Voice search is a technology that has made its way onto smart phones and other connected devices, think Amazon Alexa and Google Home and Apple’s Siri. It allows the user to verbally communicate their search queries to a virtual assistant and get search results on their device, all without typing anything in.
The popularity of voice search-enabled devices has increased in recent years: an Insider Intelligence article showed that in 2020, 40% of all searches were done through voice, which was up 11% from the prior year. Adapting to this increasing popularity of voice search can put you ahead of your competitors. This guide will give an overview of voice search, help you understand how it works and how to leverage voice search in your paid search campaigns along with some quick tips on optimizing your website for voice search.
In 2017, Google made a large update to its search algorithms, dubbed “Hummingbird”, which changed their natural language processing from being lexical to semantic in nature, allowing search results to not focus on a clump of keywords but to focus more on what a searcher really means and delivering relevant results.
How Does Voice Search Work?
Voice Search works in part due to the use of speech recognition technology that processes a user’s spoken query. When a user speaks into a smart device, the voice recognition software is able to take that speech and process the search request and use algorithms to determine the searcher’s intent and in turn return relevant results.
With the advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning over the recent years, voice search has become increasingly more refined, being able to recognize complex queries allowing these smart devices to respond to user requests with great accuracy and speed.
Keyword Strategies for Voice Search
Incorporating the proper types of keywords into your search campaigns can make sure they are picked up by users making voice searches. The keywords used in voice search campaigns tend to be more natural language based — in other words, they sound the way that people would actually speak. They shouldn’t be overly technical and instead focus more on conventional phrases that can be easily understood and used in a voice search. In this section, we will talk about some of the types of keywords that are used in voice search campaigns.
A lot of queries for voice search are long-tailed and question-based in nature. That means they usually focus on the “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when” phrases. Users are usually searching for “Where can I buy X” or “What is X” phrases. This is because of the fact that when users are searching with voice search, they are usually asking those queries as a full statement to their voice search-enabled device, rather than typing in a few select phrases as they do on a computer.
If your business features a physical location and you are wanting to capitalize on voice search, it’s imperative that you also dip into using keywords that are phrase-oriented and location-based in nature. Some examples of these would be “Best restaurants near me” or “Closest Gas Station” ; these would be used by searchers that are on the go and asking their search-enabled devices for advice at the same time.
Search Terms as a Resource for Voice Search
Taking a retroactive look at your search terms report can be a great way to see if people are searching for your business using voice search-enabled devices. These terms will fit the profile mentioned above by being question-based or location-based. You can also use that as an idea for what types of voice search-friendly keywords your user base can be using and incorporate them into your voice search campaigns.
Voice Search Keywords and Intent
Like with all marketing campaigns, it’s important to take into consideration where the user is during the conversion journey when building out a voice search campaign. For those users just starting out, their search queries will usually start with queries starting with “who” or “what”. This shows that they are in the awareness stage and seeking more information in general. As they progress down the funnel, their queries will shift to use “when” or “where” to gather information about your business and its location along with other pertinent information.
Writing Ad Copy for Voice Search
Ad Copy that is optimized for voice search usually involves using natural language and making sure the ad copy is easy to understand. The ads should be clear in answering the searcher’s question and provide them with the information they are looking for. The ad copy should also not have overly technical language.
It’s also important for voice search to include the proper extensions active to ensure the ad has increased effectiveness as well. Since an overwhelming majority of searches take place on mobile devices, it’s important to keep in mind ad extensions that could be handy for a user particularly searching on mobile. One extension you would want to pay particular attention to and make sure to include would be the call extension — especially if you are a business with a physical location that may be nearby, so that a searcher could easily reach out with any questions they may have. It’s also important to have a location extension enabled if you have a physical location as well, that way a searcher who has high intent is able to quickly tap the location of your business in the ad and navigate towards it – even if you have your business listed in Google with a contact address, having the location extension adds to the seamlessness for the searcher of not having to scroll down and dig for your location.
Utilizing Location Targeting
Since a majority of voice searches that take place are for people looking for things local to them, it’s important to have adequate location targeting set on your voice search ads. Search ad location should be specific to the area your physical location serves and if necessary, ad copy should disclose the areas you serve.
SEO Tactics for Voice Search
If you are going to be running campaigns for voice search, it’s important to make sure your website is optimized accordingly as well to accommodate voice searches. Having a properly optimized website will lead towards higher conversions.
Load time Optimization
Page loading speed is crucial for SEO and voice search. Most voice searches are done on mobile devices, so fast load times are essential. A study done by backlink.to for Voice Search SEO shows that voice search results have a faster Time to First Byte at 0.54 seconds, compared to the average website at 2.10 seconds. Voice search pages also load faster, taking only 4.6 seconds, which is 52% quicker than the average web page (8.8 seconds).
Having a great mobile site layout is crucial for your website’s success in driving voice searchers to convert, especially since most voice searches are performed on mobile devices. To attract those users, make sure your mobile site is optimized for different display sizes and appears clear on various browsers and operating systems.
Since a majority of voice searches are for local information, it can be beneficial to make sure your site has been optimized for local search if it has a physical location. It’s important to make sure that you have your business name, address and phone number up-to-date and that you have established a Google My Business listing. If you really want to dive into local SEO, you could do other things such as creating local content and distributing it on social media as well as this can also help improve rankings by Google.
Having content that tailors to voice search is also an important facet in improving your website’s optimization. While it doesn’t necessarily mean overhauling every piece of content on your site, you should make sure the content relevant to the voice search is written in a conversational tone and provides concise answers to the search queries. Google’s voice search results are typically limited to 30 characters, so try to include the most important information that would answer the searchers question in that limit. A great way to implement this is through FAQ pages, as they provide both the user’s query and a concise answer.
Voice search is an important and rapidly developing trend in digital marketing – it’s imperative that businesses understand how to optimize their online presence for voice search, even if they are not running any paid campaigns specifically tailored towards voice search results. With the rapidly developing improvements in the capabilities of artificial intelligence and speech recognition software, it is likely that voice search will continue its trend of popularity and will increase in adoption as the experience becomes even more user-friendly and the results become even more accurate.