“Hey Google: which companies should use voice search SEO?”

Voice search features are creating new challenges for search engine optimization. How are Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant changing the ways people search? And, more importantly: does your company have to adjust the keywords on its website?

What kinds of voice search are there?

There’s a whole range of ways to communicate with a device using voice commands. The two mains ones at the moment are voice search on your smartphone (e.g. Siri and Google Assistant) and voice search using smart home assistants (like Alexa). However, not all voice search queries are relevant for search engine optimization.

What information do people look for using voice search – and how?

According to a German study, the most common voice commands people currently make to home assistants are asking for the weather forecast and to play music – both of which are totally irrelevant to SEO.

Things get more interesting when it comes to searches that are actually answered using Google. Users generally ask these questions via their smartphone, using full sentences. Local searches play a major role here, as people often look for specific places nearby when they’re out and about, such as the closest supermarket or Italian restaurant. Whereas a user would type out “Italian restaurant Brooklyn” in the search bar, by voice search they would ask: “Where is the best Italian restaurant close by?”

Users also ask a lot of fact-based questions using voice search. According to the study mentioned earlier, these are mostly general knowledge questions like “How tall is the Statue of Liberty?”. They can usually be answered by the small info boxes generated by Google, known as snippets.

Which companies need to think about voice SEO at the moment and how does it work?

This all means that search engine optimization is most relevant for companies that run local businesses. As a first step, they should make sure to be represented on Google My Business to be included in local searches. So anyone who runs an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn would do well to put down all the key information, from their address to their opening hours, on their Google Business page. And, of course, serve outstanding food – Google might well select the “best Italian restaurant close by” based on user ratings.

As a second step, it helps to have a website with the relevant long-tail keywords – these are the keywords that reflect the wording of voice search queries. Most keywords are currently based on the words that users type into a search box. Long-tail keywords, however, tend to be phrases or sentences. You should therefore formulate questions and answers on your website in language that reflects spoken language. This not only makes your website easy to read and full of information that users understand, but also ensures that it’s optimized for voice search.

On a wider scale, voice search is also becoming increasingly important when it comes to customer service: it’s likely that your customers also use voice search to ask their questions. That’s why you should have a wide-ranging set of FAQs that search engines can access. This brings us back to long-tail keywords: ask your customer service advisors to compile a list of the questions they hear most often – using the same phrasing as when they’re spoken. Then put the exact same sentences on your website.

And who is it not (yet) relevant to?

Things are currently very different for businesses focused on B2B. Office work still takes place on computers or laptops at most companies, and potential business partners very rarely use voice search to look for company contacts.

Voice search also hasn’t yet made much of an impact on e-commerce. According to user surveys, people are still rarely using voice technology to make purchases, particularly for products where the visual appearance is important, like clothing or furnishings.

But even if people aren’t shopping much using mobile voice search yet, experts agree: voice search is coming. If you want to be ahead of the trend and optimize your online store or your website already, you should integrate the long-tail keywords discussed above into your website and make sure your website has a good mobile version. After all, the future always comes more quickly than you think.

Cover image via iStock

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