Voice search has long been talked about as internet marketing’s next frontier, but up until recently it’s been an afterthought for most SEO strategies.

Now in 2018, the practice of performing a voice search is becoming as mainstream as fade haircuts and craft beer. This means we are finally starting to learn about the SEO ramifications of voice search on a deeper level, and these will impact small businesses online.

What will be the name of the game moving forward? User intent.

What Exactly is ‘Voice Search’?

Before we move any further, let’s establish what exactly we’re talking about when it comes to voice search.

Voice search is essentially a form of mobile searching. People use their phones and portable devices to find answers throughout the day, but instead of typing in what they are looking for onto a keypad, they’re enlisting the help of digital assistants.

We all know their names by now — Siri, Alexa, Cortana, among many others. They are the new search box. They type in what we say and give us the answers we need — and they’re getting really good at both.

The Evolution of Voice Search

Just a few years ago, when voice search was a new phenomenon on iPhones, it was viewed as a silly little feature. The only time you’d ask Siri a question was when you were showing off your iPhone to friends—the technology was weak and not to be taken seriously. The artificial intelligence (AI) couldn’t pick up most conversational language.

Over time, the use of mobile searches has drastically increased, and with it the demand for convenience has gone way up. This has pushed the technology for voice search to get better, and it’s opened the door for more voice-specific devices than we know what to do with.

According to Comscore, half of all searches online will be voice searches by the year 2020. Crazy, right?

Maybe not so much. When you think about it, aren’t most people attached to their mobile devices all day long (literally)? Couple that with the fact that many of us are constantly on the move, and it’s understandable why this technology is getting popular.

What Voice Search Means for Search Engines

Understanding why it’s popular is one thing, but in order to leverage this technology for your business, you need to know the “what.” In other words, What is the primary intent of voice searches? What are people specifically looking for?

According to Google, 52% of smart speaker owners use their devices to get information about deals, promotions, and discounts, while 39% of users are looking for business information.

This shows that voice search trends may shifting a bit from the standard “what are the best Chinese restaurants near me” queries, to “how much can I save money at Target this weekend?”

It’s an exciting time for small businesses as they cultivate marketing strategies aimed at responding to the shifts taking place.

Addressing User Intent Differently

The biggest shift we’re seeing is in the realm of user intent.

In the not-so-old days, businesses would optimize a page only for short-tail keywords that users were likely to type in. For example if you owned a local plumbing company you’d look at phrases like “plumbers in seattle,” or “seattle plumbing company” and call it a day.

Today, while these phrases still have their place, they need to be accompanied by questions. Things like “who are the best plumbers in seattle?” Or, “who should I call for a clogged sink near me?” These aren’t the types of queries people would type in to a Google search, but they are questions people would ask into their Siri or Amazon Echo devices.

As user intent becomes more specified, we can begin targeting new phrases in more creative ways than before.

Tutorial-Focused Queries

A lot of voice searches involve a “how to”, like “how to knit a scarf”, “how to dribble a basketball”, “how can I win my ex back”—the list goes on.

As a business owner, you can build your authority and optimize for voice search at the same time. By producing tutorialized content that speaks to your target audience—i.e. step-by-step instructions guiding users from beginning to end of a project—you’ll be establishing your skillset to the masses and increasing your lead gen efforts along the way.

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are one form that this how-to content can take. Having an FAQ page on your site can do a number of beneficial things for your SEO strategy.

An FAQ page can certainly rank your site for more keywords than you might’ve anticipated, thanks to semantic variations (a fancy word for ‘synonyms’ of your main keywords).

When you start breaking up your website topics into clusters, you’ll see just how many possibilities exist.

The wording of your answers can also lead to more keyword rankings. Let’s say one of your FAQs is about kitchen remodeling, and you respond with an answer that contains keywords like “cabinetry,” “backsplash,” and “garbage disposal.”

Don’t be surprised when you look at your site’s Google Search Console Search Analytics to find that it’s showing up for keyword variations like “kitchen cabinetry placement,” “best types of backsplash,” and “how to use a garbage disposal.”

Answer Box/Featured Snippets

How many times have you looked up instructions for how to do something, and Google delivers you a box containing the answer above the other search results?

This is the Answer Box, where Google grabs a “featured snippet” from your site and provides it at the top of the search page to help users find answers instantly. Intended as a way to give searchers quick and straightforward results, it can be a nice feature to help shoot your site to the top of the results page.

We all want to land here! Think about it, a featured snippet gets viewed above the fold in the search engine results page (SERP), meaning that people don’t have to scroll down at all in order to see it. That’s golden.

If you can land your pages here, they will be seen right away without people having to scroll. Your site doesn’t even have to be ranking at the top of page 1 to be chosen for this placement.

How can you land a featured snippet? The best way is to follow the widely talked about skyscraper method.

