This post was most recently updated on February 20th, 2019
Voice search is becoming more common in our search habits, helped by the growth of mobile search and voice assistants. The results of voice search depend on traditional results but require specific SEO optimizations. We will see how to improve SEO for voice search in detail and with concrete solutions.
What is voice search?
Voice search is to ask a question or voice query to a voice assistant like Google assistant, Siri, Alexa Cortana to get one result in voice form. The number of people using voice search progressing for several years along with the growth of mobile search. The democratization of intelligent speakers as Google Home or amazon echo also involved in the development of its use.
Unlike a traditional search in textual form and offering several results, the voice search is more conversational, closer to natural language and brings only one result. The user does not seek to compare but to have a direct answer to a question asked. However, voice search results are based on computer or mobile text results, so it’s not a question of separating SEO and voice search.
Voice Search Statistics
Here are some statistics to understand the importance and impact of voice search on SEO:
- 20% of mobile requests are voice searches
- 50% of all searches are vocal by 2020 according to ComScore
- 58% of consumers use Google Home to find local business information
- 30% of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020, according to Gartner
- 55% of US households will be equipped with smart speakers by 2022, according to OC & C Strategy Consultants
- Since January 2018, there are about 1 billion voice searches per month in the world, according to AI
- 3% of Generation Y (20-40 years old) will use voice assistants in 2019, according to Emarketer
- 5% of consumers use voice to search for e-commerce, and it could reach 50% in 2022, according to MoffettNathanson.
- 52% of voice assistant users want to receive promotions and deals from brands, according to Google
What are people looking for?
The search for information arrives in 3rd of the vocal requests made to the vocal assistants. For SEO, we also note the search for news in 5th, shopping in 8th. For the search for information, it is indeed about questions and it must also include the local search. For the rest, there are of course voice commands to play music, ask the weather, and others.
How to optimize your SEO for voice search?
Already, one should not differentiate traditional SEO from voice search, not in a radical way anyway. If the site is not optimized for SEO, you do not put any chances on your side to appear in the results of the voice search.
That said, there are some peculiarities that we will see in detail in the following sections. If there is an expression to remember, it is the intention of research. The algorithms behind the choice of results for Google voice search, Hummingbird and specifically RankBrain, are based primarily on the search intent. The research intent is to infer what users want behind their questions. For this reason, the results returned to the voice assistants do not necessarily contain the keywords contained in the request.
We must also see that the voice search is a lot of local searches, so the base is already having a page Google My business
Let’s look at everything you need to know to optimize both your SEO and voice search positions:
The results of the voice search come from the fast pages
A backlinko study on Google Home shows that pages that respond to voice results have a full page load time twice as fast as the average. 4.6s for the response time of a vocal result versus 8.8s for the average page loading time in the world. It is even 4 times faster if we take the TTFB (Time To First Byte), ie the time to have a first response from the server. 0.54s for the speed of loading a vocal result against 2.1s for the other pages.
It makes sense when you ask a question to your voice assistant, you need to have an instant answer or almost.
Page speed is not only an important criterion for voice search but also a broad SEO criterion. This is, even more, the case since the Google update update update…
Solution: Optimize the loading time of your pages is essential for voice search and natural referencing in general
HTTPS sites dominate Google voice results
Although Google claimed that the HTTPS gave a slight boost on positioning on the search results, it seems that the HTTPS is a much more important criterion for voice search.
The study shows that 70.4% of voice search results come from sites in HTTPS against 50% for computer results.
Solution: If it’s not already done, migrate your site to https for more chances to appear in the voice search results
Voice search results are short and concise
The average size of a result to a voice query is 29 words. In fact, the answer often resumes the featured snippet of a google result page, that is the direct response of Google to a query in position 0 (the box that sometimes appears just below a request and above classic results)
For a given question, the content of the page must provide a clear, simple and concise answer to this question. It is also recommended to structure the content in a clear way, with subtitles, bulleted or numbered lists, … The rest of the page must bring a development to the question and be contextualized semantically. It is in fact to apply the method of the inverted pyramid, ie respond immediately to the question posed by a title or an inter-title in a clear way, and develop.
Solution: Identify questions from your audience (how, when, why, ..) and answer them in a short and concise manner (25 to 50 words). Do not neglect to format so that the answer is easily scannable (insert-shots, bulleted lists, ..). Applying the inverted pyramid method is a good method for your SEO editorial strategy and optimizing its positioning for voice search.
Does structured data have an impact on voice search?
Structured schema.org data helps search engines understand the content. Beyond the voice search, it is recommended to insert this semantic markup to benefit in particularly enriched extracts on the pages of results of Google: breadcrumb, notices, events, etc.
