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How to Optimize for Voice Search



How to Optimize for Voice Search

If you’re reading this then you have probably already tried searching on Google using voice search. And why not? It’s an amazing way to search Google quickly and easily – especially on mobile devices.

According to a recent study, 1/5 adults already use voice search at least once per month and that number will surely continue to rise quickly. Let’s explore how you can get your content included in voice search results.

“How to Optimize for Voice Search?”

This is a question we’ve been getting a lot over the past year. Voice Search has been around for a few years, but it’s continually gaining popularity as more and more people adopt this new way of interacting with the web.

This will continue to be the case, especially with mobile users, simply because it’s such a quick and simple way to get quick answers on your phone.

A broad definition of Voice Search would be any sort of online search using your voice – that could be Google, Alexa, Siri.

A more accurate definition, and what we’re addressing here, is using your voice to access “search” engines. Alexa and Siri are great, but they’re not search engines in themselves. They are what’s known as Voice Assistants, and using voice assistants involves a lot more than search engines.

So we’re going to be focusing on just the search engine aspect of this That’s really going to be Google,

One topic that we are NOT covering here is the history and evolution of voice search. There’s a ton of articles on that topic already, so we’re not going to cover that. We’re going to cover specifically how to optimize for voice search in Google.

Most of the data in this guide come from a SEMrush study that SEMrush which, at the time of writing, is probably the most comprehensive study so far. There will surely be more, but for now…

Let’s jump in.

Voice Search and “Featured Snippets”

If you’ve ever done a voice search on Google, either on your desktop or a mobile device, you’ve probably seen something that looks like this.

In this particular example is a list. You may have seen a list like this or a regular paragraph of text. You may have also seen images or a video, but what these are called are “Featured Snippets” and this is what Google reads back to you when you do a voice search.

In thinking about how to optimize for voice search, what we really want to do is focus on these featured snippets. Luckily for us, they have a specific set of characteristics, things that are very common.

The rest of this guide focuses on what those characteristics are, and how you can apply them to your own website.

What is a Featured Snippet?

If you enter a question into Google, you’ll often see short snippets of a text displayed directly on Google at the top of the search results page. This is done to provide instant answers to user questions, without having to leave Google. Featured snippets can include regular paragraph text, lists, tables, and videos to answer the user’s question.

If a user wants to learn more about the featured text in the snippet, they can simply click the website link to access the rest of the content.

Featured Snippet Types

There are four common types of featured snippets: paragraphs, lists, tables, and videos. Paragraphs are the most common and videos are the least common.

The Benefits of Featured Snippets

As you can see in the example above, featured snippet results are located at the top of search results, giving instant visibility and higher organic traffic to any site listed there.

Moreover, websites with featured snippets tend to take up 50% or more of the screen (particularly in mobile) making these types of listing much more clickable. Featured snippets also provide an advantage over competitors since many, if not all, competing sites are pushed further down the page or off the initial screen completely.

It goes without saying that earning a featured snippet bodes well for visibility. It indicates to users that Google trusts your content enough to feature your answers which is a great indicator of brand authority.

Another benefit of featured snippets is that they appear more often for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords often indicate searches that are made further along the sales funnel. This means that you are more likely to attract high-quality leads and customers to your website with Featured snippets.

For example, let’s say you own a skincare company that offers a Vitamin C facial serum. You can optimize your content for the search term “how can I brighten my skin with Vitamin C?” This is likely to attract users who may be ready to purchase, compared to users searching for more generic phrases like “facial serum”.

In addition to those mentioned above, here are a couple more benefits of featured snippets:

  1. Higher brand authority: Your website may be seen to have more credible and valuable information.

  2. Higher click-through rate (CTR): Having more eyes on your content in search results inevitably improves CTR. This varies depending on the content of the featured snippets, but in general, having more eyes on your content will significantly increase the number of people clicking through your website.

Featured Snippet Research

Roughly one-fifth of searches in Google results in a featured snippet. As mentioned, featured snippets appear much more frequently with long-tail queries, which often have higher conversions rate, and are less competitive than traditional keywords, so the potential opportunities are massive.

Featured Snippets on Google

99% of the time, you can find the featured snippet literally placed in the first organic position on Google. The snippet has a 0.7% chance of coming in second and an even slimmer chance of coming in third through eighth.

If a search result has more than one featured snippet, those figures may change. 7.3% of page results on search engines have two featured snippets stacked on top of each other, referred to as double featured snippets. Surprisingly, 99.9987% are in the first spot, while 0.0013% are in the third.

Featured Snippets by Industry

The recent study by SEMrush and Brado discovered that featured snippets are more popular in some industries than others:

A featured snippet appears on roughly 62% of search engine results in the Travel and Computer & Electronics categories, but just 11% of the time in the Real Estate category.

Keyword categories and domain categories, on the other hand, are not quite the same and must be viewed in tandem. Health, for example, may have ranked 13th in the list above, but domains in the health category had the most featured snippets, as seen below.

