Voice Search is getting bigger and bigger and right now 40% of adults are already using this way to search. There are searches for both information, products and services, and by 2020, half of all searches will be made with our voice.
What is Voice Search?
Voice Search is the term for a search utilized by your voice. In this blog post, I will have focus on voice search on Google, but you can also search with your voice on iPhone (Siri), Microsoft (Cortana), Amazon (Alexa) and others.
A voice search can both tap into your phone’s features (set a reminder, create a calendar appointment, send a text message), your apps (order an Uber, send a message on Slack, tweet with Twitter) and last but not least: Search engines.
By working with Voice Search SEO you will be the one being read by Google Assistant or another voice search provider. Unlike a common Google search, the user will not (as a default) access your site, but simply just read an answer that you have created.
But why spend time and energy trying to find something where the user does not even land on the site? In part, one can hope that the user want to know more, and clicks on the link to your website that accompanies a more in-depth result. Another advantage is, of course, that you will be defined as a thought leader in your field, and seen as more credibility in the eyes of the searcher.
Ultimately, of course, it’s about converting these users and I’m not trying to tell you that Voice Search is great for this purpose. On the contrary. Quite a lot of the searches that are made through Voice Search are different types of questions that are early in the purchase phase.
At the same time, we must keep in mind that Voice Search is just a new way to search, so there are also being searched for things far down in the purchase phase. Classic examples of this may be “near me” searches.
How to Optimize for Voice Search?
There is a very simple and short answer to this. An answer that does not really help you further, but still answers the question. You must have position 0 on Google.
What is position 0? How do you get it? And how do you find the best keywords to optimize for, if you want to be found on voice searches?
How to Become No. 0
Position 0 is also called the Featured Snippet position. This is where you get a short and concrete answer to the question, which fills 3-4 lines, and a link to the source – potentially your website.
You can use several different formats to get to position 0. The most common is 3-4 line text, which answers the question shortly, but it can also be a list or a table.
In addition to the above three, “Google” owns a lot of different “Featured Snippets”. Examples of these are “what are two plus two“, “10 eur in usd“, “denmarks prime minister“. If you’d like to be visible on those keywords where Google already shows an objective response, I’d recommend you to dive a little deeper into your keyword analysis – it will be as good as impossible to take over these “Featured Snippets.”
In an analysis by STAT, where they look at how often the different types of Featured Snippets appear, it appears that text accounts for 81.95% of all Featured Snippets while lists account for 10.77% and tables are displayed in 7.28% of all cases.
My primary focus will be on the most common (3-4 line text), but I will also come up with a few tips to become visible with a bullet or table at position 0.
Be Visible with a Paragraph
Find keywords starting with a “wh”-word (what, who, where, etc.) or a keyword that is otherwise defined as a question that you can answer shortly and specifically.
Create an independent piece of content that you optimize against this keyword. If you can find more keywords/questions where you can give the same answer, try to get more Featured Snippets on the same page, but do not try to hit multiple different types of questions like ‘what is car insurance’ and ‘what is boat insurance’, since you would need two different pages for that. However you can try to optimize both ‘what is a car insurance’ and ‘what car insurance should i choose’ for the same page.
If you want to be visible with a list – like a simple recipe or a short guide, you should categorize your list simply, with a numbered list <ol> or bulletlist <ul> (HTML).
There are also examples of subheads starting with a number form the background of a featured snippet, but in most cases it is coded as a common list.
Just like lists, it’s all about coding your table the simplest way possible. This means that you should use <table> <tr> and <td> tags. If you do not know HTML, but would like to use a table, I recommend HTML-Tables.com, which makes it easy to copy/paste the table code into WordPress, or any other CMS.
Featured Snippet Ranking Factors
All the classic ranking factors still apply if you want to optimize against a featured snippet. This means that you must have a technically optimized site, content that matches the keywords you would like to be found on, links that build credibility and positive behavior on your website.
However, there are some factors you need to be more aware of than others. Below you can read about three of the primary factors for getting a featured snippet.
Use the classic OnPage parameters to become visible on the keyword. Use the keyword in title tag, H1, body text etc. Also make sure to use visual media like images, video, audio, and work with internal links to the page – and also external links if internal ones do not turn out to be enough.
One of the difficult parts in optimizing against a keyword that is a question is to use it in the text. If you want to be visible on ‘what is car insurance’ it’s relatively easy to use it in title tag, H1 and an H2, but when used in the body text it can quickly get weird.
“But what is car insurance really?”
“Many people af ask: “What is car insurance””
“In this post we want to answer the question “What is car insurance””
It just never sounds right in the body of the text, and if you were not to optimize for that keyword, you would never use such phrases in the content.
