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The Definitive Guide to Voice Search: How to Beat Your Competitors to the Punch

January 16, 2020

Nothing moves quite as fast as the digital marketing world.

Every year, and sometimes every week, there seems to be a new invention or iteration that’s changing the landscape marketers have grown accustomed to.

One year, the rage was blog content. Then, it was video content. And now, it’s live video.

But that’s just one example of the quickly changing environment.

To give you another, a current change that the world of SEO is experiencing comes in the form of voice search.

During the 2016 holiday season, for instance, the Echo was Amazon’s best-selling product.

If you don’t know what the Echo is, it’s basically a listening robot you can ask questions whenever you want.

And the Echo is selling extraordinarily well.

But why is that important?

Well, the Echo as a bestseller is just one illustration of how voice search is adapting and what it means for SEO experts and marketers everywhere.

Why is voice search important all of the sudden?

Chances are, you haven’t thought much of voice search. I didn’t for a while.

So far, it’s just been a tool that is semi-convenient when you’re in a hurry or need to be hands-free with your Google search.

But voice search hasn’t been the primary form of searching online. After all, if your hands are free, you’re probably just going to type your search into Google the old-fashioned way.

For people who do use voice search, though, there are a few different devices they can use. Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Google’s voice search are some of the most popular options.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Great. Those are the devices, but not many people are actually using voice search. At least, there isn’t enough use to worry about it as a marketer, right?”

And that’s where you’d be wrong.

The reality is that more people are using voice search than you probably originally expected. Specifically, that number sits right around 20% of all mobile searches.

And since 2013, voice search queries have continually been on the rise.

That’s a lot of data pointing to the prominence of voice search.

Most likely, voice search is on the rise because of its convenience. No one likes to type a long search on their phone and misspell it several times because the buttons are too small.

And now that voice search is actually quite good at translating human language into text, the era of voice search has begun.

But what should you, as a marketer and SEO expert, do about it?

Here are the eight things you need to do to prepare.

1. Understand and target micro-moments

The first thing you need to do to optimize your SEO strategy for voice search is target micro-moments.

What are micro-moments?

These are the short windows of opportunity where a searcher is ready to buy, try, or commit.

They aren’t searching because they’re curious or interested. They’re searching because they need your product and they are prepared to spend money to get it.

To be more concise, Google defines micro-moments as the I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do, and I-want-to-buy moments.

In other words, these are the moments packed with lead-generation and conversion potential.

They represent a gold mine of potential for your business.

If you can target people during micro-moments, then your conversion rate will skyrocket.

These micro-moments are arguably even more important when it comes to voice search.

Think about it.

When was the last time you voice searched for something leisurely, such as, “Top 10 online gifs” or “Funny videos” or something of that nature?

Usually, when people use voice search, they’re doing it because they’re in a hurry. They are searching for things like, “How to cook broccoli in a microwave” or “Why won’t my car turn on?”

That means searchers might actually be more invested in their online activity when they are searching vocally rather than through text.

But how can you target these critical moments that require a decision? Well, it comes down to targeting the right keywords on your website.

Do a little keyword research with a resource like Wordstream’s keyword tool.

Type in the keywords that you’re interested in targeting. In this case, I’m using “buy shoes” as an example.

Then, Wordstream’s tool will show you a list of the top keywords surrounding that search. It’ll list the keywords in the order of highest search volume at the top to lowest search volume at the bottom.

Why is this so important? Well, it helps you prepare for micro-moments with voice search and text search by determining exactly what people are searching.

Once you know that, targeting your prospect’s high-commitment moments is simply a matter of selecting the keywords.

Choose the ones that represent micro-moments and create content and web pages around those keywords.

In the above example, for instance, the keywords that represent the highest commitment are probably “shoebuy,” “shoes online,” and “discount shoes.”

These are the moments that people opt-in, buy, and, ultimately, help your bottom line.

And often, these moments happen during voice search. To leverage their potential, select the keywords that represent these high-commitment gold mines.

2. Prepare for more long-tail keywords

When people are searching vocally rather than by typing, the long-tail keywords shine.

