OK Google, what exactly is Voice Search?

Before the end of this year, half of all mobile search queries are expected to come from voice searches. And the trend is rising. Many companies are upgrading, want to continue to be found. Always in view: The Voice Search Readiness Score. We explain exactly what «Voice Search» means, which SEO aspects should be considered and point out difficulties in connection with voice search.

What is Voice Search?

Voice Search is the term used to describe all search queries that are made by voice and not by keyboard. However, they differ from voice instructions à la «Alexa, add dog food to the shopping list». The searches and instructions are recorded and processed by the voice assistants. Almost every large technology company now has its own assistant or smart device. For example the Google Assistant, Siri, the sexy voice of Apple, Cortana from Windows or even Amazon's Alexa.

The biggest differences between «normal» search queries and Voice Search from an SEO point of view can probably be divided into the following two points.

  • While users usually use short and keyword-like keywords via the keyboard (example: «insurance flight ticket»), the keywords via voice search are more colloquial and much longer («Can I insure my flight ticket against airline insolvency?»).
  • Voice Search users often only hope for a precise answer to a specific question. The conventional search, on the other hand, often aims for a more elaborate search.
© giphy.com

And why is that important now?

Various studies show: Voice search has not been a feature exclusively used by nerds for some time. A study by PWC predicts that by 2020 more than half of all mobile search queries will be attributable to voice searches. Although technology is currently developing faster than user behaviour, user behaviour will change. Conversely: Those who don't deal with the topic now and are among the «early adopters» may soon no longer be found.

© giphy.com

The Voice Search Readiness Score

So, are you ready for Voice Search? Then why not check your website and see if it is ready too? A good indication of this is the Voice Search Readiness Score. You can test it with different providers - but we recommend the tool from Synup, which uses the Google Assistant. The score usually examines the business information stored in various directories, such as address, opening hours and telephone number. Voice Search is especially important for local companies. Not least because the voice search is often used on the road and is intended to answer questions such as «Where is the nearest gas station?» or «How long is the garden centre open»?

SEO for Voice Search

  • First of all: SEO for Voice Search requires a good SEO! In order for the voice assistant to select your website as an answer source, it must be top optimized. Voice Search cannot be viewed in isolation from the other search engine optimizations. After all, the search engine must understand what your site contains. This means: Your page needs a clear page structure as well as a title, meta description, H1 and H2 tags and all other components that are also important for «normal» SEO.
  • Most search queries via language wizards have a local reference, so local SEO is immensely important. Many users search for a bakery «near me» or the opening hours of shops on the road. Therefore, when optimizing for Voice Search, you should never forget your Google My Business entry and check the information it contains. Also use the local reference in title, meta description and H1 and H2 tags on your website. Be sure to mention your location here.
  • If the user gets the result read aloud, this means that the language wizard has probably selected a featured snippet as the response. Featured snippets appear in Google above the search results, i.e. at position 0, meaning that the user is not shown several results, but the best one is read out. Therefore, you should not inadvertently switch them off via the meta tag «Nosnippet».
  • On the contrary: You should highlight certain text snippets of your website by a corresponding markup in the source code of the page (so-called structured data) for certain types of snippets (such as products, recipes or ratings). On the one hand, this increases the relevance for the user (a plus for the click rate) and on the other hand, the information contained in the snippets can be read out easily. Although there are already markups for voice search – the so-called Speakable Markup – this is still in beta and is only used for news publishers in the United States.
  • Create content that has an advisory character and reflects a topic as holistically as possible. With Voice Search, the density of a keyword is less important than the readability and use of mid- and long-tail keywords.
  • Use questions in the H2 tags and resolve them directly in the following text. Surely not every page of your site should become a FAQ page – on the other hand, it's not wrong to create one for specific focus topics. The most important questions about your keyword are best researched using Google Suggest and W-question tools.
  • Since most search queries come from mobile devices, you should optimize your website for mobile use. At this point Google offers helpful tools to test the mobile friendliness or the mobile loading speed.

Difficulties with the language search

Let us now turn to the less pleasant aspects of language search. Firstly, the measurement of voice search traffic is currently still a complex issue. Because although the traffic should actually come from organic search, in Google Analytics it falls under «direct traffic» and is therefore, strictly speaking, dark traffic.

But not only the measurement is difficult. A side effect is the so-called «zero click searches», which lead to a decrease of the own website traffic. Because: If a speech assistant finds a (his opinion) perfect answer, the speech assistant reads the appropriate answer to the user's question and the user no longer has to click on the corresponding website. This results in so-called zero-click searches and the traffic on the website drops.

According to current studies (2019, Spark Toro/Rand Fishkin), zero click searches account for around 50% of search traffic, and the trend is rising. For website operators these are of course annoying at first. This is because they miss important website traffic.

A small consolation for all those who are annoyed by the declining traffic caused by voice searches: If Google actually selects an excerpt of your site for THE one answer, you are guaranteed attention and credibility. Especially for brands or institutions that are not yet known, this can be a great benefit.

About the author

Anne works as a Digital Marketing Consultant for Amazee Metrics and supports customers in the DACH area with regard to SEO, SEA and content. Before that she worked for many years as an editor for a large German news publisher and has already put the interaction of SEO and content marketing into practice.

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