Voice search is quickly becoming the preferred method of looking up information and receiving instant answers online while using a mobile device. It isn’t just local-based searches either. As consumers learn how simple voice search is more are using it for all of their search needs.

You have to take action now and focus on voice optimization or you will be left in the dust. SEO was so much simpler back in the day. Even just ten years ago the landscape was wildly different.

You needed to do a little on-page optimization and build links with anchor text for the keywords you wanted to rank for — then add in some generic ‘naked’ URLs, some blog comments, forum comments and profile links. That is what SEO composed of. Remember the ‘packages’ back then?

So, yeah, SEO is changing at a rapid rate. It can be a little overwhelming, I’m not going to lie. As an agency owner I am constantly reading algorithm news updates, from speculation and theories to case studies.

There is one thing I can tell you with complete confidence, and that is voice optimization cannot be ignored.


Think Beyond Just Mobile Devices

History tends to repeat itself, and the future of SEO is no different. Just a few short years ago everyone was talking about how mobile devices were going to capture a major percentage of all searches, making desktop search obsolete.

Well, the same thing is happening again, but this time it’s smart devices that are the up and coming threat to take search volume from mobile. Alexa from Amazon, Siri and Google Assistant are prime examples of these new devices.

They are going to take some of mobile’s dominant share away and make desktop searches even more scarce. Think about it – if you are at home and you can ask your ‘device’ a question and get an instant answer without lifting a finger are you going to opt for that rather than going to open a browser and perform a Google search?

The majority of people are. The writing is on the wall, and it’s time to be proactive and optimize for voice search. I’m going to highlight the four most important things to consider moving forward in order to make sure your SEO is optimized for voice.


1. Optimize All Mobile Aspects (Speed, Navigation, etc.)

For the time being, a lot of voice searches are being performed on mobile devices. As more homes install Alexa and Google Assistant, it will take away from mobile’s domination.

But there is no denying that mobile devices are everywhere — the majority of people that use the internet have a mobile device such as an iPhone or Android with voice search capability.

When mobile first started to chip away at desktop search, the major concern was a responsive website design. Non-responsive websites provided a poor user experience, as they requires the user to manipulate the screen in order to read content, and perform actions.

So, responsive designs became mandatory. Now they are standard. You won’t find a web developer that doesn’t design responsive layouts or a theme that isn’t optimized to be responsive right out of the box.


Monitor and Address All Mobile Issues in Search Console

Google’s Search Console is becoming more advanced when it comes to detecting issues with mobile renderings, so it’s important that you closely monitor your website using this tool. To make it easy, set alerts to automatically send you an email when a new mobile issue is detected.

You have to be very responsive when it comes to addressing these errors. If you wait too long without fixing it Google will put more weight on the error, subsequently losing organic traffic, stemming from both traditional and voice searches.

I see the majority of issues come from third-party apps, plugins and software that isn’t properly optimized for mobile. You might have a perfectly optimized website, but once you start installing potential conflicts you put yourself at risk.

Things like popups, sliders, call-to-action forms and anything else that renders on your website that is from a third-party needs to be tested. Sometimes the smallest details can trigger error warnings, such as text that is too small to read.

I’ve seen “Your information is safe. We promise not to spam.” Text on an opt-in form cause a problem because it was just too small on mobile. This little detail caused traffic to tank for a particular website.


Audit Your Speed Using Google’s SpeedPage Insights Tool

Speed is something you should be concerned with regardless, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it become more of a ranking factor moving forward.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool is great, and GTmetrix is also solid. There are four areas you need to focus on in order to truly optimize for fast-loading pages:


  • Use an image compressing plugin


  • Minify your code (this will usually need to be done by your developer)


  • Use a caching option (WP Super Cache is a great option if you have a WordPress website)


  • Use a CDN (content delivery network)


Always aim for a load speed of less than two seconds. If you are able to stay under that mark your site performance will never be an issue.



2. Focus on Featured Snippets

Google is the number one search engine and their sister company YouTube is the second largest. So, wouldn’t it be an intelligent guess that they will do everything within their power to make sure that Google Assistant becomes the number one in-home device?

I am willing to bet they will go to great lengths to get their devices into as many homes as possible. And because of this you need to focus on featured snippets, because anytime a voice search on Google Assistant is performed it uses featured snippets to return the answer. In almost every situation the entire featured snippet is read back to the consumer performing the voice search.


Position Zero is Great But Not Required

The competition for ‘position zero’ is intense, as it’s the most coveted spot, and many assume that you have to be in that spot in order for Google Assistant to deliver your featured snippet as the result.

That is not the case. Your website can be read out loud as a voice search result even if you aren’t in position zero, as long as it’s optimized correctly.

Google Assistant pulls featured snippets from positions five and up, so once you are in that range it becomes a matter of having the most relevant content pertaining to the search. And how to do ensure that you have the most relevant content?

That is simpler than you might think.

