How people search for information online has drastically changed over the past few years and will continue to evolve as voice search grows in popularity. Instead of just typing a question, many people now conduct online searches by talking directly to their devices and using much more colloquial search terms. When typing on a phone or computer, people might search “restaurants near me.” However, when using voice search, they will likely ask something more specific like “what are the Italian restaurants in downtown Anchorage?”

SEO is a big part of digital strategy, and it is important that users are able to find businesses online. To appear as a featured snippet or as a top organic result for voice search, businesses must continuously update online strategies and stay relevant.

Here are a few SEO tips from the Thompson & Co. digital team:

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization often referred to as SEO, is a strategic process to increase quality, organic traffic to a website. There are several ways to adjust websites to improve SEO. Everything from coding and naming images strategically to adding bullets and improving readability can impact SEO.

Voice search engine optimization

According to the American Marketing Association, 41% of adults and 55% of teens use voice search daily. By 2020 an estimated 50% of all Google queries will be voice search. These statistics aren’t surprising to marketing specialists who follow SEO trends or everyday users who prefer the convenience of voice search over typing on desktops and mobile devices. From driving directions to finding the best restaurants and everything between, more people are using voice search on the go. It’s virtually hands-free, takes less effort and saves time.

How are people searching?

How users search with voice command is different from how they search on a desktop. Traditional searches typically use fewer words because it saves time and effort when typing. When speaking, though, searches are longer and more conversational. The question is phrased as if it was directed at a person.

Considering the increasing portability of mobile and availability of access, people are searching more locally and spontaneously. This includes searching for something on the drive home or asking Google Assistant a question someone may be too busy to type. Because of the hyperlocal nature of voice search, it is important to incorporate local keywords into SEO strategies. This might include neighborhood information, landmarks or street names.

As mentioned before, when typing on a mobile device or desktop, people often use search terms like “restaurants near me.” However, when using voice search, they will likely ask something more specific like, “what are the best restaurants in downtown Anchorage?” Adding an address to a website and updating a company’s Google My Business listing are two easy SEO tactics.

Voice search users are primarily on mobile devices which yield higher bounce rates than desktops. This makes it imperative that websites be mobile friendly. A website’s readability, speed, and content need to be easily accessible via all devices and search tactics. People on the go don’t have time or the attention span to continue searching for information. That’s why voice search optimization is so important.

Keyword research

Conducting keyword research should be the first step to writing copy for the web, especially blogs. This establishes an understanding of what users are searching and drives content. For voice search, the queries are more likely to contain interrogatory phrases starting with why, what, how or when.

Here are a few of the T&C digital team’s favorite tools to use when conducting keyword research:

Answer the Public generates ideas and insights about the type of business-related questions people are asking.

Google Analytics shows some keywords users are already using to find a website.

SEMRush identifies relevant keywords, provides top search questions and analyzes readability.

The role of SEO in public relations

What do public relations, content development, and SEO all have common? Each one is about getting the right information in front of the correct audience. Content developers curate messages that spark interest with target audiences, but SEO is responsible for making sure people can find this content.

Traditionally, journalists learned to hook readers by answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” In today’s digital world, that’s especially important as the user attention span continues to decrease but the desire to scan and quickly digest information increases.

As with all things SEO, small details make a big difference and readability improve the user experience. If the text is too hard to read or if sentences are too long, readability scores decrease. Headings and subheadings give users an overview of the content up front and are good for “scanability.”

Because readers are hesitant to “waste time” on an article, crafting stories in an easily digestible format helps retain readers. This SEO strategy is especially important for mobile searches and also gains favorability with search engines like Google and Bing.

As users search with more direct questions, content should be directed at answering those questions to drive website traffic. Consider creating content, like this blog, that addresses questions like “what is SEO?” Providing more information about a business gives search engines a better idea about the website’s goals and helps rank it more effectively.

Voice search tips and tricks

There are many ways to tweak websites to be more SEO friendly. A few include:

  • Website speed: Faster websites yield more traffic from voice search. If a page takes more than 5 seconds to load, it will see a higher bounce rate. Use Google’s PageSpeed insights to check a website’s score.
  • Short answers: Content that directly answers popular search questions performs well. The more content a website has, the better search engines can index its terms. This is how a website becomes the first answer on the search engine results page or the primary voice answer.
  • Natural language: Content written conversationally, or as someone would phrase it in real life, performs best.
  • Business listings: This helps improve SEO by providing current, accurate information. Keeping the address, hours of operation and contact information up to date is essential. Listing contact information on a website is also helpful to people searching for local businesses in their area. Positive reviews from Google My Business and others are also important.
  • Schema markup: This is the information that goes into a website’s code. Users do not see it, but search engines use it to classify and index content, which helps with SEO.
  • FAQ page: This gives a website the opportunity to answer top questions users are searching and improve SEO.
  • Featured snippets: This is where Google Assistant and Google Home pulls its information. This is the best place a website can be for SEO.

So, what now?

SEO and digital marketing are ever changing. It is important to stay on top of new trends. Even though voice search is becoming more popular, it is hard to know where it is headed and what new technology might emerge. Right now, voice search traffic cannot be tracked, but SEO and analytics tools are being developed to separate voice traffic from organic traffic. Although measurement is challenging and its future is somewhat unpredictable, it is important to incorporate voice search SEO into any marketing strategy because data shows SEO will only continue to grow in importance.

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