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It was set to be the 3rd biggest SEO trend of 2017 and beyond and it has certainly pulled through. Voice searches boasts 1 billion searches per month and is predicted to account for 50% of searches by 2020. People are always on their phones and they’re busier than ever – what’s easier than simply speaking to a phone to get search results as opposed to typing it onto a touch screen and battling with autocorrect?

Mobile devices, smartphones and smart home devices that use assistants such as Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Assistant are everywhere and they are making voice search easier than ever. It’s ease and accessibility has seen 40% of people using it daily – 65% for asking a question, 36% for searching for products or companies, 42% for setting timers, alarms and reminders, 42% for getting directions, 43% for checking the weather and 43% for playing music.

In the future, the hope is that voice search will make our online retail experiences all the more simple, by using it to track deliveries, find the cheapest option, return an item and track auctions on sites such as eBay.

Why should businesses optimise for voice search?

So, more people are using voice search. But why should businesses cash in on this? Voice search is important because it provides an opportunity to build brand awareness and increase organic CTR (Click Through Rates) from featuring in Google’s featured snippets. In fact, how-to articles on optimising for featured snippets grew by 178% in 2017, proving that everybody wanted in on the action.

Featured snippets are essentially ‘position zero’ on the search results page. They appear in a box right at the very top of the search, featuring text that will hopefully answer the question that is being searched.

There are four digital assistants that utilise voice search; SIRI, Google Home, Cortana and Alexa. The two most popular are SIRI and Google Home, which both use Google for their search results. Cortana and Alexa both use Bing.

What type of searches are made on digital assistants

As featured snippets work best with conversational and question-based searches that mimic how real people talk. Naturally, this translates perfectly to voice search. Voice queries contain conversational words and are longer, whereas when we use a computer, we use short, succinct phrases to find information because it saves physical effort. Think about it – we might type ‘Tesco opening times’ into our search engine on the computer, however, if we’re using voice search, we’d probably say something along the lines of, ‘OK Google, give me the opening times for my nearest Tesco’.

From an SEO perspective, the challenge is to capture the 65% of people who are using voice search to ask questions, and it starts with optimising for that rich snippet that feeds into the voice device results.

How do I optimise my website for answer boxes?

There’s a certain methodology that can be used to give the best chance of appearing for the featured snippet. The first words of the content in question, or each section of the content, is what a search engine will look for to answer the question that is being searched. When it comes to the language of those words, this checklist is pretty handy:

  • Try not to use personal pronouns i.e. you, we, our
  • Include action words where possible
  • Lists and bullet points for easily digestible information
  • Use subheadings in order to capture multiple terms

You can also mark-up your content via Schema which will tell search engines the format of your content. For instance, if you have a recipe on your website that you want to optimise, Schema will help the search engines identify it as a recipe. Not only that, but you can micro-format different elements of the recipe, such as the measurements, nutrition or cooking time. This will allow the search engines to use your recipe to answer more specific questions. For example, someone may search ‘how long does it take for a pie to cook’. If you have told Schema that your pie recipe includes a cooking time, this will be picked up in a search. Other formats include:

  • Articles
  • Local business information
  • Music
  • Reviews

The future of voice search is uncertain, however it’s certainly growing and improving. Word is that we’ll soon be using it to control our finances and take out loans. Who knows what other realms of everyday life it’ll cross into? It’s important to understand its power and how to utilise it for online content.

Optimising for voice search can add so much value to a business and it’s definitely an element of SEO worth investing some time or money into. If you have any questions or need any help with optimising for voice search, we can help. Get in touch with us and make voice search a priority in 2019.