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Despite Voice Search Growth, Optimization Lags Blog Feature

John Becker

Revenue and Features Editor, Co-host of Content Lab, 15+ Years of Writing and Teaching Experience

September 3rd, 2019 min read

With the popularity of smart speakers and our continued dependence on Siri and Google Assistant, voice search remains a significant (but oft-ignored) aspect of search engine activity. 

We’ve written elsewhere about the growing importance of voice search and the possibility of advertisements sneaking into your conversations with digital assistants (something spoofed brilliantly by The Onion nearly a decade ago). But, according to some studies, as much as half of all searches will be carried out via voice by 2020.

Between 2017 and 2018, the number of smart speakers in the United States increased by 78%.

Such data should make any business stand up and take notice, but many aren’t.

Marketers: video > voice

According to a new study from Mondo, most marketers see video as their top priority. 

Much has been made of video’s dominance in online content, and this is only expected to grow in the near future. However, considering voice search’s prominence, marketers may be missing an opportunity.

In fact, as reported in Search Engine Land, only 10% of digital marketers see voice search as “important to their 2019-2020 marketing efforts,” which seems surprising, given the statistics above. 

Putting effort into being easily found in voice searches should be a key marketing component for any business hoping to found online. 

Optimizing for voice search

Data shows that certain criteria and content can make a site more accessible to voice search, therefore positioning it to rank well.

Simplify, simplify

Voice searches tend to be conversational and simple in nature. 

Think about it; You are more likely to ask your phone for directions to the nearest CVS than for an analysis of global economic trends. Similarly, popular smart speaker searches involve weather, entertainment, or household needs.

Overall, the current state (and frankly the capacity) of voice search is more task- and transaction-oriented — where there is a definitive answer or desired outcome. When it comes to customization or deeper explanation, voice just isn’t there yet.  

Therefore, optimizing for voice search should include a move toward less jargony, esoteric language on your site. Instead, focus your language on the way your potential customers will ask about your product or service, or what they would want information about on-the-go. 

Load speed matters

According to a study published last year by Backlinko, page load speed is a major factor in voice search rankings. 

“The average voice search result page loads in 4.6 seconds (52% faster than the average page).” 

We’ve written elsewhere about the importance of page speed in overall search rank, but it takes on even greater importance in voice search.

When it comes to searching via voice, users could literally be left standing around waiting for an answer. Therefore, the results that load fastest are best. 

Long-forms lead

Data shows that “The average word count of a voice search result page is 2,312 words.” In other words, search engines tend to value longer content when answering voice search. 

Marketers should prepare accordingly.

Featured snippets featured prominently

Over 40% of voice search answers came from the so-called “position zero.” 

Getting into a featured snippet is its own challenge, but once you’re there, there’s a good chance your content will be served to voice searchers as well. Make this a top priority (if it isn't already). 

The future of voice search 

With so many voice searches happening each day, and ever more smart speakers appearing on countertops and bookshelves, businesses should be aware of best practices around voice search optimization and capitalize accordingly to be found. 

Voice search will continue to become more sophisticated and trusted, so making your site accessible is a smart move. Because so many voice searches involve directions or “near me,” local businesses should be especially sure they can be found via voice. What’s more, details like business hours, contact information, and location are critical.

Voice search is only getting more advanced and more widespread. Accordingly, marketers should pay close attention to their site’s readiness.

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