3 tips for voice search in eCommerce: How to get your store voice search-ready

Voice search via voice assistant is preparing to become a standard for online searches. With this in mind, anyone whose business model is based on eCommerce is well-advised to prepare his or her website and company for this development.

Search engine optimization for voice search calls for a focus different from conventional SEO measures.
Image: © ryanking999 / AdobeStock

In the fast lane: Here’s how popular voice search is

Alexa, Siri, Cortana and the like have long since arrived in the mainstream and are an integral part of almost every Internet-enabled device. In 2019, nearly one in five consumers in the Federal Republic of Germany was already making use of the voice search function. Almost half of those conducting an Internet search, in turn, inquired about commercial offers and company information.

15 percent
of all searches from Germany are likely voice searches.

There are no current, representative statistical surveys on voice searches as a share of all searches. The last reliable figure comes from a publication by Google stating that in 2016, some 20 percent of searches from the USA were made via voice search. The much-cited statement that by the year 2020 around 50 percent of searches would be made via voice input is based on an extrapolation by a Baidu employee dating from 2014. That prediction is not likely to be true.

The challenge of voice search readiness

The majority of companies are not well-prepared for the coming dominance of voice search. Appropriate on-page optimization, as well as the basics, still come up short. Often, company data are missing in directories. or the title and description tags are meaningless.

A 2019 study by Uberall on voice search readiness found that only four percent of all companies have taken up the challenge of reaching users of voice search. To date, the vast majority of companies have completely missed out on this development – and hence a tremendous opportunity.

How do search behaviors and search results differ in voice search?

Conventional, keyboard-based input of search terms is dominated by brief, keyword-like inputs of individual shorthead keywords. Search queries conducted via voice search, on the other hand, mostly consist of longtail keywords and articulated, semantically complete questions. Hence, voice search corresponds semantically to natural language and contains more than the mere keywords that define the actual search interest.

Accordingly, voice search means that longtail keywords will have a higher search volume. At the moment, this very circumstance presents a good opportunity for optimization. This is because competition for complex, longtail search requests is still comparatively low.

One challenge arises from the fact that Google results lists (SERPs) play a smaller role in voice search than is already the case with traditional searches. The voice output of a voice assistant only presents the top result of a voice search. So whoever does not make it to first place is left completely out of view.

3 tips: How to get your store voice search-ready

Search engine optimization for voice search calls for a completely different approach than with conventional SEO measures. Best practices for voice search SEO can be derived from the specifics of a user’s search behavior and the output of results in voice search:

#1 Optimize for natural longtail keywords

The time to optimize for short keyword combinations is drawing to an end. Voice search involves syntactically and semantically complete inquiries stated in a natural tone. These often consist of five or more words. So your optimization should target such sentence constructions and the identification of the correct longtail keywords.

To actually be able to respond to questions from actual users and prospects with your website content, you should integrate W questions into h2 headings and create content appropriate to answering these questions using relevant keywords, such as advisory pages. Extensive FAQ areas are also gaining in relevance. In short: Required are naturally stated answers to naturally phrased questions.

#2 Local references are an asset

Local searches are represented much more in voice search queries than they are in conventional Google searches. Many users use voice search on the go with their smartphones to quickly locate a specific shopping venue or location in their immediate vicinity. So even if your business prioritizes eCommerce, you shouldn’t neglect to optimize for local searches as well.

It is advisable to optimize for corresponding longtail requests with a local reference. Location-related information on the website, schema markups, (i.e. the storage of structured data) and regular maintenance of a Google My Business account are a must.

#3 Optimize for featured snippets

Optimizing the output of search results in the sense of a featured snippet may seem elaborate, but it is also worth it. Featured snippets are the direct response to the requests your target group will submit via voice search, and Google plays them on the SERPs just below the vertical search tabs.

This puts featured snippets at position zero at the top of the search results page. A crucial benefit for voice search optimization: The featured snippet is read to the searcher in full length by the voice output as a rich answer in response to his or her search query. According to a study by Roast, Google Home uses a featured snippet in about 80 percent of its answers. The result for your eCommerce: Better CTR, more organic visitors, more revenue!

Voice search SEO: Catching up to fluttering flags, but…

Placing all your bets on voice-search marketing and only engaging in voice search optimization isn’t profitable yet. It is still not possible to predict whether the text search will actually be overtaken or even replaced by voice search in the near future. Nevertheless, voice search and voice commerce constitute a growing market that you should not completely neglect if you want to run your eCommerce business successfully in the long term. So act calmly and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Proven basic rules for solid SEO still apply and should remain at the heart of your strategy.