Since the vast majority of voice searches are done via smartphones, or other mobile devices like tablets and smartwatches, it’s extremely important that your website is optimized for mobile.
It is primarily about giving the user a good experience when landing on your website from a mobile phone, but a factor such as load speed is also very important.
There are some “rules” for featured snippets, which, if you follow them, will increase your likelihood of being visible at position 0 considerably. It includes writing the right amount of words, as well as encode your list and table correctly.
The following data is from an analysis by Ghergich & Co., which, together with SEMrush, has analyzed 1.4 million featured snippets.
As the graph above shows, it’s best if you are between 40 and 50 words in your answer. Ideally, you should be around 45 words, but at the same time it is quite clear that there is a big drop by 35 and 55 words.
Voice Search Keyword Analysis
Before you can start your work with voice search optimization, it is of course important that you have some keywords to optimize against. I would always recommend going for featured snippets on those keywords where you are already visible with your site but just do not have the featured snippet (yet).
Look in your Search Console and find the keywords you are already visible on. Filter on keywords with wh-words (what, who, why etc.) so you only get “question keywords”.
Check out the different keywords individually, or add them to your rank tracker. If your rank tracker is roughly up to date, it will show you if there are featured snippets on the keyword.
If you do not have a rank tracker, I can recommend using AccuRanker (referral link), where you can get a 14 day free trial so you do not have to pay to get this data. However, I would recommend you to keep the subscription on the tool, if you want to work seriously with SEO and Voice Search.
Keywordtool, Answer the Public, Keyword Planner…
With these two tools you can find question keywords. All you need to enter is your primary keyword – it may be your brand name, product category, product name, service or other.
For example, when searching ‘iphone’ on Keywordtool, you can find 185 question keywords. In the free version, you do not get search volume, but you can easily copy the keywords in Keyword Planner and get the volume.
Once you’ve found a number of question keywords, which there are search volume for, you should throw them in your rank tracker tool to see which keywords show a featured snippet. As a bonus, you can also see if you’re already visible on the keyword so you do not need to build a new page, but just optimize an existing page.
Remember to go through this process. It’s a waste of time to optimize voice search against a keyword with zero monthly searches where there is not already a featured snippet. It is not impossible to get a featured snippet on a keyword where there is currently no featured snippet, but it will typically be easier to take over a featured snippet than to “persuade” Google to reconsider the search intent It is behind the keyword and thus includes a featured snippet.
Will, Should, Does & Other Types of Question Keywords
Question keywords are, as said, the easiest place to start, but what types of questions are asked most? Ghergich & Co. has conducted an analysis, in collaboration with SEMrush, where they found that the following types of questions are asked the most.
|Question||Table %||List %||Paragraph %|
|why||0,01 %||0,39 %||99,47 %|
|are||0,12 %||0,25 %||99,52 %|
|will||0,62 %||0,48 %||98,88 %|
|does||0,07 %||0,01 %||99,83 %|
|do||0,12 %||2,49 %||97,23 %|
|can||0,07 %||1,20 %||98,61 %|
|is||0,33 %||0,15 %||99,41 %|
|should||0,00 %||0,12 %||99,85 %|
|how||1,02 %||52,20 %||44,75 %|
Ahrefs has made an analysis of 2 million featured snippets, where the found that the words below (excluding stopwords) are the ones that most often appear in a featured snippet.
- recipe (2,3 %)
- best (2,3 %)
- vs (1,4 %)
- make (1,3 %)
- definition (1,3 %)
- can (1,2 %)
- windows (1,1 %)
- get (1,0 %)
- number (0,9 %)
- cost (0,9 %)
- meaning (0,8 %)
- price (0,8 %)
- chicken (0,8 %)
- iphone (0,7 %)
- list (0,7 %)
- much (0,7 %)
- new (0,7 %)
- phone (0,7 %)
- top (0,6 %)
- salary (0,6 %)
- time (0,6 %)
- review (0,6 %)
- many (0,6 %)
- name (0,6 %)
- long (0,5 %)
- code (0,5 %)
- schedule (0.5 %)
- reviews (0,5 %)
- change (0,5 %)
- size (0,5 %)
When I first saw a Featured Snippet in Google, I thought “Cool – but what my CTR?”. Obviously, if you get a Featured Snippet on desktop, it is good to answer the user’s request directly in the search result, but you would also like to have the user access to his website – that’s where you typically convert the user and, more importantly, give a more in-depth answer.
Ahref’s analysis shows that a position 1, on average, gets 26% of clicks while position 1 when there is a featured snippet gets 19.6% – and the link of the Featured Snippet gets 8.6%. If you have both the Featured Snippet and Position 1, it is of course the most optimal, but if you have “only” one of the two, you will, according to Ahref’s analysis, get fewer clicks.