snippet) and suggest sending you the link to that result to your mobile phone (which is how users can still get to your site when using voice search).
Voice search can be used for anything including research, directions, and steps to complete a task. Location-based searching is said to be the most popular way to use voice search: Voice search is three times more likely to be used than text search for local queries (source: Search Engine Watch).
Voice search is here to stay, like it or not. It is going to cause quite a few organic search visibility challenges - since we are now competing for just one Google position, not 5 or ten as we did previously.
The good news is, there are ways and steps to prepare, giving your brand a solid competitive advantage.
For marketers, the way forward is clear. No matter what kind of content we are providing, we have to be optimizing for the voice search revolution. A revolution that isn't just important to the future but one that is already in full swing.