Simply put, you see what is currently landing the featured snippet spot for your target keywords then proceed to create a better piece of content.

Understanding Seasonality

Marketing strategies shouldn’t be the same year round, and the trajectory of voice search reflects this principle.

If you operate an ecommerce or retail shop, think about your voice search optimization strategy for the busiest time of year—the holiday season.

With 1 in 4 consumers using voice assistants for their holiday shopping in 2017, there’s plenty of room to rank for product-related terms. By answering questions like “where are the best discounts for [fill in the blank] in my area,” or “how can I use [fill in the blank product name],” you will be connecting on the voice search queries that drive sales and revenue.

But aside from ecommerce, your voice search optimization in 2018 needs to center on local SEO. Next up, we’ve got some tactics to get you the most out of your local searches.

Voice Search for Local SEO

According to Search Engine Watch, mobile voice searches are 3x more likely to be location-specific than text searches. This means there are some nice SEO wins to be had if your business caters to local clients..

Here are some local SEO hacks you can leverage for great results.

Schema Markup

Google wants to paint a complete picture about a business’s website. To help them out, you need to create structured data that articulates all the important details about your business—including services offered, accurate name/address/phone number information, and industry classification.

If this sounds like a foreign concept to you, fear not. The schema language can be applied to your site without any manual coding.

Just head over to SchemaApp.com and pick a type of schema you want to add to your website. It will ask for some information about your site, then deliver you a pristinely coded JSON-LD sample.

Then all you have to do is copy/paste this code into the appropriate spot on your page. If the schema is content-specific (i.e. blog post, article, or services schema) you will paste it into your <body> tag where that content appears. If it’s local business or organization schema, it will likely go in the head section of the code.

Now when someone asks Siri, “what are the best Chinese restaurants near me,” Google will know that your site is a Chinese restaurant.

Pro Tip: Write a blog post titled “Best Chinese Restaurants in [your city]” and list your  restaurant #1. Voice searches will be encouraged to refer to your post when people ask this exact question, since you’re using the exact match phrase “best Chinese restaurants.” It could be a nice and easy SEO win!

Google My Business Listing

The next step in telling Google what your business is all about is to optimize your Google My Business listing.

Authority building is about more than the stuff you do on the actual site itself. Google recognizes the business’s entire brand presence across the internet, starting with their GMB listing.

If you haven’t verified a client’s listing yet, you need to do so right away. Whether they are a local or national business, having those details available to Google will give a site way more exposure.

How should you go about optimizing it? Start by entering the correct name, address, and phone number of your business. This is referred to as NAP, and it’s very important that you list everything right. These GMB details will serve as the baseline metric across all your other citations online.

Next up, you need to select a category. This tells Google what kind of business it is (see Solid Stratagems article about the categories you can choose from).

Then, you need to add photos of your business. Mix it up between interior and exterior shots of the business location as well as photos of the team.

Remember, this isn’t purely designed for the benefit of Google. This is also helpful for your end user who wants to learn more about your business.

Local Citations

Building off of the optimized GMB listing, you can continue building local authority through the crafting of local citations.

What are citations? They’re like listings in the yellow pages. They display a business’s contact information to help consumers find them online.

If you need assistance, we provide citation building among many other SEO services.

Local Siloing

Without getting too SEO techie/nerd on you, a silo structure is when you have a hierarchy of pages on your site that are all related and connected to one another based on the subject matter. The idea here is to pass relevancy across a website in order to improve overall rankings.

A site’s appearance in local voice search results will largely be contingent on how relevant it is to the user’s query—cough, cough remember our chat about user intent?

It’s important that you’re creating supporting pages to bolster the main local services pages you’re trying to rank. This will paint a clearer picture to Google of what your site is all about.

In the Seattle plumbing example, you may have a page path that looks like services/emergency-plumbing-seattle. In order to improve that page’s relevancy you could link to it from blog posts within the blog categories of /blog/emergency-plumbing and /blog/seattle/. This way you’re proving to search engines that your content is decidedly about emergency plumbing in Seattle.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel, Just Create More Wheels

Voice recognition software isn’t necessarily changing the way we do SEO overall, it’s more just adding components to the original SEO process.

We’re still going to be optimizing for certain keyword phrases, creating engaging content, mass producing local citations, and nailing our GMBs.

The difference lies more in the realm of user intent optimization. Whether we are a local restaurant or an international ecommerce store, our goal is to answer questions.

When you look at SEO as an informational value exchange, positive results tend to follow.

Are you thinking about how to use Voice Search to grow your business?

Get a Custom Video Analysis of your website with a Page 1 Ranking Strategy from Fingerprint Marketing. Just complete this quick form and we’ll deliver a no-obligation video analysis of your website, how you rank against your competitors, recommended keywords and where your best opportunities lie with SEO.