Many people are foregoing typing when it comes to performing Internet searches. Instead of typing out what they’re looking for, for example, “Calgary Mexico flights”, people instead are using the hands-free voice command system in their phones to actually say what they’re looking for. Voice search has become increasingly more popular over the last few years as smartphones are now equipped with voice command technology.
By now you may have already optimized your website for better search engine recognition and mobile searches, in which case it’s time to go one step further and ensure that your site is equipped to handle voice searches. Here’s how to optimize your website for voice search without sacrificing compelling content and brand awareness.
Search engine optimization (SEO) uses specific keywords to target specific users. People are often likely to be concise in their searches, typing only two or three words into a search bar. If they’re looking for a flight to Mexico, they wouldn’t type: “I’m looking for a round trip flight to Mexico from Calgary”. Instead their search would be something simple like “flights to Mexico” or “Calgary to Mexico round trip”. If you owned a travel agency that specialized in package tours to Mexico, you’d want to get that person’s business. Your website would no doubt contain SEO keywords that matched that person’s search. For instance, “At Leisure Travel, our flights to Mexico include round trip airfare from Calgary” or “We provide exclusive airfare from Calgary to Mexico, round trip”.
Here’s where things get tricky. Voice search keywords differ from SEO keywords because you need to tap into the way someone would ask a question verbally. The way we speak to our phones and tablets is different than the way we type in searches. Our tone is bound to be more conversational even though we’re speaking to an electronic device. We can use full sentences that sound natural instead of contrived like a typed-in search. Voice search keywords are longer and actual phrases like, “Hey Siri, where can I find a flight from Calgary to Mexico?” or “Hey Cortana, I need a round trip flight to Mexico”.
When it comes to mobile and desktop typed-in searches, Google is king. However, voice search may be a different beast. Siri, the iPhone’s voice activated virtual butler uses Bing to answer your questions. The same goes for Cortana, Microsoft’s voice assistant. That means that users have to specifically ask their devices to use Google for their queries. For example, “Hey Siri, Can you ask Google where I can find a flight to Mexico” or “Hey Cortana, please use Google to search flights to Mexico”. If you think this seems convoluted, you’re right. Most iPhone and Windows phone users don’t ask for a specific search engine, they only ask their specific question. So what does that mean for your site’s voice search optimization? Well, in 2016, according to IDC, Android still dwarfs iOS system use which means that Google remains king. Thus, you can avoid specifically creating voice optimization for Bing and create something universal.
A recent study done by Search Engine Land shows that “who” phrases were up 134% and “How” phrases were up 81%. This means that most asked question through voice search starts with “who”. In order to optimize your content for voice search, think about how a user would ask a question in relation to your target keywords. Think about the information that user would be asking for. This will help you to focus on semantic language instead of dry keyword phrases that would sound unnatural when spoken. Before, when writing SEO content for your site, your goal may have been to rank for certain keywords, but now you’ll have to expand your keyword-rich content to factor in voice users.
This is, of course, easier said than done. But, it will lead to relevant results in the most organic way possible, meaning you’ll be able to target people from the way they speak a question instead of how they type a question. Keyword phrasing can sometimes be awkward but with voice optimized content, the awkwardness disappears. By using voice optimized keywords and phrases, you’re adding a human element. This is how people talk and there’s nothing awkward about that. For example, instead of using disjointed keywords like “Calgary Mexico flight”, “Mexico airfare Calgary” or “best Mexico vacation”, try a longer sequence of words to mimic a voice search. Use words that someone would actually speak like, “Cost for airfare to Mexico”, “Mexico vacation info”, “best Mexico vacation package” and “roundtrip airfare from Calgary to Mexico”.
By using words and phrases that sound natural when spoken, you are humanizing your content. A conversational tone that echoes how we ask and respond to questions will allow you to tap into voice search users and convert them into customers.
Rebecca Hill is the Outreach Coordinator at TechWyse, an SEO agency in Toronto, Canada. While she isn’t building relationships with bloggers and influencers in the marketing world, she can be seen rooting for the Blue Jays.