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How to Optimize Your SEO Strategy for Voice Searches

How to Optimize Your SEO Strategy for Voice Searches

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Did you know that one in five searches on a mobile device are voice? And there is little reason to doubt that this number will continue to rise as the months pass.

Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google will be at the forefront of voice search… but will your business?

In this article, we take a look at how to optimize conversational voice searches so that you aren’t left trailing your rivals. The time to adapt to this accelerating trend is now, and here is how.

Long tail is the name of the game

Picture it; you and your friends are eating dinner together when one of you has a fab idea – you should all go to Cancun for a vacation.

As you’re chatting about it, one of you opens up your phone and asks Google for the cheapest Cancun deals while having a sip of wine. Once you’ve got this information, you ask Alexa to book you a hotel:

How fun is this? Very.

Just like you talk to your friends, you can now also talk to your phone. And this is key to mastering voice search: you have to understand how humans talk to each other.

This has taken some of the onus away from keywords for online businesses as they seek to grapple with the rise of voice search. Keywords and algorithms still matter, but so too does natural human language. Ironically, as we enter 2018, it’s less about the rise of robots and more about the rise of humans.

Neil Patel recognized this a while ago when he told us to start thinking like humans again. Instead of focusing on short-tail keywords like “MacBook Pro,” you should start trying to second guess how your customers would frame a question related to your product, niche, or service via long tail keywords.

For example:

Best prices on used MacBook Pro

Long tail keywords have always mattered. They are essentially your best weapon for destroying your rivals. And now that the focus has shifted to voice search, long tail keywords are what will help you put some real distance between you and the competition.

Think of it like this: most voice searches are questions in the form of long tail keywords. This is how humans talk. We don’t coldly mumble “MacBook Pro” to each other. To outdo the competition, you need to pick the right long tail keywords that help you build better traction. To tighten your grip on voice search, you need to look for super-refined keywords, such as our example above and its variations, as per the image below.

The more queries you target related to a specific keyword, the more you can dominate your niche. People – though they’ll look perplexed if you tell them – talk using long tail keywords. It’s how we interact with one another, and it’s how we search the Internet.

Aim to rank on featured snippets

Not all search results include a featured snippet, but of the 1.4 million queries that Google tested, almost 30% do.

Featured snippets are a key part of SEO in general because they appear at the top of SERPs. If you can rank on featured snippets, you’re right in the face of your prospects. Now that voice search is emerging, featured snippets will matter more and more. Why? Because an individual’s mobile device reads out the top search result. If there is a featured snippet, this will be read out.

The key to ranking on featured snippets is answering questions with in-depth answers. Here are some example questions:

What are featured snippets?

 How does blood sugar affect diabetes?

 How do I invest in stocks and shares?

 As we’ve already explained, these are long tail keyword phrases that people are asking into their phones. It’s then up to you to provide answers that explicitly include the conversational keyword phrase, before answering the question with in-depth content that the reader and Google will find valuable. The stronger your content is, the better chance you have of ranking on featured snippets.

To improve your chances of ranking, include the long tail keyword query at the start of the article, as well as in the URL and title.

Go longer with titles and descriptions

Things are getting longer on Google in a move that seems almost designed to anticipate the rise of voice search. What do I mean? I’m referring to Google increasing the width of search results.

In the past, title lengths were cut at 60, while description length per line was cut at around 80. Now, you can go long, with 70 characters for your title before Google truncates it with an ellipse and 100 characters per line for your description.

This all means that you can now employ natural long tail keywords in both your title tags and meta descriptions without worrying as much about being cut off with an ellipse. Since individuals who use voice search tend to ask questions, including queries in your title tags and answers in your meta descriptions can help you get more site visitors.

Moz are taking advantage of longer meta descriptions

Focus on local search results

89% of smartphone users search for a local business at least once a week. When we are in need of a local service, such as a plumber, we can open our phones and ask Google to recommend the best local plumbers. Google returns the results, we make a choice, and arrange an appointment. It’s that easy for customers. But are you making it easy for them to find your business?

Optimize your conversational voice searches by focusing on possible local queries your customers might have. Here are some examples:

Artisan food market in Munich

 Handmade vintage goods in London

 Best-rated pizza restaurant in Toronto

The language needs to be natural, and it should relate to your local area while also matching – as closely as possible – your customers’ queries. Just remember to use phrases and words like the ones you yourself would use.

Of course, it isn’t always possible to anticipate exactly what your customers are asking via their device, which is why a Q&A section is well worth adding to your site. There, you can add a number of long tail keyword voice search queries while providing your customer with relevant, valuable answers. By doing this, you’re improving the odds of you hitting the bullseye with a long tail query used by your customers, and you’re also expanding your semantic core.

Understand user intent

This is important because Google looks for the intent behind a person’s search queries. If you understand why a user is asking the questions they’re asking, you can build related content of such high quality that Google will eventually recognize you as an authority and rank you highly. Maybe you aren’t spot-on with a keyword phrase, but if your content is related and valuable, your site flourishes.

How does this relate to voice search? If you understand conversational voice searches, you can understand more about who is behind a search, as well as why they’re searching.

For example, if I ask Google to “show me the best Black Friday deals on computers near me,” it says a lot about my intent. It says that I’m ready to make a purchase, but that I also want informational content that compares deals.

The more you know about conversational voice searches and user intent, the more you can create great content that is both keyword rich and offers enough value to the reader so that it satisfies Google. To understand more about user intent, check the related searches at the bottom of search results for a specific query. These give you an insight into the individual behind a search, including what they are really looking for.

Google loves the user more than anyone else and cares massively about matching them up with quality content. SEO matters, but understanding the user is more important.

Set up a Google my business account

A handy tip is to use the phrase “near me” in your content. Why? Because this is exactly what individuals say when they ask Google or Alexa or Siri for local business results. Example:

“What is the best BMW dealership near me?”

If your company is on Google My Business, it could show up at the top of “near me” queries

Of course, many businesses will be using the conversational phrase “near me” in their content. So how will users find your page? A person’s mobile device looks at where said person is actually located and pulls up the nearest BMW dealership to their physical location, provided the dealership is listed in Google My Business.

Submit your site to Google My Business; it doesn’t take long at all. There are other online directories you might want to consider too, including Bing Places For Business. Pick a super specific category, and this will boost your chances of showing up when someone voice searches for your niche.

The future and why it’s important

Google is changing more than ever, and the search engine giant is moving away from Search as it seeks to make it easier for Internet users to find the information they want.

A few factors have instigated the change, one of which is the fact that Facebook now enjoys a massive influence over Internet traffic. As such, Google has had to adapt, and conventional ways of directing traffic and gathering data are being replaced. Search traffic is not the king it once was.

Moreover, Search can frustrate the user. At the moment, there is a long and often bumpy road between a user making a search and finding the right information. Between search queries and the end path are the results, and while Google’s I’m feeling lucky button was meant to cut out this middleman, it didn’t work out.

Instead, Google has now set its websites on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The use of AI – of which voice search will play a key role – will shortcut a user’s path from query to information so that there is only one step – the get-info step. As such, users will be able to avoid the Web altogether.

Combined with the fact that more and more sales are being carried out on mobile devices, it’s clear that voice search is going to play an increasingly dominant role in how the Internet is shaped in the coming months and years. This means it’s time that you got on board, and we hope this article has helped. Feel free to discuss in the comment box!

Guest Author: Aljaz Fajmut is an internet entrepreneur and founder of Nightwatch — a search visibility tool of the next generation. Follow him on Twitter: @aljazfajmut

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