How to Optimize your Marketing Strategy for Voice Search in 2021

Voice search is no longer the curious novelty it once was when Google floated the technology back in 2011. As consumers increase their reliance upon virtual personal assistants like Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant, and devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, the adoption of voice search for shopping is only set to grow. Speech recognition technology is at the point where millions of people are vocalizing untold numbers of searches every day. Voice search SEO is your toolkit to capture that traffic.

Looking to join the voice marketing party? We’ve broken down everything you need to know to get your business talking with new customers.

What’s voice search marketing?

As the name suggests, voice search uses speech recognition technology to let users process enquiries by speaking into their devices. Right now, these devices are typically either phones or in-home personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa. The not-too-distant future will see voice search become commonplace across smart homes, vehicles, wearables, and the entire internet of things.

Voice search marketing is the practice of taking a fresh look at your digital content and making sure it’s adapting to these changing search habits. Because the differences between voice and typed search are huge.

Voice search vs traditional search

How is a voice search different from typed search? Well, imagine you were looking for somewhere to grab lunch nearby. Traditionally, you’d type something like, ‘women’s dress’ into Google and refine your search from there.

Using voice, you’d say something like, ‘where can I get a nice dress for British summer weather?’ See the difference? Simply because it’s easier and more natural to talk than it is to type, spoken searches are typically more concerned with:

  • Location
  • Immediacy
  • Specific details
  • Context

Traditional typed search will always be good for careful research. But for capturing qualified search traffic in the moment and driving it to your business, you want to be getting into voice SEO.

Why’s voice search SEO so important?

Voice search marketing is only going to get more important as the technology powering it advances. More than half of adults have used voice search already, over a third use it every month. In 2018, only a quarter used it monthly so the trend is clear.

Optimizing your web presence to cater to voice search unlocks a huge, growing audience. It represents a big advantage over the competition who haven’t yet gotten with the program; the facts show voice search is an inevitable next step for digital marketing.

Who’s using voice search in 2021?

Research from Salesforce gives us some insight into the adoption of the voice search across different demographics. When asked if they use voice-activated personal assistants like Siri or Alexa to communicate with companies, and whether they prefer it to traditional channels:

  • 39% of older generations and Boomers use them,
  • 10% prefer them, 50% of Gen X use them,
  • 18% prefer them, 67% of Millennials and
  • Gen Z use them, 35% prefer them

That’s a big uptake in only a handful of years, and the technology is being well received. 39% of older people and Boomers either ‘like’ or ‘love’ these voice-activated personal assistants. That stat is 49% for Gen X and a whopping 74% for Millennials and Gen Z.

What are the top voice marketing search engines?

Today, most smart devices have the capacity to carry out voice searches. The manufacturer of each device will dictate which search engine it uses:

  • Google powers Google Home, Google Assistant, and all Android devices,
  • Bing gets used by Amazon Echo, Alexa, and Microsoft Cortana,
  • Safari is used by Siri on the iPhone

That’s a huge number of devices supporting voice search in homes for the first time. It’s fair to say the golden age of voice marketing and voice SEO is right now.

How to optimize your site for voice search SEO: 7 keytips

Good news! Preparing your digital presence for voice SEO isn’t going to require any major overhauls to your marketing strategy. If you’ve already been focusing on best practices in a tone of voice and user experience, you’re already well on your way.

Here are six fast ways you can give your site the edge in voice search and leapfrog the competition.

1. Start thinking local

“Near me” and other location-based questions typically deliver a read-out of local business listings (which is probably why 50% of local mobile searches lead to a store visit in a day). Weave local phrases, place names, even slang into your copy. Make sure you’re naming the nearby landmarks and shouting out big neighbourhood events at the right times. If it’s within a comfortable five-minute walk of your business, find a way to naturally include that keyword into your text and metadata.