But as far as voice search is concerned, the impact seems rather minimal. 36.4% of voice search results pages use schema.org markup against 31.3% overall.
Solution: Insert the structured data globally to improve your SEO and in particular the click rate of your results on Google. But do not expect, for now, a significant impact on the responses to voice requests.
Google trusts the authority of the domain rather than that of the page
Everyone knows that it is important to have a quality netlinking to optimize your SEO. But what about voice search? The study shows that the authority of the domain prevails over that of the page. The authority score of a domain that is positioned on the voice search is 76.8, which is considerable. This is the kind of scores that domains also need to be eligible for Google News.
Conversely, the score of pages that appear for voice results is only 21.1. It means that no matter how many links a page receives, Google will focus primarily on the authority of the domain that is based on the overall netlinking received on the site. In clearer terms, Google needs to have strong confidence in the credibility of the domain that gives an answer to a voice request.
Solution: Choose the quality of incoming links to your domain: trusted domains, the same themes, varied, without over-optimizing links, rather than quantity.
Highly shared content appears more often in voice search
The study shows that pages positioning themselves in voice search have more shares on social networks than average. 1199 shares on Facebook and 44 on Twitter. However, we must see more of a correlation rather than a cause. Social sharing is very unlikely to have a direct impact on voice search or even directly on SEO.
Solution: Viral and shared content on social networks, although not having a direct impact on voice search and referencing, can help globally and indirectly to better position themselves.
Content that is easy to read and understand is better positioned for voice results
The voice search evaluation guide for quality raters indicates the importance of speech. Implicitly, it recommends easy content and words that are not too complicated to express. The study also shows an average readability score of 9 out of 12.
It is difficult to prove an obvious correlation on this point, but it would be quite logical for the voice search algorithm to take into account the readability of a result. After all, the experience between reading a Google result and listening to a result via a voice assistant is very different:
- It must have simple words easy to pronounce by Google
- You must understand information without visual resources
- You are harder to find complicated words
Solution: Publishing simple and easy-to-understand content can help you better position yourself on the results given by voice assistants.
Few voice results contain the exact keyword in the title of the page
This means that it is not useful to create a page for each keyword on which you want to position yourself. Overall SEO, when it comes to the top trainee or average trainee, it is better to have dedicated pages, a topic = a page. But here it is conversational research, long tail, a voice search averages 4.2 words against 3.2 average keywords for computer searches.
The same page can answer several long tail requests, it is also valid for natural referencing in general.
The study shows that only 1.7% of voice search results use the exact keyword in the title of the page. The voice search algorithm is strongly related to RankBrain, ie an artificial intelligence capable of understanding the search intent of Internet users behind keywords composed by a voice request.
Solution: Do not try to write a specific page to answer each voice request. The title does not seem to play a fundamental role in voice search.
Long content ranks better in Google Home results
The transition is done, the pages of voice search results on Google Home come from pages with long content. This is quite logical since a page with a lot of content offers more opportunities to position itself on multiple voice searches. In fact, there is even a type of pages that goes up more often than others, 2.68% of the time, these are the page’s FAQ (pages questions/answers).
Again, that makes sense, FAQ pages have the distinction of being quite long in general, to propose several questions and several short answers, the ideal page for voice assistants so. However, the FAQ pages are rather reserved for very long questions because as soon as a question becomes more competitive, it is better to opt for a dedicated page.
Solution: Choose long content that offers more opportunities to position yourself on multiple voice searches. For fairly long questions (4-5 keywords and more), the FAQ pages tend to be better positioned than the average.
Being in the top 3 positions of computer and mobile helps to find in the vocal results
There is a strong correlation between top positions on computer and mobile and the results sent in voice search. Nothing very surprising, Google places its trust in the best positions of its search engine.
74.9% of results on Google Home come from sources positioned in the top 3 computer results pages.
Solution: We can both optimize its natural SEO and its search results voice, it is correlated.
Appear in position 0 is extremely beneficial for voice search
The direct responses in position 0, also called “featured snippets”, and found at the top just above the traditional results, are strongly related to the results of the voice search. 40.7% of all vocal results come from the featured snippet.
Appearing in the featured snippets guarantees a good chance of appearing in the vocal results as well. And for good reason, the same ingredients are needed, short responses, structured, easy to read, pick up the keywords of the question in the answer. For example, to the question ‘what are the steps for …’, a good method is to present the answer as a numbered list: steps:… / 2nd step: …
Solution: Optimizing your site to appear in Google’s featured snippets will give you a real chance to appear in the results given by Google Home. To do so, you need short, structured answers (inter-headings, list, short and ventilated paragraphs, …), take the elements of the question in the answer.