For a long time, SEO has changed a little here, a little there, but nothing was a major disruption. Overall, Google was simply trying rank high-quality pages higher and give users a useful, relevant experience.
We’ve all been focusing on getting in the top 10 results for a long time. There’s a good reason, of course – 75% or more of clicks go to Page 1 results.
However, in 2020 and beyond a lot is going to change. Very soon being #8 – or even #2 – won’t help you at all.
Because folks are moving to voice search, whether they are at home or on the go. The disruption to SEO will be far more than even the biggest Google update. Here’s what you need to be ready.
Why is Voice Search Such a Big Deal?
Why is voice search going to have such a big impact on SEO?
Think about how a voice search works, whether you use Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant. You say, “Alexa, how much does it cost to replace a roof?” Alexa happily replies, “According to Angie’s List, it costs between…”
What just happened? Very simple – only one result was shared.
The #1 result or the snippet – in this case the snippet – was the only result that the consumer received. None of the other results that would have shown on a regular search made it to the customer.
With voice search it’s #1 or nothing.
Now is the Time to Prepare
It was predicted a few years ago that 30% of web browsers would be screenless – done by voice – by 2020. With voice assistants available on more and more devices – including in new vehicles – that number may be low.
The other thing to keep in mind is that people who create home speakers are integrating them throughout the home to make the even more attractive. Someone who wants it to be easy to monitor their home when they are away, or to set the thermostat remotely, may get a smart home device and then begin using it for search.
People are already using voice search. If you want to excel when we reach the tipping point where Google’s on-screen results become obsolete, the time to optimize for voice search SEO is today.
Step 1: Optimize for Local Terms
Studies show that 75% of smart-speaker owners search for a local business at least weekly. You want to make sure that when someone asks Alexa for roofers in their neighborhood, your business is listed if you’re nearby.
Local SEO dovetails nicely into your existing SEO efforts. You’ll need to look for high-volume, moderate-to-low competition local keywords that are part of your niche. Optimizing with those throughout your website will tell Google you are relevant to a search in that local area.
However, on-site SEO isn’t enough. You also need to optimize off-site, including claiming your Google My Business page and filling it out completely. Google’s Local Pack search results draw from Google business pages, which allows you to appear even above the top search result.
And as we’ve seen, appearing at the very top is essential to winning in voice search!
Step 2: Win as Many Featured Snippets as Possible
What is a Google Featured Snippet?
The Featured Snippet is designed to answer questions that users search for directly. “How many inches are in a foot,” will produce search results, but above them all is a box that says “12. There are 12 inches in a foot.”
Featured Snippets are absolutely essential to winning voice search results, because voice assistants tend to read them as an answer to users’ questions. One example was in our earlier question to Alexa about the cost of replacing a roof. The answer, from Angie’s List, is the Featured Snippet for that question.
The good news is that Featured Snippets are far from set in stone. Google tries to serve the highest-quality, most relevant answer available. By answering common questions succinctly and maintaining a trusted, authoritative site, you can win snippets too.
To give yourself the best chances, look at questions people commonly ask about your industry, products, and services. Include those questions in your content and answer them succinctly. Take a look at what snippets are currently winning for a variety of phrases and try to make yours better.
An FAQ page can be a great way to answer a lot of questions in an easy-to-understand way, and may help you win multiple Featured Snippets.
Step 3: Optimize for Conversational Language
Using keywords is vital, but Google is getting better and better at understanding conversational queries. Voice searches are almost always longer, more naturally phrased, and conversational.
So while traditional SEO might have you optimizing for “best restaurant in San Diego”, you now also want to optimize for “what restaurants are serving dinner now?” and other more natural questions.
Think about what types of questions someone would ask a friend when it came to your industry or business. Then, include those phrases in your content and web pages. This will help you be a natural search result when someone asks that question to a voice assistant.
One excellent tool for getting started is Answer the Public, which shows you questions that are commonly searched about a variety of terms and phrases. If you run a restaurant, put “restaurant” or “dinner” in and see what you get. For a roofing company, put “roof”.
The questions will give you a lot of insight about what people want to know and how you can cater to their needs.
Step 4: Bump Up Participation on Social Media
What’s the number one way to ensure someone gets your company through a voice search? To have them ask directly for your business name!
Building your brand will be more important than ever in an era of voice search. If someone asks Alexa for the hours of your specific store, instead of what stores are open near them, you’ll win every time.
How do you build your brand if Google search isn’t quite what it used to be? By using other, non-search avenues, especially social media.
To succeed with social media marketing, it’s important to have a plan of action. Know exactly what your goals are, and use the platforms that are best for your industry and market. If you have a restaurant, Instagram is incredible. If you do home repairs, consider starting a locally-focused home repair Facebook group.
Building community and being truly social is essential to succeeding on social media. You want to share useful information, encourage dialogue, answer questions, and share information about your products and services. You can also run contests to boost engagement.
One of the best parts of social media is the ability to precisely target your audience. You can run ads, promote a group, or boost an image to a very specific group of people who are most likely to be interested in what you sell. This kind of targeted marketing has a much better ROI than other methods.
Work With the Pros to Get the Optimization You Need
We aren’t fully in the era of voice search yet, but it’s certainly coming. Today, you still need to optimize for both Google’s onscreen results and voice inquiries. It can be a challenge to keep up!
Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. After all, you have a business to grow! When you work with us at Local SEO Search, we can help you optimize for both on-screen and voice results quickly and easily. Local SEO in particular is our expertise (it’s in our name!) and we’ve helped over 10,000 companies succeed.
If you’re ready to see what we can do to help you succeed in 2020 and beyond, contact us for a free consultation today!