How to Optimise Content for Voice Search in 2021

According to a study by Statista, there are 4.2 billion voice assistants being used in devices around the world in 2020. 

4.2 billion. 

That’s more than half the world’s population.

Forecasts suggest that by 2024, that number could reach 8.4 billion units – a number higher than the world’s population so it’s safe to say that voice search can no longer be considered a fad and should be a high priority for digital marketers around the world.

The reason for the strong growth in both device sales and the number of people using voice search is convenience. Whether you’re in the car, or you’ve got your hands tied up on another task around the home, it’s much more convenient to speak to an assistant than it is to type. The results from voice searches are also often faster.

According to Adobe, here are some key stats that show how people are using voice assistants:

  • The most common voice activities are asking for music (70%) and the weather forecast (64%) via smart speakers.
  • Other popular activities include asking fun questions (53%), online search (47%), checking the news (46%), basic research/confirming info (35%), and asking directions (34%).
  • Thirty-six percent of consumers surveyed said they use voice to make a call, 31% do so for smart-home commands, 30% for shopping/ordering items, 17% for food delivery/takeout, and 16% for flight/hotel research.

Millennials continue to dominate the usage stats when it comes to voice search. According to eMarketer, 35.8% of millennials use voice-enabled digital assistants at least once a month compared to just 10.1% of baby boomers. It’s not just Millennials that are turning to voice search, however. A survey by Global Web Index reported that 1 in 5 adults uses mobile voice search at least once a month.

So, the big question is this: with the number of voice searches carried out worldwide continuing grow annually, how do you ensure your website is ‘appearing’ for voice activated queries? We’ve got 4 simple tips that you should be deploying today to give you the best possible chance of ‘ranking’ for voice activated results.

Let’s go.

4 simple tips to optimise your website for voice search

Before we dive into out tips for improving your voice search optimisation, let’s first look at some key stats that support the work you need to carry out to optimise your website for voice search:

  • 36.4% of voice search results come from pages that use Schema.
  • 40.7% of all voice search answers are displayed in a Featured Snippet.
  • Very few voice search results had the exact query in their title tag.
  • 70.4% of Google Home result pages use a secure connection (https).
  • The average voice SERP loads in 4.6s, or 52% faster than the average web page.
  • The typical voice search result is only 29 words. People want quick answers.
  • The average voice search result is written at a ninth-grade reading level because verbal answers need to be digestible enough to understand at first pass.

(Source: Brafton)

These stats provide us with some insights which have helped to guide the top tips we have provided below.

1. Implement Schema markup on all relevant pages

Whilst the number of voice search results that contain schema is relatively low (36.4%), implementing Schema markup on all relevant pages on your website is still best practice whether you are optimising for voice search or traditional search. Schema markup helps to tell Google (and other search engines) about the nature of the content on a specific webpage. Common types of schema markup include: 

  • Organisation
  • Website
  • Product
  • Local Business
  • Recipes
  • Articles
  • Person
  • Breadcrumb
  • Events
  • Video

Looking at the list above, you could see how deploying Schema markup on pages like recipes, articles, events, and local business could really help when it comes to voice search. These are the common types of query you would expect people to search using voice and including the relevant Schema markup can only help.

2. Make sure you are using HTTPS protocols

This one should really be a given as we head towards 2021, however, if you have a site that is still using the HTTP protocol, you need to update immediately. Switching to HTTPS uses an encryption protocol to encrypt communications. The protocol is called Transport Layer Security (TLS), although formerly it was known as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

For some time now, browsers such as Chrome have been marking websites that do not use the HTTPS protocol as ‘Not secure’, flagging warning to visitors about the security of their data when using unsecure sites.

With 70.4% of Google Home results pages secured with HTTPS, now more than ever is the time to shift to the HTTPS protocol and provide a secure environment for your visitors and improve your chances of ranking in voice search as well as traditional search.

3. Focus your efforts on page speed

Another ranking factor that you should be paying attention to is page speed. Google’s Search Team announced back in 2010 that speed would be a ranking signal for desktop searches and in July 2018, they announced that page speed would be a ranking factor on mobile searches too.

Page speed is important for traditional search rankings, however when it comes to voice, the average voice search result page loads in 4.6 seconds (52% faster than the average page). People want results quickly when they conduct a voice search – convenience is one of the driving factors of using voice search so slow results simply won’t cut it.

A study by Backlinko found that the average Time to First Byte (TTFB) of a voice search result was .54 seconds (vs. the worldwide average of 2.1 seconds). Speeding up your website should be a priority. Use tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights, WebPageTest and GTMetrix to discover potential issues that are slowing down your site and specific pages and look to address these to improve your opportunities to rank for voice queries.

4. Keep your content short and simple

If you are targeting a specific voice query with a piece of content, think about the way you structure your content and the language you use. In the same Backlinko study, they found that voice results tend to be short and concise. They found that the average voice search answer is just 29 words. 

Not only this, but the language used in voice search results is also simple. It needs to be understood by people on the first pass as they don’t want to have to ask for the answer to be repeated to understand it.

We recommend structuring your content in a way that provides a very concise snippet at the top of the page that directly answers the question using simple language. You can then expand on that snippet to provide a thorough answer to the question and provide some strong signals to Google about the quality of the content on your page.

Bonus tip – Don’t focus as much on your Title Tags for voice search

Whilst we know the importance of a well optimised title tag when it comes to traditional search, it appears that the title tag plays less of a roll when it comes to the results in voice search. There are a couple of potential reasons for this:

  1. According to Comscore, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by the end of 2020. Whilst we find this stat to be improbable, there is no doubt that the number of voice searches is continuing to grow very quickly. With so many voice searches, it’s impossible for Google to find a page dedicated to every query, so instead they search the entire page and present the best match for that particular voice query.
  2. Earlier we reported the stat that very few voice searches have an exact match with the title tag (1.71% in fact). The most likely cause of this is the way that people search using voice. The queries tend to be much longer.  According to Bruce Clay, voice searches are 76.1% longer than text-based searches. Trying to match these longer search queries in the title tag is therefore very unlikely and Google is much more likely to use the snippet of the main body of content.

Continue to focus your efforts on optimising your title tags for traditional text-based searches, however when it comes to voice, focus more on the body copy and that introductory snippet.

Summary

Voice search is here to stay. With the number of voice queries growing every year, now is the time to make sure you are delivering content that is optimised for voice search. In many cases, this requires only small tweaks – for sites that are already fast and secure, it may be as simple as updating your existing content to include a simple and concise introduction that is more likely to ‘appear’ in voice search. For other sites, there may be more work to be done. Remember this though’ any work you do to improve your chances of ranking for voice queries will also improve your overall SEO, helping to improve your chances of driving more visitors to your website no matter how they search.


Gavin Hirst is a Brit working abroad. He is a copywriter, SEO and content marketing expert working for one of Auckland’s leading SEO agencies, Digital Hothouse in New Zealand. Outside of work, Gavin is a keen golfer and is passionate about the outdoors – hence the move to NZ! Connect with Gavin on LinkedIn or with Digital Hothouse on Twitter and keep up to date with all the latest digital marketing news and trends in NZ and across the world.

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