How Does Voice Search Affect SEO?
Voice search is a burgeoning frontier in SEO as more and more people speak into their smart devices rather than peck with fingers on keyboards. Devices like smartphones, voice-activated smart speakers and in-vehicle voice connectivity are ubiquitous these days. They provide an ease of use that was unimaginable just a few short years ago. Google’s algorithm – especially after the advent of RankBrain and Hummingbird – uses machine learning and user intent (rather than just keywords) to produce search results that anticipate a user’s meaning. Because so many people are speaking their searches now, it’s more important than ever to create law firm content with SEO that is optimized for voice.
Voice search affects SEO in the following ways:
- Voice SEO focuses on long-tail phrases rather than short groups of words.
- Content optimized for voice is written conversationally. Write the way you speak.
- 22% of voice searches are looking for local content, so leverage local SEO.
- The average voice search result is 29 words long.
- Natural language, keyword length, and question words are important in voice search.
What Is Voice Search?
Voice search utilizes audio technology so that users can speak conversationally into a device to ask questions or get information. Speech-recognition technology enables devices to understand what a user is saying with extreme precision and generate results to a user. Programs such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana all utilize voice search capabilities. Nearly half of all general web searches are made by speaking into a device. Because of its rapidly rising use, Google is putting an increased emphasis on voice search optimization. The implications for law firms are many.
Recognizing Your Voice and Habits
Voice-recognition technology, including Google Voice Search, “learns” to recognize an individual’s voice commands and their key phases. Over time, Google learns to “listen” for the unique cadence and characteristics of your voice, identifying not only the way you speak but also your browsing interests, behaviors, and website preferences. As long as you are logged into Google (this includes being logged into your Gmail when you use Google), your search data is retained and leveraged by Google to give you increasingly individualized search results. All of this is made possible by natural language processing. For example, Google Assistant learns to recognize a person’s accent, pronunciations, word choices and pronouns because no two voices sound alike. Natural language processing enables computers to understand language and questions just like humans do.
Consider these statistics about voice search:
- Google reports that 27% of the global online population uses voice search on mobile.
- 48% of consumers use voice for “general web searches,” according to an Adobe study.
- In 2Q 2018, 24% of homes owned a smart speaker device and that trend was expected to accelerate, according to Neilson research.
- 72% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say that their devices are often used as part of their daily routine.
- 58% of consumers used a voice search to find a local business in 2017, according to a 2018 BrightLocal study.
- By 2020, 30% of all website sessions were conducted without a screen, according to an article in Forbes
- Mobile now represents 59% of searches, and voice is on the cusp of being the #1 choice for mobile searches, according to Search Engine Land.
Voice Search SEO and Traditional Website SEO Are Slightly Different
One of the big takeaways for voice search is to write the way you speak.
When users type a query on a desktop or laptop, they tend to use crisp, staccato, almost bullet-like terms such as “divorce attorney in Houston” or “car accident lawyer.” These SEO terms work well for typed searches because Google ranks websites based on traditional SEO. But when speaking a search, users typically use conversational phrases – not blunt groups of 2-3 words – such as “Siri, can you go to jail for multiple DUIs in Florida?” or “Siri, what is the average settlement in a car accident case?” To ensure that your web content is optimized for voice search as well as traditional SEO, it’s important to include those long-tail phrases in your online content. The long-tail phrases should not be wordy or complex. Instead, they should be to-the-point and conversational, written at an 8th or 9th grade level.
Using Questions and Answers
By creating section headings that ask a conversational question and then answer it concisely in the text, you may boost your performance in voice searches. This may mean that a webpage – say, a practice area or home page – needs to be longer in word count than it used to be, but it’s worth it. Long-tail phrases also leverage Google’s growing focus on passage indexing, which ranks pages based on relevant passages even if they’re located on webpages with slightly different topics. Adding an FAQ section is one way to work in long-tail search phrases.
According to SeoClarity, 20% of voice searches are triggered by just 25 words. The 12 most frequently used are:
According to Forbes, 22% of voice searches are looking for location-based content. There are many reasons for law firms to invest in local SEO. This is just one of them. People searching for lawyers by speaking into a device often use terms like “near me” or they say the name of the city. Be sure to include references to your city, state and/or region in your online content. And for those voice searches that are looking for your street address or phone number, make sure this info is listed prominently on your site. Typically, it is in the footer so that it appears on every page and on the Contact Us page.
Featured Snippets and Position Zero
As stated above, the average voice search result is 29 words long, according to Forbes. Ideally, you can create a “featured snippet” with identifiable extracts that answer common long-tail queries. Featured snippets show up at the top of page one in search results. Featured snippets are also called “position zero” because they appear above the first listing on a SERPs page. Content tends to rank well for featured snippets when it includes numbered or bulleted lists, headings tagged with html, statistics and short sentences. The content targeted at obtaining a featured snippet should also include the SEO long-tail phrase.
