You’re never more than a few meters away from a voice-search profit. Someone who proclaims the oncoming and absolute reign of screenless searches in the very-much not distant future. And while research suggests their predictions are a little overblown, the number of people using mobile phones and smart speakers for voice search is rising every year. With most voice searchers inquiring about location-specific products and services, it’s a trend that local businesses can’t afford to ignore.

In this blog, I’ll outline four of the simplest and most effective ways you can make your business voice search ready.

Rework Your Keywords for Spoken Language

The first thing to understand about voice search is that what people ask and how they ask it is very different to text. So, throw everything you think you know about search optimization out of the window… well, maybe not quite everything, but a lot.

Voice searches are simpler and more direct – People use voice search to find answers to basic questions, dig out simple facts, or inquire about their location. They ask questions like, “When is The Avengers playing near me?” or “What’s the best restaurant in Newcastle?”

Voice searches are much longer than text searches 71.6% longer, to be exact. Adding location information lengthens search queries, but so does the way we speak. Most of us would feel uncomfortable shouting a random string of words at an inanimate object, but that’s how we type. It’s the difference between typing “Apple red toaster” and saying “Where can I buy an apple red toaster near me?”

Most voice searches are questions – In text search, you don’t often phrase queries as questions, but when we’re talking to a device, we almost always do, just as if we were having a conversation with a real life human.

Time to go Long Tail

Because voice search queries are long, you need the keyword strategy to match. And that means going long-tail. If you have not yet targeted this type of keyword, it’s exactly like any other, but with two or more words that make up a keyword/phrase.

Find relevant long-tails by typing your business’s main keywords and your location into Google’s search bar and seeing what the autocomplete suggests.

Optimizing for these suggestions is a fairly safe bet since they’re the most common queries people use that include your business type and location.

You can also use Google’s Keywords Planner or Ahrefs to root out your long-tails and find the ones your competitors are currently ranking for.

Prepare for Speedy Answers

Targeting the right keywords is only half the battle. Once a search engine has found you, it needs to be able to quickly and easily extract the kind of information voice searchers need. This means:

  • Having a fast loading website (finding the best web host you can afford and reducing hefty page features will help)
  • Making basic information prominent by formatting your pages correctly (e.g. include a ‘Contact’ page and contact information in the page footer)
  • Creating featured snippets on your website that are optimized to appear in Google’s Answer box (aka. position zero, quick answers, etc.)
  • Writing page summaries that are no longer than 29 words (the length of the average voice search result)
  • Writing content that voice searchers need, e.g. how-to guides, FAQs, listicles, short instructions

Build Your Profile with Free Online Citations

To have any chance of being chosen as the one-and-only answer given by a voice search bot, your local SEO needs to be in order. Only the best-ranking businesses have a chance.

One of the most effective ways to build your local profile is to take advantage of all the free, structured, local citations on the web. Structured citations are online mentions that require you to fill out a form with your business’s details. They have a similar SEO effect to backlinks but are particularly powerful for local search optimization.

Use WhistSpark’s online tool to find the best ones in your area and claim as many as you have the time for.

Actions in a nutshell:

  • Optimize your website and content for long-tail keywords and Q&A query formats
  • Make sure your website is meticulously formatted to make key information easy to find
  • Write meta-data and meta-descriptions like spoken word
  • Have as many active, up-to-date and accurate online citations as you can get