What is a long-tail keyword?

It’s simply a keyword that is longer, and generally less common, than short keywords.

For instance, “Buy shoes” would be a short keyword, and “Buy blue basketball sneakers” would be a long-tail version.

As you can see, the long-tail keyword is more specific than the generic one.

And since it’s more specific, there is generally less competition surrounding it. In particular, these keywords are the heartbeat of voice search.


Because when people are talking instead of texting, they tend to use longer keywords.

This means that, in order to optimize your SEO strategy for voice search, you need to pay special attention to long-tail keywords.

You might, for instance, want to go against the grain and consider keywords that include filler words and prepositions.

In other words, you should target keywords that mimic the way people speak.

You probably wouldn’t say “Buy shoes” into your phone. But you might say, “Buy blue basketball shoes” or even, “Where can I buy blue basketball shoes?”

Generally, people who are searching with their voice are in a hurry and will be more specific.

And since they are speaking, they’ll be more conversational.

That makes long-tail keywords the pinnacle of SEO for voice searches.

Here’s an article, for instance, that targets the long-tail keyword within its title.

That’s a perfect example of something you would ask voice search. Almost verbatim.

You can do the same thing with your website content. Think about the topic you’re going to try to rank for, then ask yourself these two questions.

  1. How would someone ask this question if they were speaking instead of typing?
  2. How can I target a keyword that is similar?

The more prepared you are for the rise of long-tail keywords, the more prepared your SEO strategy will be for voice search.

3. Optimize load times

When you think of voice search, you probably don’t immediately think of the importance of a fast website.

Maybe you think of developing your keyword strategy or changing around your PPC. But what is this about load time?

What does that have to do with voice search?

Well, it’s no secret that your website’s load time directly impacts your bounce rate. The longer your website takes to load, the more people will leave before viewing anything.

But here’s the more important thing to remember for our purposes:

If people leave a slow website when they’re typing in a search, what about when they’re voice searching?

After all, voice searchers are usually in more of a hurry than people typing in their search. That’s why they’re talking into their phones in the first place.

This means that if your website is slow, that load time will be even more detrimental.

But how can you test your website to see if it’s fast enough?

Pingdom is a great tool for doing so.

Enter your website’s URL and choose the location that you want to test from.

Click “Start Test.”

Pingdom will provide you with a website speed diagnoses. You want to make sure that your website is at least a “B.”

Ideally, your website load time should be under three seconds. This will ensure that you’re not losing visitors due to a slow website.

One thing’s for sure: If your website load speed is suffering, so is your SEO strategy. Especially when it comes to voice searches.

Voice searchers are in more of a hurry than text searchers, so make sure that you optimize your website’s load speed if it’s suffering.

4. Study the searcher’s intent

Have you ever typed something into a Google search only to get results that weren’t what you were looking for?

So, you reworded the search a few times trying to find an article or website that actually answered your question, but to no avail.

It seemed that Google misinterpreted each search, and you couldn’t find what you needed.

It’s important, whether voice search or text search, to study what searchers actually want when they type in your target keywords. Then, deliver it to them.

Define your target keywords.

Ask yourself what searchers want when they type that keyword into a search engine. And then, create a piece of content that caters to exactly that desire.

Someone, for instance, who types in, “What is digital marketing”…

…is at a very different place in the buying journey than someone who types in, “Hire a digital marketer.”

The first person simply wants to investigate the basics of digital marketing, whereas the second person wants to hire a digital marketer.

When you create website content, determine which type of content you’re creating.

Are you creating content for people who are ready to convert? Or, are you creating top-of-the-funnel content to generate traffic and leads for your website?

The difference is critical.

In particular, “what” and “who” questions are low-commitment. “How” questions are a little higher, followed by “when” questions. Finally, “where” questions are high-commitment.

Take the following questions and their level of commitment as an example.

  • What is digital marketing?
  • How does digital marketing work?
  • When should I invest in digital marketing?
  • Where can I hire a digital marketer?

You can see the different levels of commitment with each type of question.

