Only recently, voice search SEO felt far enough in the future to not be a concern. But, such is the nature of digital publishing, it’s become a priority topic in the search industry seemingly in a matter of seconds. While voice search technology overcame its teething issues with the proliferation of smartphones, the popularity of sophisticated voice assistants (smart speakers and compatible smartphones) has snowballed into something of a voice search revolution.

number of voice assistants worldwide 2019 to 2023

  • 20% of mobile queries are currently done with voice search.
  • Nearly 40 million Americans currently own a smart speaker.
  • 5.8 million UK households had a smart speaker as of the end of 2019, meaning over 10 million regular smart speaker users nationwide.
  • 58% of people have used voice search to find information about a local business.
  • 72% of people who use voice search devices claim they have become part of their daily routines.
  • 43% of smart speaker owners use the technology to shop.

Thanks to its speed and ease of use, voice search is a critical area for publishers aiming for SEO success. Much noise has been made about its importance. So, let’s take a look at some surefire ways of successfully optimising content for voice search.

Optimise for Rich Answers

This one’s easier for some publishers than others, but worth exploring all the same. An SEMrush voice search study found that “70% of all answers returned from voice searches occupied a SERP feature (with 60% of those returning a Featured Snippet result).” In plain English: 70% of voice search answers came from Google’s quick, summarised results (as opposed to a listed search result), like this one:

what is a rich answer rich answer

Here are some effective ways to optimise for rich answers.

  • Implement schema markup to tell Google what part of your article directly answers a search query – it’s a type of data you can add to your HTML to make your site easier and quicker for search engines to crawl
  • The more directly your article answers a search query, the more likely it is to be selected by Google’s algorithm as the rich answer for that query

For more information on rich answers, we recommend Grizzly’s quick guide.

Write With a Conversational Tone

Voice search queries are, by definition, conversational: voice searches are a conversation with the voice assistant. Remember this. The more clinical and “typed” your language reads, the less likely it is to directly address a voice search query.

Google relies on Natural Language Processing (NLP) to refine its voice search results by processing voice texture and rhythm, and the searcher’s interests and search behaviour. With time, it “learns” the user’s language, accent, and other patterns in the way they speak, and uses them to focus on the semantics of their search query.

When you search in the traditional way, your query might look something like “pubs south East London”. But, a voice search with the same intent might run something like “what are the best pubs near deptford high street station”. 

The technicalities of NLP are intricate, but all publishers need to know is studying the query style of a voice search and anticipating it in their articles will pay off. It shouldn’t mean major stylistic compromises, either – if anything, writing conversationally enhances readability. 

Target Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are those over three words, and regularly appear in conversational search queries as a result. Optimise for the long-tail and you’ll inadvertently help yourself to optimise for rich answers simultaneously.

Minimise Your Load Times

The potential downsides of a slow load time make it a primary ranking factor for voice search SEO like never before. If a voice searcher isn’t returned an immediate result, the conversational nature of voice search is undermined. In practical terms, if you have a slow website that takes an eternity to load, your content won’t be selected as the answer to a voice search query. Google’s PageSpeed Insights is an invaluable tool for minimising load times. 

As search assistants proliferate at an exponential rate, refining voice search SEO could be a major competitive advantage for your title. The digital publishing world hasn’t quite started this conversation yet, and you won’t regret getting ahead of your peers.