2019 saw a lot of changes in the SEO world. Search engine marketing is growing at such a rapid pace that it can be incredibly difficult for small brands to stand out. In an effort to dominate the search engine space, Google has created a platform that is great for consumers but terrible for publishers.

But there’s still hope for aspiring brands!

One of the great things about content marketing is that it levels the playing field to a certain extent. The truth is that if you invest your time and energy into innovative content strategies, not only will you survive, but you’ll thrive in this competitive arena. In this post, we’ll tell you how.

The Google Monopoly

With the introduction of SERP (Search Engine Results Page) features like the Featured Snippet and Answer Box, Google is pushing hard to make its search engine an end destination for users. Its overarching goal is to provide as much relevant content to searchers with the least amount of work. 

Featured Snippets and Answer Boxes contain the most relevant info from the most popular sources. They’re located at the top of a SERP and their purpose is to answer questions immediately so users don’t have to leave Google.

Google’s People Also Asked box goes one step further by providing related questions the searcher may not have thought of.

All of this is done to keep users from having to navigate to any other site for the information they need.

They’ve already achieved this for many categories. As a result, marketers now battle over the coveted “Zero-rank” position (the box that appears at the top of a SERP for a particular query).

In all the rush, many marketers have ignored other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and Ask.com, and they’ve done so at their own peril. The reality is that no matter how big Google gets, and no matter how many searchers prefer it, there’s one roadblock to Google dominating the search engine market. It’s called Voice Search Optimization.


What Is Voice Search Optimization?

Most of you probably already have an idea of what it is, but voice search has changed a lot since Siri. Since then, voice-activated technology has expanded and home automation has become an entirely new industry.

Brands like Cortana and Alexa have manufactured home automation products that revolve around voice search. While Google is a giant in the search industry, these devices use Bing as their default search engine.

This means that many consumers are using Bing by default, even if they don’t recognize it. It also means that there’s a growing market of searchers using search engines other than Google.

Zero-position ranking may not be kind to most publishers, but with voice search, there’s a way around it. 📈


How Do I Optimize For Voice Search?

There are a number of traditional SEO steps you can take that will indirectly impact voice search rankings. In this guide, we’ll focus on elements of SEO that are especially beneficial to Voice Search Optimization. 

1. Structured Data Optimization

On a regular SERP, searchers often pay attention to results further down the line. Even if they don’t click to the next page, they’ll usually view results near the bottom of the first page. But with voice search, only one result is displayed to searchers.

Depending on your popularity and traffic, it may be difficult for you to rank for keywords that get a lot of attention. Lower competitive keywords are a good place to start. But structuring your pages in an orderly manner is mandatory.

Making sure Google can quickly and easily crawl or index your entire site is a step in the right direction. Crawlers are bots that visit all of your web pages and gather intel and then take it back to Google’s main database.

Sitemaps facilitate the indexing process. It’s easier to use a site like XML to generate a sitemap, but if you’re set on creating one yourself, QuickSprout does a great job of going through the steps to creating one on their blog.

2. Contracted Words & Keyword Research

Most people speak one way and type another. These semantic differences impact Voice Search Optimization.

When typing, people tend to be more formal. They spell out phrases like, “that is,” or “we are.” But when they use voice search, they’re far more likely to use contracted versions of those phrases.

Some common contractions include:

    • That’s
    • They’re
    • We’re
    • They’ll
    • Isn’t
    • I’m
    • I’ll
    • Etc.

As well as the way you type, the keywords you focus on are vital.

In most cases, Google is going to retrieve and display one search result for a voice search query. 

If you don’t get a lot of traffic or have a lot of high-quality backlinks, there’s a good chance you’ll be targeting keywords for the next few months with little-to-no ROI. If you’re patient, however, and use a bit of strategy, you will eventually start ranking.

The trick is to grab low-hanging fruit first. Keywords that are very specific, such as “pink ladybug sweaters near me,” are easy to rank for. After you’ve obtained a few easy keywords, you can graduate up to more and more competitive ones.

The great thing about ultra-specific keywords like this is that when someone searches for them, that person is usually ready to buy. On the other hand, people searching for pink sweaters may not be ready to pull the trigger.

It’s all about searcher intent. How they talk and what they say is all impacted by what they want. Yoast wrote a great introductory piece to search intent, which could help strengthen your SEO game.

3. Site Speed

Voice search results load faster than regular web pages. This may be more a benefit than a tactic, but it’s yet another advantage to optimizing your pages for voice search.

Site speed also greatly impacts ranking, especially on mobile.

The following steps increase site speed and decrease load times, leading to better SERPs rankings:

    • Use compression for CSS, HTML, and Javascript files. Gzip is an app that makes this process super easy.
    • Minify CSS, HTML, and Javascript code. This process removes spaces, commas, and several other types of unnecessary characters. CSSNano is an app that automatically minifies your site code.
    • Eliminate or reduce site redirects. Redirects add precious time user load times. You can monitor redirects by using cPanel, or whatever services are provided by your hosting.
    • Compress images. There are a number of free apps that automatically compress images from your site. Compressing your images will greatly reduce load times.
    • Enable “Lazy-Load.” If you use WordPress, or if your site has the ability, you should enable “Lazy-Load.” It goes by a couple of other names, but it essentially keeps unseen elements of your page from loading until the user scrolls to them.

4. Customer Journey

It’s always a good idea to do a bit of target research before you create new content for your site. The customer journey goes hand-in-hand with search intent, mentioned above. By identifying your customer/reader journey, you’ll be able to provide the information they need at that time.

Structuring your content around a customer journey map increases your chances of ranking for a particular keyword because it increases the relevancy of your content.

When considering your customer/reader journey, pay attention to the following points:

    • Customers who aren’t ready to buy may not even know they want a particular product. These customers will likely be looking for broad or generalized information.
    • Customers who may want to buy but aren’t sure of a specific brand or product-type will be looking for specific content. This content should be educational and engaging.
    • Customers who are ready to buy and who know which brand they want will likely prefer short posts with very specific information.

Harvard Business Review goes over the basics of Customer Journey Mapping here

5. Local SEO

Consumers have more information at their fingertips than ever before. Almost everyone searches for products, brands, or store names before they even walk in the door. With the competition on the rise, local SEO is a great way to target consumers in and around your city.

Results for local businesses usually include things like the business location, business hours, product specs, and reviews, etc. Inc.com released a great piece on local SEO some time ago, and the info that John from Inc. provides is just as relevant today as it was when he wrote it

Some of the tips covered in that post include:

    • Focus on your title and description
    • Use citations and online directories to spread your name
    • Use Google My Business & add images to your GMB page
    • Use Bing Places for Business
    • Ask customers and consumers for online reviews
    • Obtain high-quality backlinks
    • Use content marketing best-practices
    • Use long-tail keywords or LSIs


In conclusion...

Many of the crucial elements to Voice Search Optimization also apply to traditional SEO. The ability to identify where they differ may prove to be the deciding factor. Voice search is done predominantly on mobile phones, so mobile-first optimization and Voice Search Optimization go hand-in-hand. 

Don’t underestimate the value of the documentation released by Google. With each new algorithm update, Google releases pertinent info. This data plays a huge role in SEO. Most marketers and bloggers ignore it, opting to glean insight from fellow bloggers. If you take the time to go straight to the source, you’ll come away with a unique perspective that is sure to shape the way you market your products and/or content in 2020, and the years to come. 💥


*Update: An edit was made to the earlier version of this article to remove the point regarding Java and avoiding Javascript.