Remember back in 2011 when Siri was launched on the iPhone 4S and everyone went voice search mad, asking Siri the most out there questions to see if she could find the answer? It was the first mainstream voice enabled assistant, surrounded by tonnes of hype. Hype that expired pretty quickly though when people realised that Siri just wasn’t that great at understanding them.

Since 2011, the technology surrounding voice enabled assistants and devices has grown tremendously. Huge players like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Apple control the market, with people using voice search across a range of devices.

Just how popular is voice search?

Over 20% of searches on Google are currently done by voice search, with ComScore predicting that 50% of all searches online will be done by voice by 2020.

While mobile was once the most popular device for voice search, it has conceded some ground to smart speaker voice search, thanks to the increased adoption of devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Smart Speakers are used for voice search on average 2.2 times per day, with Smartphones being used on average 0.33 times a day for voice search. Surprisingly, 25% of all Windows 10 desktop searches are done via search.

Voice search is arguably the fastest growing search trend today. It is way more convenient than text based search, as well as being much faster. By 2021, 8 billion devices worldwide will have digital assistants built in – these will all be capable of voice search.

Driven by the increasing number of voice enabled devices such as smartphones and smart speakers, it's quickly becoming acceptable to be seen asking your phone or speaker a question rather than reaching for your phone or computer, with 57% of teenagers willing and comfortable to use voice search in the company of others. Compared to just 24% of adults, this highlights a difference in adoption levels that currently exists between so called digital natives and digital immigrants.

Your website needs to be ready for the expected growth of voice search – here are a few tips to help you get your site to Position V – the number one voice search result.

How to optimise your site for Voice Search

1. Speed

While this may be an obvious one, page loading speed is extremely important in order to rank highly for voice search results. Site speed has been a ranking factor on desktop for Google since 2010, and on mobile since July of this year.

One of the main drivers behind why people search with their voice rather than typing into their phones or desktop is because voice is faster. 3.7x faster, actually. The loading speed of a voice search result is 3.8x faster than your average website.

The overall load time for Voice Search result pages is 4.6 seconds, compared to 8.8 seconds for the average website. This highlights the need for speedy loading times in order to rank highly for voice search results.

2. Understand that Voice changes the way that people search

The way that we talk to our phones or our smart speakers is pretty different to how we type into a search bar. 65% of all voice queries are made in a conversational manner, which obviously has an effect on which keywords will draw users to your site.

Text that matches the voice search query does not tend to be shown in the title tag as would be the case with a traditional desktop/mobile search, but can be located in the body of a page. This suggests that Google may be de-emphasising the importance of a title tag for voice search. The fact that voice searches are 6 to 7 times longer than text based searches also makes it less likely that the exact phrase searched is going to appear in the title tag.

The average voice search result is written at a 15 year olds reading level. This means that having simple, easy to read content with little jargon and industry slang can help with voice search SEO. Google wants to be able to show a single, concise and effective answer where it can. Simple words & short sentences are easier for the AI to understand & translate into search results.

Answer the Public is a really handy tool that helps you to identify the questions that people may ask in relation to your keyword.

Here are the results I got for the keyword “sandwich”. These results allow you to identify and interpret the individuals intent, and tie this back into your marketing funnel.

3. Establish your authority & credibility

As we all know, Google favours certain sites over others. One of these preferences that is really important in order to rank highly for voice search is having a site that is secured and certified.

Domain authority is extremely important to SEO in general, but is crucial in terms of voice search. Google needs to be 100% confident in the search result that is read aloud to the user because it is presented as the definitive answer. As they need to

know that they are giving the user information from a trusted source, Google will lean on and trust domain authority over page authority in Voice Search results.

You can gain additional credibility with Google by generating positive reviews & mentions from trusted sources. Social Mention is a really useful tool for identifying sentiment towards your site online.

4. Utilise local searches

Mobile voice-related searches are 3x more likely to be local-based than text searches. 46% of voice search users look for a local business via voice search on a daily basis, with 58% of them having used voice search to find local business information in the last 12 months. 28% of consumers call the business after making a local business search, showing the potential that voice search could have for conversions in your business.

Using structured data or Schema markup can give you an edge over your competitors online. Schema markup can be leveraged to clearly show your important local business information to Google. Google needs a detailed understanding of what your page is about, which is aided by structured data explaining to search engines all of the different topics and associations on your page.

Local business markup includes identifying your business name, contact info, address etc. so Google knows what information to include in these searches. This, alongside a well optimised and up to date My Business listing will ensure that you rank highly for “near me” and “open now” type searches.

While many people are still uncomfortable with asking their phone or device questions in the company of others, there is no doubt that voice search is going to grow a huge amount in the next few years, as this level of comfort improves. Taking these steps now to ensure that your site is optimised for search will undoubtedly have a positive effect on your rankings going forward and assist you in reaching Position V.

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