Voice search has been on the rise with 4.2 billion voice assistants operating globally. More and more, people are talking to their smart devices to make life a lot easier. As a small business owner in 2024, voice search optimization can help you appear more often in local search results. You can increase your local online visibility by using local SEO, schema markup, and by having a basic understanding of natural language processing. Let’s go over 10 ways to rank your website in voice search results.
Where Is Voice Search Used?
Voice Search Keywords
When we search, we want quick and fast answers. Using voice search, one question or phrase can produce thousands of results, so how do you appear towards the top? You want to use the same language one would use if they were using a voice assistant. More specifically you should be using long-tailed keywords.
If you are familiar with SEO you know what keywords are. If not, keywords (in this sense) are words used in your website content that are relevant to daily searches. Long tailed keywords are more specific groups of words (short phrases) that express a search intent. Usually long-tailed keywords are 4+ words in length. Using more specific keywords that are relevant to the area you are in, may help people searching for your small business in their area! Example: if you were a restaurant in Florham Park N.J. you would want to rank for the long-tailed keywords “best restaurants in Florham Park”. Here are some types of long-tailed keywords you should use when optimizing for voice search.
Often when people use voice assistants they are looking for an answer. Basic questions like “What is the weather today” are asked almost daily by a voice assistant. Question keywords begin with who, what, when , where, and how. For a small business you want to use keywords that answer common questions in your niche. If our agency were to optimize for voice search questions, here are some long-tailed keywords we may try to target.
- What is the best digital marketing agency in NJ
- How do I increase my visibility online
- How can local SEO help my small business
- What is local SEO
- How do I get more NJ customers online
Notice that two of the questions are based on our location, New Jersey. This brings us to the next type of long-tailed keyword, location keywords.
Voice search is often used to get specific details on where to find the best products and services nearby. Location keywords include your city, state, or region. It is important to note that you should base your location keywords on the size of the audience you want to reach. For example, if you live in a big city like NYC, then you may want to target a specific section of NYC you are in. If you were a barbershop in Midtown, perhaps a location keyword you would want to rank for is best barbers in Midtown.
You also want to target keywords centered around everyday conversation. A good tactic to use for this is to think of interview questions related to your niche. For example, answering questions such as…
- Can you tell me how to implement a local SEO strategy
- Show me where to find a local website designer
- Give me 6 tips to optimize my website for voice search
Question & Answer Form Metadata
Question and answer structured meta heading and meta descriptions are another way to appear for voice search results. For example if you have a meta title that poses a commonly asked question in your niche, and follow it up with a direct answer in your meta-description. Here’s an example of voice search results for “What is Local SEO”. As you can see the question is asked in the title, with the meta description giving a brief answer to the question.
Another way to accommodate for short and quick answers to questions is by using schema markup. Schema markup is derived from structured data about your website content. Google may pull pieces of content from your website to produce rich results or rich snippets. Rich results are used to better engage users, and provide concise answers to search queries. The main (and most supported) form of schema markup is the JSON – LD markup, which is inputted into your website’s CMS backend. Structured data can be added to the main body file of your website. Google has a wide variety of accepted structured data types for your website. We will discuss which schema markups are relevant and not relevant to use when optimizing for voice search.
Schema Markups to Use
Schema markup that lists key information about your small business. This includes contact information, logo, and other basic business info. Having a Local Business schema mark-up can help you show up in a local map pack. Local map packs are shown primarily for mobile search results when a user searches for services near their area. The map pack usually shows nearby businesses that are the most popular for the service/product the user is looking for. This brings us to the next markup.
The Reviews Schema markup is also important for showing up in the local map pack. Since the map pack highlights the best nearby businesses, you want to have information extracted from good reviews about your business. Review/Aggregate rating schema markup is especially useful for businesses such as restaurants and products such as books. Where both restaurants and books are decided on based on how many other people are recommending these places/items.
The Article schema markup can be useful for targeting question keywords. You can use the description field in this markup to answer voice search questions directly. Rich results pulled from articles can sometimes appear as featured snippets. A featured snippet is inserted at the top or middle of a page and usually gives a quick answer to the search query presented. Article schema markup is useful if you have an active blog that you use to address commonly asked questions in your niche.
Importance of Optimizing for Featured Snippets
If your website appears for a featured snippet, your website is the primary response to the search query. This means that your answer/article is valued as one of if not the most relevant info to a specific voice search. Since FAQ schema markup is no longer supported, you can use the Article schema markup to answer niche related questions and appear for featured snippets.
Schema Markup Not to Use
How-To and FAQ Page Schema Markup
As of September 2023, both the How-to and FAQ schema markups have been removed. Both of these rich result types, will only show for medical websites with authority and other professional websites. This effort was made by Google to provide more consistent and accurate information produced by trustworthy sources. With this being said, it’s best to focus your attention on the Local Business Schema and Article Schema. If you have website pages with this schema markup added, you can leave the code as it will not affect your position in search rankings.
Having a responsive website design is key to optimizing for voice search. Lots of people use home voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Echo Dot, however, more of us use our phones for quick voice searches. Having a website that is designed to fit on mobile screens is the first step in optimizing for voice search. When your website shows in a voice search, information needs to be readily available and easy to read. Responsiveness should be held as a standard for all small business websites. If your website is only designed to fit on a desktop screen, you may want to talk to a developer to update the responsiveness for tablet and phone.
Google My Business
Another step to appearing in the Google Map Pack is setting up your Google My Business profile. One of the most common voice searches are “Directions to nearest….” searches. Upon loading the results for these types of searches, often a map pack appears with local businesses relevant to the search. As a small business, part of being seen in these map packs is creating a Google My Business profile (as well as having structured data). Creating a GMB profile is a free service provided by Google. Once you created your profile, you also have the ability to post announcements about change with your business, and link to your social profiles.
In addition to having a GMB profile you want to make sure your NAP info is consistent. NAP stands for (Name, Address, Phone). Your business name, business address, and business phone number should remain consistent on the web. Maintaining consistent NAP, will make it easier for your business to be located and presented for voice search results. In order to maintain consistent NAP info, you must check all your online listing to make sure they contain the correct information. You may want to start with business listings that are controlled by organizations like the Better Business Bureau, and third party listing services that take info from your website or other listings.
Now that you have optimized your website to have schema markup and include proper local SEO tactics, you need to make sure your website is fast. You can check your website speed using PageSpeed Insights, another free tool offered by Google.