Voice Search SEO & Featured Snippets

It is predicted that 50% of searches will be voice searches by 2020, and Gartner anticipates that 30% of searches will be done without a screen by 2020. With the advances in speech recognition technology and Google’s adaptation to its development, it is a wise to start honing your voice search SEO skills now in anticipation of a time when voice searches assume a more significant share of search volume. And, if you want to get ahead of these trends and target voice search traffic, then it is a good idea to start targeting featured snippets.

Featured snippets are the blocks that appear with a special outline at the top of the page, and they are usually a dynamically-generated response to a question. Google’s own ‘reintroduction to Google’s featured snippets’ mentions that featured snippets are specifically relevant to voice searches, so you know that voice searches are going to be shown sites that rank well for these before others.

If you want to optimize for voice search and rank well for featured snippets, there are a few things you should know:

  • The vast majority of featured snippet answers rank in the top ten positions of the search results page already, and nearly a third come from the #1 ranked page 1
  • The average mobile score of featured snippet pages was 95/1001
  • Most featured snippets are triggered by long-tail keywords

The good news is that if you have already invested effort in SEO, there is little you need to change in order to roll out bolstered voice search SEO.

Content Production & Promotion

The first bullet point is the most important: voice search SEO and ranking for featured snippets is mostly of benefit of good SEO. Sites that are well-optimized are more likely to rank within the top ten results, which in turn will make them more likely to rank for featured snippets.

There are a few aspects of a domain that Google turns to when deciding where to ranks highly for a particular subject, and its authority on the subject is paramount. Earning a high domain authority is about regularly creating quality content and then having people vouch for your content in the form of backlinks (hyperlinks to your page).

Good SEO begets voice search SEO

Voice search SEO still relies on you ranking well for high-volume keywords, so don’t lose focus of producing content and promoting it.

Make Sure Your On-Page SEO is Up To Snuff

In addition to content production, make sure that your site is fully marked up site with meta tags, meta titles, alt text, and features high-volume keywords in the <h1> headings of pertinent articles. The <h1> keyword should also be mentioned in sufficient density (at least 1%) for subject that you want to generate voice search traffic on. However, avoid excess use of the keyword (‘keyword stuffing’) as that practice will negatively impact your ranking score.

Your site should also feature good internal linking. The navigation of your website gives Google an idea about the hierarchy of your site, and a well-executed navigation bar will go a long way to assuring a good user experience. These features are all key to good SEO and will help get you closer to ranking in the top ten, featured snippets, and voice search traffic.

A Mobile-Friendly Site is Key

The second bullet is another example that should show you that optimizing for voice search and featured snippets is a likely end result of good SEO rather than something that can be achieved in a single initiative. Mobile-first indexing means that a mobile-friendly website is no longer an option, and since voice searches are more likely to be conducted by a mobile user anyways, a good mobile experience is crucial to ranking well for voice searches.

No horizontal scrolling or clipped images should be present on your site, and users should definitely not be made to resize content to read it. Pages should load in under 3.5 seconds for mobile devices if you truly want the best chance to rank for featured snippets and voice searches.

As of 2018, mobile devices account for 55% of search engine traffic, and voice searches make up 20% of mobile search traffic. Because voice searches are most often conducted on a mobile device, having a good mobile experience is even more crucial to voice search SEO than it normally would be (if that were possible), so make sure that you are following all the best practices.

Understand Search Semantics & Long Tail Keywords

If you meet the previous two pre-requisites are looking to generate voice traffic about a particular subject, it helps to know how people talk about the keyword’s subject by identifying the long-tail keywords related to that subject.Long-tail keywords are wordier, more specific searches about a topic – and are usually questions. A long-tail keyword for SEO would be – “How can I optimize a site for voice search?” (instead of simply voice search SEO).

Since the Hummingbird algorithm update in 2013, Google has gotten more accurate at creating a link between words and intent – known as search semantics. The advent of search semantics was based on the mountain of data that Google had acquired leading up to 2013 about how people search for subjects based on the context of searches and how they relate to their subjects.

When someone searches for “what is the best way to get voice traffic,” Google knows that you are talking about SEO because of the usage of a unique combination of two keywords.

Long tail keywords require high-volume keyword answers

Provide Answers To Long Tail Keyword Questions

Knowing which questions are most likely to be posed and which keywords carry the biggest weight for those questions is a matter of keyword research. Look for the volume of long tail keywords to find which keywords you should focus on. You want to know which keywords are most likely to be used in the question, and also the keywords that Google will know should appear in the answer.

Google is still a machine: it can only retrieve the answers to voice searches and not formulate them itself. You will greatly increase your chances to appear as a featured snippet if you can to feature a sentence that contains the keywords used in the question in answer form and containing the keywords that should appear in the answer.

So, if you wanted to target a featured snippet for the question, “How do I rank for voice search in 2018?” you would want to feature the answer somewhere in a piece of content:

“The best way to acquire traffic from voice search users is to rank for featured snippets about important keywords and to have a mobile-friendly website.”

Since the majority of featured snippets are paragraph-long responses, you want to write that response in an article that ranks well for the subject. Featuring A 40 to 60-word answer to a long-tail query regarding a prominent keyword will give you the best chance to rank for a featured snippet, exposing your site to voice search traffic.

Local Businesses Should Focus on Local SEO First

Voice search SEO will soon become more important as Google becomes better at producing answers rather than retrieving. There may soon come a time when you don’t have to write Google’s answer for it – a point when their technology is sophisticated enough that it can piece together content from different pages or even different web sites to answer more and more complex questions.

However, if your business is a local one, voice search SEO is crucial but more straightforward. 80% searches for local businesses are conducted on a mobile device, and with the predicted explosion of personal assistant devices like Google Home (which, according to OC&C Strategy Consultants, are predicted to increase from 17% of U.S. homes to 55% in 2020) voice search SEO is largely dependent on local SEO implementations. If you are a local business and are concerned about voice search SEO, your efforts should be directed towards local SEO