“Hey Siri, what’s the capital of North Dakota?”
“Alexa, order me a twenty-five pound bag of gummy bears…STAT!”
“Okay Google, play Vanilla Ice’s greatest hits.”
The future is hear (yeah, that’s a terrible pun). Searching the internet used to require firing up your computer, hopping onto Google (or Alta Vista back in the day), and typing in your request.
With the advent of smartphones, you basically had to do the same thing but on a much smaller screen.
But with the invention of voice activated virtual assistants like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple’s Siri, searching the internet has become as easy as speaking. We’re basically living in The Jetsons, except without the robot housekeeper (unless you count the Roomba).
How does this affect you? In all kinds of ways. As a business owner, you presumably have a website. You want your website to show in web searches, including voice searches. And voice search is only getting more popular, with some estimating that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.
But, that’s not as simple as it might sound. There are some unique factors that determine whether a site shows up in voice searches. In this post, we’re going to break those down for you.
Here are the 7 factors that go into voice search results.
#1 – Page Speed
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Given that most people have the attention span of a squirrel on amphetamines, Google wants to give people information as quickly as possible. If a site doesn’t load quickly, people will abandon it, and Google doesn’t like to send people to sites they’re going to quickly abandon.
Typically, site load time is measured in Time To First Byte (TTFB), or how long it takes the first byte of information to load. The worldwide average is 2.1 seconds. But when it comes to voice search, the top results load in .54 seconds.
Additionally, the total load time of pages was much faster for voice search, at 4.6 seconds compared to 8.8 seconds for the average webpage.
Do everything in your power to shrink the average load time of your pages. This may include shrinking images, using a cache on your site, minimizing things that autoplay, and more. If you want your site to rank high in voice search, it should be faster than the Micro Machines speed talker (90s reference).
#2 – Length Of Snippet
Remember, most voice searches are questions. What is the world’s population? How many hit singles did The Beatles have? What are the odds of dying by pig attack?
In content that answers questions, Google (both voice and standard) tends to favor concise answers that explicitly feature the question and then provide a concise answer immediately below.
The average voice result is around 29 words. When you create your content, try to include a simple question and concise answer toward the beginning.
Sherry Bonelli at Search Engine Lands offers the following tips:
When you look at how a featured snippet becomes a featured snippet, it’s all about using SEO strategies:
- Write a topic-specific page.
- Create content that answers a specific question.
- Look for questions that you will be able to answer in great depth.
- When optimizing for voice search, research longer, long-tail keyword phrases.
- Optimize for specific long-tail search phrases that contain three to five words or more.
- Think of semantic keywords, different ways of saying the same thing (i.e., synonyms).
- Use trigger words like “how,” “what” and “best.”
- Understand your customer’s intent, and optimize the content on your pages for every stage in your customer’s buyer’s journey.
- Use conversational language — write like you’re talking to a friend.
- Use Headings (H1, H2, H3, H4).
- Make sure to use unique title and description tags on each page — use keywords in those tags.
- Include keywords toward the front of the very first sentence/paragraph.
- Use the keywords in the page’s universal resource locator (URL).
#3 – Domain Authority
Domain Authority (DA) is a measure used by search engines to determine how authoritative and reliable your site is. Google wants to deliver the most accurate, trustworthy results and thus favor sites that have a high domain authority.
For example, Google’s DA is 100, which is the highest score possible. Big name sites like Huffington Post also have extremely high DAs.
The sites that show up most frequently in voice searches were those with a high DA. In fact, the average DA for voice search results is 76, which is very high.
How do you increase your overall DA? The easiest way is to get backlinks to your site, which is when another site links to a page on your site. The more backlinks you have, the higher your domain authority will go.
Getting backlinks is another article in and of itself, but the concise answer in terms of how to get backlinks is to create great content that people actually want to link to. It’s more complicated than that, but you get the point.
If you want to show up in voice searches, work hard to create great content, get backlinks, and raise your domain authority.
#4 – HTTPS Security
Hyper Text Protocol Security (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP. Essentially, it means that whenever someone visits your site, any information they send or receive is encrypted. This is especially important for sites where passwords are required or credit card info can be submitted. It keeps snoopy hackers from stealing information.
Websites that utilize HTTPS are much more likely to show in voice search than sites only using HTTP.
If you want your site to rank in voice searches, it’s more important than ever that you implement HTTPS.
#5 – Easy To Read
Remember, virtual assistants have to read the text on your site and then speak it back to you. This means that the text needs to be relatively easy to read and easy to understand even when a machine is doing the talking. If you’re using difficult words that people will have to look up, it’s not likely that your site will rank high in voice searches.
How easy to read should your content be? Probably somewhere between the 6th-9th grade level.
This doesn’t mean your content should be boring or dumbed down so much that it’s not helpful. Rather, it means you need to make a conscious effort to write in a clear and concise manner.
#6 – The Length of the Content
This is different than the length of the snippet mentioned above, and is referring to the overall length of a piece of content. Generally speaking, longer content tends to rank higher in voice searches.
Why? Probably because more content means more opportunities to match your voice query. A 200 word piece on how to make great coffee probably won’t contain the answer to the question, “How hot should water be for French Press coffee?” However, an in-depth 3,000 word guide to making great coffee probably will.
Longer content contains more relevant information, and Google is all about supplying the most relevant information.
#7 – Keywords Selected
In the long run, posts centered around long-tail keywords are probably going to win out when it comes to voice search. Why? Because voice search uses natural language. We speak in phrases like, “What’s the GDP of Chile?”
This means you’re going to want to naturally sprinkle long-tail keywords throughout your content so that search engines can evaluate your content and appropriately match it to voice searches.
We’re only at the beginning when it comes to voice search, which is good news for you. It means you have time to implement these things now and get a leg up on your competitors.
What is clear is that voice search isn’t going away and will only continue to grow in popularity. As more and more people use virtual assistants, your site’s success or failure could hinge on how much you optimize it for voice search.
So don’t wait any longer. Start making these changes now.