And, when optimizing your website’s content for voice SEO, what you’re serving up needs to match the intent behind the keywords because it’s usually the highest commitment.

5. Understand your customer

Beyond the searcher’s intent and no matter your marketing efforts, understanding your customer is critical.

To market successfully to the people who are going to buy from you, you need to know who they are, how they think, and what they want.

And for voice search, this is critical because people speaking into their phones are in a hurry and will quickly get annoyed with results that aren’t what they were looking for.

If you don’t understand your customer, you can’t market to them successfully, much less create an SEO strategy around voice search.

One of the best ways to define your ideal customer is to create a customer avatar surrounding the person you want to market to.

Fill in these blanks.

In the end, your customer avatar sheet should look something like this.

The more specific you are, the better you’ll understand your target market. Treat your customer avatar like they’re an individual, a real person.

Then, create content and web pages that cater directly to their pains, needs, wants, and desires.

There’s no better way to prepare your website for voice searchers than by understanding the people who are behind the microphone.

6. Use content marketing to increase top-of-funnel generation

Many voice searchers are seeking out how to do something. They want to know how to cook a certain vegetable, fix their car, or swaddle their baby.

All of those questions make for great top-of-the-funnel content marketing topics for you to target.

Simply do some keyword research to seek out the top questions your ideal customer might have and then create content targeting those exact keywords.

I know that optimizing for top-of-the-funnel SEO strategies can sometimes feel like a waste of time. But if you don’t get people to enter your funnel, you won’t be able to get them to purchase and become an existing customer.

Content marketing, in particular, is wildly effective for generating traffic to your website.

That’s probably why 86% of B2C marketers are using content marketing as part of their outreach strategy.

Content marketing does a great job of capturing the “how-to” queries of voice searchers.

These searches aren’t necessarily high-commitment. But if you’re the person to help them with well-placed content when they need it, the chances are good that they’ll return to you when they are ready to buy.

7. Build a mobile-responsive website

You probably know how important it is to have a mobile-responsive website.

The number of devices that people search on today (desktop, mobile, and tablet) requires your website to quickly and easily adapt to the device it’s viewed on.

If it doesn’t, then the experience seems lazy and under-performing to the viewers.

In fact, 57% of customers wouldn’t recommend a brand with a bad mobile experience, 40% have gone to the competition after visiting a bad mobile site, and 23% have cursed at their phones when a site didn’t work.

And with voice search, this is even more important.


Because people who search using voice are usually using a mobile device. They aren’t using a computer or tablet.

But how do you check to see if your website is mobile-friendly?

Simply use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

Type in your URL. In the below example, I’m using the baby fashion online retailer, Swanky Sweetums.

Click, “Run Test.”

And then, this page will come up.

If the test shows that your website isn’t mobile-friendly, then you might want to consider using a website-creation service that automatically optimizes for mobile. WordPress, Shopify, and Squarespace are a few options.

8. Test and iterate as often as possible

Nothing is arguably more important for your website’s voice search optimization than the ability to test and iterate your strategy.

Voice search has been around the digital globe for some time now, but only recently has it become a viable and sought-after option for searching online.

Most voice search tools can understand human speech far more accurately now than they once were able to.

That means that people are more confident about using the voice search feature on their mobile device.

Since voice search is just now finding its footing, testing and iteration are increasingly important.

Your process should look something like this.

Start with analysis, move to strategy, then jump to optimization. Rinse and repeat whenever you can, and your voice search strategy will be bringing in traffic, leads, and conversions in no time.


Sometimes, the marketing world is difficult to keep up with.

It’s likely that the next speedy but noteworthy invention is voice search.

Now that voice search is finally capable of translating human speech to text with accuracy, it’s becoming a more viable search option for consumers.

That means that you should pay attention to it, too.

In particular, target micro-moments and long-tail keywords to create a realistic user experience.

Then optimize load times on your website, study the searcher’s intent and understand your customer so they don’t become annoyed and bounce somewhere else.

Finally, use content marketing, make sure you have a mobile-responsive website, and test and iterate your strategy as often as possible.

With those strategies, you’ll beat your competitors to the voice-search punch.

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