SEO has been a thing for, well, decades now. Pretty much everyone knows that if you’re starting a business, you need to set up a website, do some keyword research, and optimize your content to rank on Google.
But what not many entrepreneurs realize is that SEO is evolving, big time. These days, people are more likely to use voice search to ask a question, rather than manually typing their search queries into Google.com.
Want to get found on these voice searches? Then you’ll have to tweak your marketing strategy to include voice search optimization (VSO).
How are voice searches different from traditional searches?
Generally speaking, voice searches are phrased more casually and informally, and they tend to be an entire sentence (as opposed to a few words).
For example, if I wanted to locate the nearest McDonald’s outlet, and I’m doing a standard Google search, I might type “nearest McDonald’s outlet” in the search bar. But if I’m conducting a voice search instead, I might say: “OK, Google, where’s the McDonald’s outlet nearest me?”
The bottom line? Regardless of what business you’re running, it’s important to optimize your website for voice search. But if you’re running a local business, and you have some sort of retail presence, this makes it all the more important for you to prioritize VSO.
How do you optimize your website for voice search?
There are several strategies you can use to optimize your website to rank for voice searches, including being listed on directories, making sure your business information is accurate and updated, and more.
1. Get listed on Google Maps, Apple Maps, and other directories
This is fairly simple — the more listings you have online, the more visible your business is. This gives you a higher chance of appearing as a search result in a consumer’s voice search.
2. Make sure your business information is accurate and updated
Because voice search results only give users one answer, you’ll want to make sure you’re displaying accurate information online.
Say you’ve recently changed your opening hours, but you haven’t edited your Google My Business listing to reflect this. Here, your consumers might very well be fed wrong information, leading them to visit your store only to find out that it’s closed.
3. Rewrite content on your website to sound more conversational
As mentioned previously, voice searches tend to be phrased more conversationally, and they tend to be longer as well. With this in mind, optimize your website content accordingly, so you have a higher chance of ranking on voice searches.
For example, say you own an e-commerce store, and you want to optimize your Shipping and Returns page. Here, it makes sense to phrase your headers as a question, so that your website content is more relevant to consumers’ search queries.
Here are some positive examples:
Does StoreName offer free shipping?
Does StoreName ship internationally?
How long does it take to ship a parcel from StoreName?
And some negative examples:
4. Sign up to be Google Guaranteed
Google launched Google Guarantee back in 2016; this is a consumer protection program that targets local businesses in the home services segment. With this program, locksmiths, plumbers, and other local service providers can get their businesses verified, and earn a Google Guaranteed badge that will set them apart from the competition.
What does this have to do with VSO? Well, when consumers conduct a voice search through the Google Assistant or Google Home, Google doesn’t tap into its traditional search index — it pulls listings from its Google Guarantee program instead. Basically, if you’re in the home services industry, and you want to appear in voice search results, you have to be on Google Guarantee, simple as that.
To get the Google Guaranteed badge, create a Google Ads account and sign up for local services ads. A Google account representative will reach out to you, and facilitate a background check. Assuming you’ve passed, Google will then verify your license and insurance information, and keep it on file.
2018 was a year of incredible growth in the sale of voice-activated smart devices such as Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Facebook Portal. These new devices join Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana in offering users a wide variety of options for using voice search to find answers to their questions, consume content, and interact with media.
They also present a major opportunity for businesses, particularly on the local front.
According to research by BrightLocal, 58% of consumers have used voice search to find local business information in the last 12 months and 46% of voice search users look for a local business on a daily basis. Many of these searches are used to make reservations, hear business prices, and find out which products businesses have.
At a minimum, businesses looking to get found in 2019 should ensure that their basic business information is correct when delivered via voice search. This includes the business name, address, phone numbers, store hours, menus (in the case of restaurants), prices, etc.