There’s a good reason to be doing this. According to Social Media Today, 86% of people rely on search to find nearby products and services. 29% search for local business at least once per week. Voice searchers in particular are three times as likely to be looking for local info than text searchers. To take advantage of this local intent, you need to get your keywords right. You can gain a lot more business by carefully incorporating the following keywords into your SEO strategy:

  • Phrases people use to describe the neighbourhood around your store location.
  • “Near me” in your title tags, meta description, internal links, and anchor text.
  • Landmarks around your business location.
  • Titles of local institutions that are relevant to your business.

2. Understand your users’ intent

Think back to when you last conducted a voice search on your home voice assistant or mobile device. Chances are you asked for a very specific piece of information like the location or opening hours of a retailer, the price of a specific product, or the current time in a particular city. As such, you must bear user intent in mind when structuring your site and your content. 

Voice search SEO shifts the focus towards context and intent. Longer-tail keywords are becoming far more important in qualifying traffic. Look over your content and see if you can add some extra clarity to some of your most commonly searched-for phrases.

Most voice searches are going to be spoken naturally, not in the searcher’s formal telephone voice. It’s important to find ways to match the tone of your copy to the way people are looking for it. Stick to a concise word count if possible; the aim is to give people quick, enjoyable answers so they can immediately take action. 

Ensure that important information like your phone number, street address, and opening hours (if applicable) is readily available on your site should be your first step. And be sure this crucial information isn’t hidden in images – make sure it’s available as HTML. Google can and does parse image content to provide search results but forcing it to do so will almost certainly harm your visibility.

3. Target long-tail keywords

When we use a computer, we use short phrases to find information because it saves physical typing effort. When searching using a voice assistant, our searches are a conversation with a virtual assistant. 

By targeting long-tail and more conversational keywords and phrases and answering questions your prospective customers are likely to have, you stand a much better chance of ranking for these queries and appearing prominently in voice search results.

4. Structured data is your friend

Effective voice marketing is a context game. Using Schema markup, you can help Google identify what your content is all about. You can add hidden supporting data on your site as a whole, individual pages, and specific segments of each page.

This is great for voice search SEO because it helps spot the best answers to those longer-tail specific questions people are asking. Opening hours, directions to your business, contact details; competing for snippet space can help drive traffic in the right direction.

5. Get involved with Google My Business

Speaking of key business info, claiming your (free) Google My Business listing gives you an added boost to voice search SEO. It lets you list all those little facts which Google really appreciates knowing, based on common queries from voice searchers.

Even if you happen to already clearly list all that info on your site, a business with a Google My Business listing is still likely to outperform one without. Google likes Google, and it’s always likely to view its own data as more reliable than that of a third-party website. The good news is that Google My Business is incredibly easy to use and maintain.

6. Go mobile first

27% of the world’s online population uses voice search on their mobile devices. Two-thirds of those fall into the key 16-34 age bracket. That’s your sign to optimize your site for mobile if it isn’t already.

There’s not only the pull factor of more relevant, qualified traffic to consider. Failing to provide a strong mobile experience can harm your site’s standing for all kinds of queries. If people visit you from voice search, then immediately leave because the site doesn’t work, Google could slap you with a penalty.

7. Tell people what they need to know

That conversational, Q&A nature of voice search marketing lends itself particularly well to FAQ content. Taking all your local knowledge, create well-structured, concise pages which address the most common queries about your business and the nearby area.

If you type a well-known question into Google, the ‘people also ask’ box can give you some ideas for what else people are asking. Combined with the other tips in this segment; structured data, mobile-friendliness, and an engaging tone, this is a good way to make your site seriously competitive in voice search.

Final thoughts

In many respects, voice SEO is a natural evolution of what content experts have been preaching for years. Creating experiences that users value and enjoy can net you big business results and heaps of goodwill.

Now more than ever, you don’t need to be a technical SEO expert to make gains with voice search. Focus on human needs, not algorithms, and you’re laying a strong foundation for a user-centric strategy.

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