How to Improve Your Ranking in a Voice Search

It was only eight years ago, on October 4, 2011, that Apple introduced Siri, the first mobile voice assistant. It seems like we’ve always been able to get directions, find a restaurant, make a call or send a text by just asking our smartphone’s voice assistant.

After Siri, voice assistants quickly began popping up on mobile devices and in homes; Apple’s HomePod, Amazon’s Echo, and Google’s Home are all smart speakers for residential use. Those same three companies also have a lion’s share of the mobile voice assistant market to themselves:

  • Siri (Apple phones and tablets) 45.6%
  • Google Assistant (Android phones and tablets) 28.7%
  • Alexa (Amazon Fire tablets) 13.2%

Samsung’s Bixby, Microsoft’s Cortana, and a few others make up the remaining 12.5%.

The most recent statistics show that 77% of Americans own a smartphone, and each of those phones has a voice assistant. As of last year, 60% of smartphone users are using voice-enabled technology for online searches. It’s predicted that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches. Worldwide, there are more than 1 billion voice searches per month.

Do you know if your company will show up in a voice search?

Voice Search vs Text Search

Search engine optimization is a bit different for a voice search, so even if your website is already optimized to get good search result placement, it doesn’t mean the same will hold true for a mobile voice search.

As always, when we talk about search engines, we are talking about Google, which does approximately 3.5 billion searches per day. Consequently, if Google has a suggestion for improving your voice-search placement, it’s best to take it seriously.

Google My Business

One thing Google suggests businesses do to improve the odds of showing up in a voice search, is to claim your business on Google My Business, and keep the information current.

Google My Business is a free listing in which companies can provide details about their business across Google Search and Google Maps. Google suggests that businesses add photos, post hours of operation, include a phone number, address, and provide customer reviews.

The more information you provide to Google My Business, the more useful it will be to a potential customer, and Google wants their results to be useful. When you see a voice search result that looks like this…

…it’s displaying information taken from Google My Business.

Providing information to Google My Business doesn’t guarantee you’ll be one of the very few results displayed in a mobile voice search, but if you haven’t given Google enough information in My Business, the odds of you showing in a search are practically zero.

Featured Snippets

Something else Google likes to present in voice search results are featured snippets. A snippet is most often a paragraph, list, or table that appears before all other search results. Because it’s before even the number one search result, the snippet is in “position zero.”

Snippets appear in both voice and text searches and look like this:

Often, the website from which the snippet is taken isn’t the top-ranking search result, but Google feels the snippet better provides the exact information the searcher is seeking.

In a voice search query, Google Home and Google Assistant both read the featured snippet aloud, with 80% of Google Home results coming from snippets, so position zero is a nice place to be.

Your FAQ May Result in a Snippet

One of the best ways to appear in a Google snippet is to have a comprehensive FAQ on your website. Think of extremely specific questions customers may have in your company’s area of expertise. Answer those questions clearly and concisely in language that anyone could understand and keep the answers short. If possible, add the following structural elements to your FAQ answers because Google loves structure:

  • Numbered lists
  • How-to instructions with numbered steps
  • Charts/tables

Would you like to see a real-life example of Google’s love of structure? Here are top the five search term words that most often result in a snippet on the results page:

  1. Recipes (which is an organized list of instructions)
  2. Best (which is usually an ordered list)
  3. Vs (which is a one-to-one comparison, perhaps in chart or table form)
  4. Make (which, like recipes, is a list of instructions)
  5. Definition (which is a short paragraph defining a term, subject, process, etc.)

Mobile-First Indexing

In March 2018, Google began ranking websites based on how they were optimized for mobile devices rather than traditional desktop/laptop computers. According to the SEO specialists at MOZ, mobile-first indexing simply means the mobile version of your website “becomes the starting point for what Google includes in their index, and the baseline for how they determine rankings.”

If your website doesn’t have a mobile version, Google will use your desktop site for indexing; however, the lack of a mobile-friendly site could impact negatively on your ranking.

Google’s ranking is evolving along with how people search, and keywords are also evolving. When performing a desktop search, people type several separate keywords they think reflect what they are searching for.

However, Google reports that 70% of voice queries are done using complete sentences rather than individual words. Consequently, voice search keywords include more long-tail, conversational phrases that searchers are likely to use in a question.

Navigating a Changing Landscape

Businesses are going to have to re-think their SEO strategy to accommodate voice searches and Google’s mobile-first indexing. As people’s local search habits continue to evolve, Google may change the game again, as smart speakers, which have more than doubled in the last year, are predicted to hit 225 million units by 2020.

The takeaway is, it’s important to keep your SEO strategy flexible if you want voice searches, whether they’re mobile or home devices, to include your company in search results. With voice search only giving the top three to five results, that’s getting harder and more competitive.

If you’d like your SEO to stay ahead of the game, and get voice searches to recognize your business, give McFadden/Gavender a call. Our SEO and Google experts can get you noticed on any platform. Find out how.