Google Voice prioritizes quick-loading websites. This is essential to ranking well for audible searches. So, law firms should ensure that files are compressed, images are optimized, and response time is minimal. Increased domain authority will also help with voice search visibility.
Why Do Users Like Voice Search?
In its article “5 Ways Voice Assistance Is Shaping Consumer Behavior,” Google says that users like voice search for the following reasons:
- It makes life easier.
Talking, rather than having to type, enables people to multi-task and get things done faster and with less effort.
- It’s at the center of the home.
People often have a voice-activated speaker in a living room kitchen or bedroom. They also have a smartphone within arm’s-reach. These devices are always handy, whereas a laptop may not be.
- It’s part of the daily routine.
Some daily routines — like checking the weather, searching for commute routes, or adding to a grocery list – are now accomplished by voice with smart devices.
- It offers a new, more human relationship with technology.
People engage with voice-activated devices as though they were talking to a neighbor or a friend. Speaking is more intimate and natural than typing, and users are even known to say things like “please” and “thank you” in voice searches.
- It’s a new playground for brands.
People are open to learning about new brands and businesses through the voice experience. Any brand that provides useful information or convenience is likely to garner their attention.
Smart Speakers and Voice Searches
A recent survey by Microsoft found that smart speaker ownership jumped from 23% to 45% of respondents from 2018 to 2019. The 2019 follow-up survey included 5,000 U.S. consumers. All searches using smart speakers are done by voice. Google and Apple tied for the most usage, according to Search Engine Land. The market share for smart speaker voice searches breaks down as follows:
- Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant – 36% of searches
- Amazon Alexa – 25% of searches
- Microsoft Cortana – 19% of searches
Google Assistant is available on a billion devices. According to Search Engine Land, conversations with smart speakers include these top-ranked voice searches:
- Searching for a quick fact – 68%
- Asking for directions – 65%
- Searching for a business – 47%
- Researching a product or service – 44%
What all of this means for law firms is that more and more people are getting their information by asking a personal assistant. As with mobile searches, people speak their queries rather than type on keyboards to do these searches. Google claims 95% accuracy in its Google Home speakers these days. Edison Research and others say that the U.S. is nearing if not already exceeding 100 million smart speakers in American homes.
How Can Law Firms Leverage Voice Search?
There are several things a law firm can do to enhance their visibility in voice search results. While no one thing is a silver bullet, a combination of the following efforts can make your web pages more attractive to Google during voice searches.
1. Make Critical Information Easily Available
Be sure your law firm’s critical information, like street address and phone number, are readily available online. You can do this by including it in your footer which makes it readily available for search engines to find. Also, for core practice area pages, be sure to include mentions of your city — and in some cases, state – several times in the content. Google’s algorithm will parse content and images to create search results, but don’t make it laborious for Google to do its job. Forcing Google to work overtime to find this information may harm your visibility in search results. This is especially important in “near me” and local searches initiated by users looking for a lawyer in their immediate area.
2. Avoid Legalese and Language That Is Hard to Understand
Content that is complex or cumbersome will not provide a good user experience (UX) nor is it likely to rank well in voice searches. This is particularly precarious for professionals like lawyers and doctors whose language is riddled with obscure, multi-syllabic words. While linking to and citing relevant legal statutes is desirable and encouraged, the actual on-page content should not read like a legal brief. Always write in layman’s terms that a high school freshman could understand. Remember to write the way average people speak.
3. Identify the Top Questions That Clients Ask Lawyers
Content creators familiar with the legal sector can create long-tail SEO phrases by mimicking questions frequently asked by potential clients. There are hundreds of possibilities. For example, some of these phrases might include questions like:
- Can I file bankruptcy without my spouse?
- How do I avoid probate in California?
- When is a car a lemon?
- How long does a felony stay on my record?
While these are hypothetical examples, you get the idea. By answering questions succinctly in your online content that clients ask when they’re talking to a lawyer, you increase your chances of producing content that resonates with voice searchers.
4. Make Sure Your Law Firm Site Loads Quickly
Quick-loading websites are critical for voice search. The faster the better. Law firm web pages that populate slowly or leave text and photo gaps while loading are less likely to achieve high visibility in voice searches. Google voice AI quickly provides users with answers to their commands utilizing the most relevant websites with fast, accurate and detailed information.
5. Hire Professionals Who Understand Law Firm SEO
The easiest way to make sure your online content is optimized for voice search is to hire law firm marketing professionals who specialize in SEO for lawyers. The legal field is unique and unlike other consumer industries, so collaborating with professionals who deeply understand the law can make all the difference. They can show you how to leverage Local Service Ads for lawyers, find out what searchers ask Google, and create client-centered content. To find out more about how Gladiator Law Marketing SEO professionals can help your law firm, call for a free consultation at 888-683-3212.
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