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How to “Rank” in Voice Search

How to “Rank” in Voice Search

So, you want to get ahead of the game and rank for voice searches. Good. There are a lot of opportunities for businesses in voice search.

Before you start to optimize for voice search, you first you need to find the opportunity. The opportunity for your business depends on a couple factors.

Have a Brick-and-Mortar Location? Focus on Local SEO

One way to rank for voice search is with your location. If you have a Google MyBusiness listing, a Google Home device can serve your business in response to a voice query. You’ll need a Bing Maps location for an Amazon device to suggest you.

You’ll need more than just a listing. You’ll need to be one of the top 3 local listings served in response to a query. This is also known as the “local pack.” You’ve probably seen this before. It’s where Google calls-out three local businesses in the SERPs, and provides a map to them. You need to earn your way into these three listings.

Now, Google is always changing their local listing algorithm. It would be hard for me to say, “This is how you do it” once and finally. Here’s some data from a source I trust.

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You’ll notice a couple things here:

  1. The biggest factor (by far) for your local ranking is your website’s ranking. The more things your website is ranking for, the more likely your local listing will appear in the local pack.
  2. Besides that, you need reviews for your business on your Google MyBusiness listing.

There are a lot of other factors for local ranking, but these seem to be the biggest. If you want a customer searching for a business like yours, “near me” you’ll need to rank in the local pack.

Sell Products or Provide Services? Focus on Featured Snippets

You’ve probably seen a “featured snippet” while using Google, yourself. This is where Google provides an answer to a question you ask, right in the SERPs. You don’t even have to click a website to see the answer to your question. It’s from these “featured snippets” that Google Home devices are pulling their voice results. If you’re able to earn a featured snippet, you’ll be able to “rank” for voice search.

First, find the opportunity

Not every search query earns a featured snippet. Mostly these come from queries that contain an interrogative in them (“who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, “why”, or “how”). But, even if you have an interrogative, you’re not guaranteed a featured snippet. You need to find the relevant queries that could potentially serve a featured snippet.

I like to start from Google Search Console. Start from Search Traffic > Search Analytics. At the top of this report, show your “Position” (by clicking on the checkbox next to the word).  Next go to “Queries” and click the drop-down box and select “Filter queries”. Try a couple interrogatives (“what”, “how”, etc.) and see if your site is being served-up for any queries that contain one of these words. Sort these by “Position”. Click on the box (with the arrow) next to a query to see if Google is giving a featured snippet for this query. If it is, you could pursue it.

Not finding an opportunity in Google Search Console? Try a tool that provides Google AutoSuggest data, such as AnswerThePublic. You can give this tool a keyword and it will tell you the questions people ask about this keyword. Not all of these will have featured snippets. If you keep looking through this data, you’ll eventually find one.

While looking for featured snippets, don’t overlook the “People Also Asked” section. This is where Google gives you a list of similar questions to your initial question. If you click on an item in this list, you’ll see that each of these answers are also featured snippets. In fact, if you started with any of these questions, in the first place, you’d have found a featured snippet there too.

Next, optimize for the featured snippet

To pursue a featured snippet, your site needs to rank in the top 10 (better, top 5) for a specific question. If you’re not ranking in that range, you’ll need to optimize your page to better rank for the question. Like local search, SEO factors are constantly changing. Here are some tips that might help, despite the constant flux of SEO:

  1. Are you literally asking the question on your page?
  2. Ask the question within a headline tag (h2 or h3, especially).
  3. Answer your question immediately after asking it.
  4. Make sure your answer is short and sweet. Think about 1 or 2 simple sentences. You don’t need to be comprehensive here. Google will tell people how to get more information, if you earn the snippet.
  5. Don’t forget to build links to your page. Bonus points if the anchor text asks the question you want in your snippet.

Now, I’ve only discussed one form of featured snippet. There are other forms you could earn. For instance, some featured snippets provide a list of steps in a process. Other featured snippets insert a table of data into the SERPs. While steps can make a great answer to a voice search, I’ve not seen (heard) a voice search that provided a table as an answer to a query.

Keep Testing

Things are always changing in the SEO world. Voice search is a new technology. I’m sure, whenever you find this article, some things might have changed. That’s why it’s important for you to keep testing.

Invest in a voice assistant. Don’t limit yourself to a Google device. Right now, Alexa-enabled devices are not as good for voice search as Google devices. If Amazon wants to remain competitive, however, this will improve.

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by David Zimmerman // David Zimmerman is an internet marketing consultant with Reliable Acorn LLC. When he's not in front of a screen, you might find him kayaking the Catawba River in South Carolina.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.