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Have you ever asked Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, or any other voice-controlled system a question? It’s a fast and convenient way to receive information if your hands are busy or you don’t want to spend time typing out your question in a search bar. Whether you’ve asked for information from a smartphone, smart speaker, or one of the thousands of system-compatible devices, you have initiated a voice search.

Since the release of Apple’s Siri in 2011, voice searches have become increasingly prevalent and have reshaped how many find information online. As a result, algorithms are constantly improving to better understand search intent. In the past, search engines’ algorithms would have to rely on detected keywords in the question to understand the searcher’s intent and respond with relevant information. Today, algorithms – especially Google’s – can decipher the nuance of a conversational query and provide results that have even more relevancy to the question asked.

How Do Voice-Controlled Systems Work?

Voice-controlled systems all activate with a trigger, or wake word, like:

  • “Alexa”
  • “Hey, Google” or “OK, Google”
  • “Siri”

After activation, users will ask their questions, which can include anything, such as:

  • What’s the name of that movie that stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling?
  • How do I cook a baked potato in the microwave?
  • What is the weather like today?

Relying on search engine databases – Google for Siri and Google Assistant; Bing for Alexa – and Apple (Siri), Google (Google Assistant), and Amazon (Alexa) servers, these virtual assistants can scan the internet to present relevant information and satisfy your query.

How Are Voice Searches and Text Searches Different?

When we initiate a voice search, what we say to find information usually comes across differently from how we would write the question into a search bar.

Written Searches

Taking the three question examples above, most would type out their searches with some variation of the following:

  • “Margot Robbie Ryan Gosling movie”
  • “baked potato microwave”
  • “[location] weather”

By and large, typed searches tend only to include keywords or a string of keywords to save time and effort. Even when using the voice-to-text feature in the search bar, users will often chop up the sentence and only say the essential phrases like “Margot Robbie Ryan Gosling movie” before tapping the “go” or “search” button.

Voice Searches

Woman sitting on a chair and talking to a speech recognition device, Amazon Alexa with sunlight background

When we bypass the search bar and ask a virtual assistant to provide the answer, we are far more likely to ask full-sentence questions as if we were talking to another person. Unless they were a toddler, it’s unlikely that someone would ask another person, “Ice cream near me?” What we’d probably say instead is, “Where can I get some ice cream close by?” Just like we do with other people, we typically use natural voice and language when interacting with virtual assistants.

Part of our full-sentence questions have to do with wanting the assistant to understand us correctly the first time – remember when we used to have to ee-nun-see-ate eh-ver-ee sill-uh-bull to be understood, only to hear the robotic response, “I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that,” for the fifth time? Even a light regional accent would cause major communication failure with a voice-controlled system. Now, technology has advanced to where accents aren’t as much of an issue (although thicker accents still can be), but ambiguous questions can still get in the way of our pursuit of information.

Boiling questions down to keywords or phrases can lead to too much ambiguity and force the system to answer your question incorrectly. If you ask, “Hey, Siri. Baked potato?” she may respond with a recipe for a baked potato in the microwave, oven, air fryer, grill, or any other cooking appliance. She may even respond with information about what a potato is, its nutritional properties, and harvesting facts. But, if you ask, “Hey, Siri. How do I bake a potato in the microwave?” you’ll likely receive the answer you want.

How Should I Optimize My Website for Voice Searches?

So, what does all this mean for your business? To capture the attention of these more advanced algorithms and reach customers performing voice searches relevant to your business, you need to audit your web content and discover where you can strategize and rework your content for voice searches. Algorithms rely on the content you display on your web pages, meaning your content should work in your favor to improve your rankings and become the algorithms’ source of choice in relevant and related queries.

Here are some strategies and tactics you can apply to boost your content and optimize your site for voice searches:

1. Keyword Research

Whether it’s typed into a search bar or asked out loud to a smart device, every search engine algorithm relies on the keywords within the query to understand the intent and produce the most relevant results or information. In voice searches, the algorithms lean on long-tail keywords, question keywords, and conversational keywords in available online content to help match results to the question asked.

Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are more specific variations of a particular keyword. For example, let’s say you want to know something about lions. While your keyword is “lion,” your long-tail keyword could be:

  • Speed of a lion
  • Weight of a lion
  • Where to see a lion in the wild
  • What lions eat

Question Keywords

As the name suggests, question keywords take a specific keyword – let’s use the lion example again – and form questions related to it:

  • What is the speed of a lion? (Or how fast can a lion run?)
  • What is the weight of a lion? (Or how much does a lion weigh?)
  • Where can I see a lion in the wild? (Or where would I find a lion’s natural habitat?)
  • What do lions eat? (Or which animals do lions prey on?)

There are several ways to ask a question, so keyword research will reveal which variation of the question people are more likely to ask.

Conversational Keywords

Conversational keywords often resemble question keywords and mimic how we naturally talk to another person. The lion questions above are both question and conversational keywords, but let’s look at a different keyword to see how those two keyword types can vary:

  • Keyword – jump-start
  • Long-tail keyword – jump-start a car
  • Question keyword – how to jump-start a car
  • Conversational keyword – how do I jump-start my car?

Long-tail, question, and conversational keywords are each different, but they usually include elements of each other and overlap. Finding the right one to go with when boosting your content’s voice search optimization demands keyword research.

2. Create Conversational Content

If you conduct keyword research, it’s essential to revise your content to include your findings. And all other language in your content must be as conversational as possible. Voice search optimization is all about sounding as natural as you can, creating authenticity, and crafting a reading experience that is easy to absorb.

In other words, keep it casual. But, don’t confuse casual content for low-quality content. A natural, conversational tone should still have quality and value to it. This applies to your web pages, blog articles, landing pages, and anywhere else you might have long-form content online.

Choices to make when writing your conversational content:

  • Use “I” language – I, me, you, we pronouns
  • Use simple language that is clear and direct
  • Use contractions, slang, and colloquialisms in moderation
  • Keep sentences and paragraph lengths short
  • Incorporate questions and answers into your content
  • Use active voice rather than passive voice

Choices to avoid when writing your conversational content:

  • Don’t use complicated words or words that the average person does not use in everyday conversation
  • Don’t use jargon, whether it’s specific to the topic you’re writing about or the industry your content relates to
  • Don’t use highly technical language
  • Don’t write long, drawn-out sentences or never-ending paragraphs

Here’s an example of a non-conversational sentence versus a conversational one for a pizza joint in Macon, GA:

  • Non-conversational: The aromatic scents wafting from our Napoli-tiled pizza ovens made with Modena2G oven cores and stationed in the center of our kitchen cause our pizzeria to overflow with ravenous citizens of Macon, GA, eager to masticate our delectable foodstuffs.
  • Conversational: Jags Pizzeria serves patrons the best pizza in Macon, GA!

3. Keep Local SEO in Mind

When people conduct a voice search, they could be curious about the speed of a lion or the steps to jump-start a car. Both are generic and do not depend on a specific location to receive results. But in many cases, people whip out their phones on the go to ask questions like:

  • Where can I find some Thai food?
  • What store carries cake-decorating equipment?
  • Are there any gas stations nearby?
Caucasian female dancing and singing to her favorite song while driving the car during the suburbs neighborhood

So many users initiate a question to find local, convenient solutions to their queries. Local SEO optimization is the number one way to target local customers who conduct searches related to your business. You can incorporate localized content into your web pages, but the most important thing to do for local SEO is to create and maintain your Google Business Profile IF you operate a brick-and-mortar. (Online-only stores cannot sign up for a Google Business Profile since they serve more than a local audience and have no location to display.)

  • Make sure you have a profile and create one immediately if you haven’t already.
  • Make sure your profile information is accurate.
  • Update your profile if anything about your business changes, including contact information, store hours, or location.

The more accurate your profile is, the better you will serve your audience and the more likely you are to appear in localized voice and text searches – win, win.

M&R Knows the Importance of Voice Search Optimization, Local SEO, and General SEO. Call Us at 478-621-4491 for Help With Your Web Content.

Our in-house copywriters, designers, digital strategists, and developers know how crucial SEO is to your company’s performance on Google and Bing. We also know that SEO goes deeper than incorporating the right keywords into your content. If you need to optimize your website to start appearing at the top of the search engines, contact one of our friendly account managers today. We’ll start creating a stunning, optimized website for your business or revising your current one.

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