What you need to know about Voice Search in 2019 to win SEO
So what’s the deal with voice search?
Voice search has been on everybody’s radar for years. Not only is it not going away, more and more devices pop up every year that essentially offer a better platform for voice search and voice command. Amazon’s Alexa. Google Home. Apple HomePod. Facebook’s still-creepy Portal. People want this technology. And when it comes to search algorithms, the one thing you can count on Google to do is to give the people more of what they want — faster.
So if people are using voice to search, whether it’s actually 30% or not, you need to consider how it will impact your SEO rankings and content strategy.
How will voice search affect your SEO ranking?
The good news is: A lot of the things you need to do to optimize for voice search are similar to established SEO best practices. Here are 5 ways to optimize your content for voice search:
1. Think mobile-first.
Google is now indexing the mobile version of your site before the desktop version. So for all things SEO, you need to be in a mobile-first mindset. Because voice search happens on mobile devices, your mobile page speed, size, and functionality will be weighed heavily in rankings.
2. Make sure your website is mobile responsive.
Mobile responsive means that everything on your website scales correctly for smaller screens. Buttons and links need to be big enough to tap easily on a phone. So if your grandma can’t find and tap the button, try again.
3. Make sure your website loads quickly on mobile devices.
Quickly means 3 seconds or less. Preferably less. According to Google, as loading time increases from 1 to 10 seconds, the probability of bounced traffic increases by 123%.
A bounce is when a visitor exits your page without interacting with it — or even waiting for it to finish loading. Because Google’s goal is to deliver the best customer experience, faster websites will be displayed first in search results. So make it fast!
How can you speed up your website?
First, find out what you’re working with. Use a tool like GTmetrix to check your site’s speed. We like GTmetrix because they pull data from both PageSpeed and YSlow to give you a comprehensive view of potential speed issues on your website.
Optimize images for web. Pictures on your site need to be clear (not pixellated), but the files need to be as small as possible. Try to use new file types with lossless compression whenever possible. If you want to learn how to do this correctly yourself, visual branding expert Mariah Althoff has a free checklist to make sure your graphics are never blurry.
You can also use ImageOptim if you’re a cheater like me. It’s a free tool that automatically optimizes images on your computer to be used on the web. ImageOptim works by removing unnecessary metadata and compressing images without losing quality. Really important note: ImageOptim DOES save over the original file. So if you have a high resolution image or graphic that you’d like to keep high res for another use (like printing), then make a copy of it before running it through the program.
Reduce your server’s response time as much as possible. This might sound like something you can’t control, but you actually can. You’re not stuck with GoDaddy just because that’s where you started. You can change your hosting at any time, and it’s pretty simple to do.
We recommend DreamPress for hosting WordPress websites*. DreamPress gives you WordPress for Business (typically $300/year) and automatically handles gzip compression for secure websites. Basically, that means it allows you full functionality of WordPress and helps your website be super fast. And at $20/month (or $16/month if you pay annually), it’s super affordable.
4. Use short sentences.
Search algorithms already reward easy-to-read content. Short, active sentences are easy to read. So avoid using the passive voice whenever possible.
Active voice: I did this thing.
Passive voice: This thing happened to me.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure no more than 10% of your sentences use passive voice. If you have a WordPress website and aren’t using the Yoast plugin, stop reading now. Go install Yoast. It will actually highlight all the passive sentences on your page or post. Then you can rework them to be easier to read.
While sentences should be short, keep in mind that long-form content still performs better in search results. So your word-count goal should be a minimum of 600 words and (depending on the keyword you’re trying to rank for*) up to 2500 words.
Protip: Read your content out loud as you go. Do you have a to take a breath mid-sentence? It’s too long. Does it look good on paper but sound awkward out loud? Then you’re not writing the way you would talk. Rephrase any awkward sentences the way you would explain the same thing to a friend.
5. Emphasize local services.
One of the big takeaways from the KPCB 2016 Internet Trends was that 22% of voice searches were for local information like restaurants, shopping, local businesses, events, traffic, and weather.
So if you sell products or services in a specific location, be sure you’re focused on Local SEO in addition to optimizing for traditional search and voice search. One of the easiest ways to do that is to claim and optimize your company’s Google My Business listing.
What’s new about SEO for voice search?
The biggest change in the way experts approach SEO in regards to voice search will be to move away from the keyword-only approach. On a mobile device or desktop, people tend to search very short, specific phrases like “plumber near me” or “plumber in Bentonville, AR.”
So as a plumber, you can optimize a page for that specific phrase and do very well in Local Search.
However, voice searches tend to be more conversational. So instead of asking a search engine for the solution (plumber), many searches will instead ask something like, “Why does my hot water taste like metal?” The SEO-savvy plumber could write an article answering just this question.
Remember, the goal of content marketing is to provide valuable information that solves problems for your potential customers. Create and share relevant content, and your business will be easy to find when your customer needs you.
*This is an affiliate link. I may receive a small commission if you click this link and then make a purchase. I only share affiliate links to services that I actually love and use for my own business.