Most voice searches are questions, so you need to make sure that your website content is optimized to answer very specific questions. One of the best tools to help you come up with content ideas is Answer the Public.


Content Format Matters for Featured Snippets

There are certain content formats that will help you get featured in a snippet, so you may need change up how you are currently formatting your blog content in order to optimize better for voice search.

Short Paragraphs: Short paragraphs of 35 to 45 words with short and to-the-point sentences works best when optimizing for featured snippets.

Bullet & Numbered Lists: You will notice that a lot of featured snippets are lists. This won’t work for every niche, but if you are able to answer common questions or address certain topics in this format you might want to consider it.

Another thing to remember is that you need to write your content for a very wide audience. Never assume that someone searching is going to understand specific industry or niche terminology.

When writing your snippet-focused content dumb it down and use very general terms and language. Your content should answer common questions and do so in a simple to understand manner.



3. Make Local Search Optimization Your Top Priority

A local business is going to be optimizing for local search regardless, so this will naturally have a positive impact on voice search for location-based questions. Local mom and pop shops and restaurants can stick to the same local SEO strategy, but I would make sure to pay attention to the featured snippets information above.

The other thing I would put focus on is including common voice search phrases in local content, such as “close to me,” “near me” and “in this area.” You will want to build out specific pages of content for these and optimize the titles and meta for them.

Can it be a lot of work? Yes, but if you want to be prepared for voice search it’s mandatory. If you continue to ignore it you are going to see a dip in traffic as the shift continues.


Voice Search Will Continue to Evolve to Be Worldwide (National)

I think it’s safe to assume that we will see a voice search surge in 2020. Mobile devices are already equipped with it, Amazon and Google are making a push to get their smart assistant devices into homes all over the world. More technology is beginning to integrate with these smart devices, which will only increase their use.

Adapt now and prepare or watch your SEO tank as voice search gains in popularity. Do you remember back in the day when content was the topic of discussion? There were SEOs that refused to adopt and stuck with what used to work.

What happened? They were phased out. Those that did adapt and made the necessary adjustments didn’t really experience any turbulence in addition to the normal shakeups and pivots.


National Brands: Build More Location Pages

If you are a national brand and sell all over, then you might want to consider ramping up your content production to really target locations. It can be done for any online business. Let’s look at an example.

If you owned an e-commerce store that sold sporting goods, you could build out location-specific pages for every category. Take running shoes for example. You could have a “running shoe store in Boston” page, a “running store in Tampa” page, etc. One for every city. Then, you replicate that for every single product category.

It’s a massive undertaking, but one that can prepare you to take advantage of voice search. Some e-commerce stores could build out tens of thousands of pages, and while it is voice search preparation, the organic traffic benefits also make it worth exploring.



4. Create Your Content with Voice Search Commands in Mind

On a traditional Google search someone might type in “vanilla protein powder on sale” if they were interested in buying supplements, but if they were doing a voice search on their mobile device or smart assistant, “where is the closest supplement store in Bakersfield, California” is closer to what they would say.

When communicating with Alexa, Siri and Google, voice searches are very similar to a conversation one would have with another human. So, you need to think of conversational keywords and search phrases when optimizing your content now.

Before, “Mexican restaurants” would be searched in Google, but not it’s more along the lines of, “What are the top rated Mexican restaurants in Plano, Texas?” Consumers are speaking to their devices as if they were human.


Content Must Be Long-Form Now (But More Bite-Sized)

I consider anything over 1,500 words to be “long-form” content, and now you have to publish longer content just to optimize it correctly for all of the potential voice search commands you hope to be a response to.

But, you need to write more bite-sized paragraphs and optimize them for simple questions. Before, when optimizing for traditional Google search, you would go very in-depth and deep-dive, providing detailed information related to the topic.

But, with voice search the questions are typically very specific and direct — the user is expecting the same in return. They want an answer that is short and satisfies their need. Make sure to leave out any fancy jargon from your content. It needs to read like normal people would converse about the given topic.

A lot of people try to sound highly intelligent by spewing jargon and throwing around industry terms. You don’t want to use that approach when writing voice search optimized content, because the people searching for answers aren’t going to be speaking like that in their natural conversation.


Final Thoughts

As you can see, the strategy behind SEO remains the same, no matter how it advances. The goal is to make your website and its content accessible and found easily via whatever devices and technology are being used.

At first it was desktop searches. Then mobile started to capture a major market share. Now, personal assistant devices are making voice searches more dominant, while mobile phones also include the capability.

As more consumers become familiar with how voice search works and find it to be convenient, we will see it become the primary search channel.

Will you be ready? What are your thoughts on how voice search is evolving in your niche? This is a topic not a lot of people are talking about so I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Tommy McDonald

Tommy is an SEO professional with years of experience running highly successful SEO companies, founded SerpLogic after noticing there was a major void when it came to options for SEO agencies needing a reliable and professional one-stop outsource solution.You can read all about me in the “About” page here on our blog!

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