Searching for goods and services online once meant using a desktop computer and reviewing a directory style list that was the same for everyone. Making your website to appear in that list was the art of using “keywords” and “meta tags.”
Several revolutions have happened since. Today, Google is no longer playing a game of “match the keywords.” While search may look much the same to you online (there’s comfort in familiarity), behind the scenes Google is now a highly developed artificial intelligence (the Multitasking Unified Model), and it is capable of reading content the way a human does— with understanding.
And while it may look much the same, those Google search results are different too. The answers to every search have been selected just for you. Google knows where you are, what you’ve searched for before, along with facts (or good guesses) about your age, gender, income, and career path. You can see this on the simplest level just by searching for “pizza.” Those search results are all pizza places right nearby you, aren’t they?
Desktops are being outmoded too. In 2019, 63% of Google searches were from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, a number that continues to grow. Important to our topic here, those mobile devices, along with voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, Bixby, and others are the next big thing.
It’s easy. On a Samsung, Android phone, for example, you can use the Bixby app by saying “Hi Bixby. Restaurants near me?” to receive both result listings and map displays that will help you find lunch in a hurry.
A number of in-home smart devices, like Amazon’s Echo, use Alexa, which can be used to control other smart devices or answer your queries by connecting you with various services, like SiriusXM satellite radio, and smart devices like Philips Hue smart lights.
When answering a question, Alexa both provides a vocal response and can deliver a detailed list to the Alexa app on your smartphone.
A key thing to remember is that, when setting up these devices, the user makes choices about what default browser to use, what news and weather services are preferred, and more. So, you see, everything about modern device use and voice search is being personalized for the user.
There is no objective “directory list” for your business website to appear on, let alone reach the top of! In this environment, how do you prepare your business or agency website for the new world of personalized search and voice search?
In a world of highly personalized search results and AI voice responses, why would your products or services come up as an answer to anyone’s query. Another way of saying this is: how do you optimize your website for voice search?
You might think it has to do with special coding, secret keywords, or some high-end, back-end, magic button technique that only the most “in the know” web developers can master. But we gave the real clue at the top of this article when we said, “Google is now a highly developed artificial intelligence, capable of reading content the way a human does— with understanding.”
That means the key to success in any search is largely built on creating useful, informative content that Google finds of value in answering those very personal and individual searches. There are some technical aspects too, but they’re not so much magic as designed to make your well-considered and useful content easily accessible to the search engines. Let’s take a look at both.
We’ll start by considering content, the words on the page. This is because unless the words on the page are properly optimized, then the technical optimization won’t matter. Coding and web structure play a supporting role, in support of content— a critical idea to get behind in optimizing any website for voice.
Questions and Answers: Most voice searches are in the form of questions. “How do I get a permit for my swimming pool?” or “What’s the best hotel in Pittsburgh?” Actually, putting your most frequent questions on the page is a good strategy. After that, content needs to answer those questions in a concise and reader-friendly manner.
Conversational and Easy to Read: Content must be well-written on an 8th to 9th grade level. This is to help make the content easier for an automated voice attendant to read and for the listener to understand in a busy environment.
Local: Most voice searches are going to be for local goods and services. “Where is the Social Security Office?” “I need a plumber.” Content that identifies itself through local references and service areas becomes more useful to voice search.
Featured Snippets are boxes that appear (at the top or to the right of the standard results) in response to Google searches. Questions like “What is the range of a Tesla Model Y?” or “What is the weight of an African Elephant?” often bring up featured snippets. Snippets relate to voice search in that they often contain concise and useful information for a voice response to your query.
While you can’t “make” your content show up in a snippet, you can optimize content to attract Google’s consideration for snippets. The three ways to accomplish this are:
How do you make sure your well-considered, useful, and informative content stands out to the search engines? There are technical measures to take that help Google rank your answers above the next company answering the same questions.
Mobile Friendly: Today, Google gives preference to mobile friendly websites, and evaluates the mobility of a website first, ranking desktop features second. So, start with a mobile design, because it will get favorable attention to start.
Secure: Google also wants a more secure internet, with all websites using certificates with https:// security. Not being properly secured can get your website a pass on search.
Page Load Speed: Google wants fast web response, and the algorithm gives priority attention to fast loading websites. This is essential to voice search, as the website chosen for a response can’t be slow in delivering its content to the automated reader. The two key factors for a fast-loading page are selecting a fast hosting service (including where appropriate a content delivery network) and minimized images that can load quickly.
Page Experience: In 2021, with their Page Experience Update, the algorithm is looking for pages where 3rd party call-ins, like ads, maps, videos, pop-ups and the like are well-considered and minimized. (It’s not that Google doesn’t like a good video, it does— but we’ve all landed on those pages where so much is going on and jumping around that you can barely find the answer to your question. That’s where Google draws the line.)
Remember, Voice search is not a fad or restricted to a younger demographic.
According to The Ultimate List of Voice Search Statistics, one third of the US population currently uses voice search features for some searches. 71% of consumers prefer to make search queries by voice, and three quarters of all US households will won at least one smart speaker this year.
Voice search is growing and will continue to expand in use, and everything you do now to optimize for voice search also helps your regular Search Optimization (SEO), so what do you have to lose?
At Chroma Studios, we’ve been building websites for over 20 years, and we back them up with digital marketing, cloud-based business management software, content development, hosting, email, and more.
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