Although large domains can dominate the featured snippets landscape, any domain can receive one. Here are the domain categories that created the most featured snippets based on research:

How to Get a Featured Snippet on Google

To get your site listed in featured snippets, focus on strategy and format content according to the following guidelines. Remember, if you write an answer for a question that already has a featured snippet in Google, you may still have the chance of replacing it with one of your own.

Based on research, here’s a list of the most important elements to include in your content to help you achieve featured snippets.

  1. Target Long-Tail Keywords

Imagine you own a meat shop and want to explain to your customers how to choose the best cuts for steak. You won’t have much luck targeting “steak” on its own, so you’ll need to be specific and choose your keywords carefully.

This is where Featured Snippets come in handy. According to studies, the more words in the query, the more likely it that a featured snippet will be included.

  1. Only 4.3% of keywords with a single word had a featured snippet;

  2. A featured snippet was found in 17% of keywords with 5 words; and

  3. A featured snippet was found in 55.5% of keywords with ten words.

Identify the questions your customers are asking in order to maximize the length of your keywords. Lengthier questions, which are more descriptive than shorter ones.

You can get a featured snippet for a less specific keyword like “steak cuts”, but you’ll have better odds and see more traffic if you get one for a more niche keyword.

For example, you could provide an insightful response to the specific question “what are the best steak cuts for grilling?” and earn a featured snippet as a result. That may also lead to higher quality visitors since the keyword implies a specific purpose and those users may be closer to making a purchase.

CHECKLIST

  1. Answer a Specific Question

In addition to targeting long-tail keywords, make an effort to answer a very specific question with your article.

Compared to years past, Google has evolved considerably in terms of “natural language processing” and is able to answer questions that are asked in conversational tones. Featured Snippets are often used to answer these types of searches.

Research suggests that a question-based phrase, such as “why,” “do,” or “should,” was used in 29% of the keywords that activated a featured snippet. The following are the most common searches that result in featured snippets:

  1. 77.6% of questions begin with the word “why”; and

  2. 72.4% of queries begin with the word “can”

Snippets appeared the least frequently (18.6%) in questions that began with the word “where.” This is likely due to Google’s tendency to present ‘Local Packs’ and maps when the term “where” is included.

You can also use Keyword research tools to find relevant and long-tail keywords and questions. (see our ‘How to Research Keywords’ guide)

You can answer multiple questions in a single article or create a series of posts based on the questions that discuss a particular keyword. It depends on how closely the questions are related. That being said, always keep your user in mind and try to provide the best answer – as simply as possible.

CHECKLIST

  1. Choose One of These Featured Snippets Type

You’ll probably be able to work out what kind of featured snippet you’ll get quite quickly. Your four featured snippet formats are below.

  1. Paragraph

  2. List

  3. Table

  4. Video

Strive to be as concise as possible with the content that you’d like to appear inside a featured snippet. Try aiming for 40-50 words or 250-300 characters, although this is not a hard-and-fast rule.

Succeeding paragraphs can include illustrations, humor, or whatever else you’d like to add for the readers who want more in-depth content.

CHECKLIST

4. Crop Images to a 4×5 Ratio

If you include images, and we recommend you do, keep in mind that images in featured snippets aren’t always taken directly from an article. Since Google loads the images separately, it can be a gamble, but here’s a tip to help you beat the odds.

The average graphic in a featured snippet is roughly 160x200px. Your images can be larger, but use this ratio (or something similar) when cropping your images.

  1. Include Lists, Graphs & Other Visuals

Make your article more robust with the following types of content.

  1. Visuals (images, charts & graphs, etc)

  2. Lists

  3. Examples

  4. Case studies

  5. Expert quotes

  6. Links to other resources

CHECKLIST

  1. Think about “E-A-T”ing

Another important consideration when optimising your content for Featured Snippets is E-A-T: Expertise, Authority, and Trust. These are some key factors of that equation that might be missing from your content. You need to set up author profiles and use them on article pages. For any sort of queries online, you want advice given by an expert.

This could mean that they have to have a lawyer, agent, or legal professor represent them on-site. That person (or people) will then be mentioned as authors for any articles. The way to get expertise established is to create a profile, link to it from active, professional social media profiles, and be mentioned and referenced in expert articles on other sites (essentially, link building).

Pro Tip: Nobody listens to a schmuck.Be sure to show users who you are, and why they should listen to you. Demonstrate your expertise with links and an author profile.

CHECKLIST

  1. Add Links to your Content

Add links to additional resources and content when appropriate, including other pages within your own website. When linking to external sites, but be sure to link to respected and legitimate sources and avoid links to spammy or questionable websites. By providing links to useful resources like this, Google will recognize that your content is also a useful resource.

External Links

Outbound links can be a good sign of Authority and Trust. Linking to law, government, educational sites, and high-quality articles is a good step to boost your search engine rankings.

Internal Links

Internal links are a big part of E-A-T. Demonstrate your expertise by linking to additional pages on your domain. It’s also very valuable to get links from other high E-A-T sites that are topically relevant.

Pro Tip: Think about friends coming to visit Imagine your friends are coming to visit you from out-of-town. What would you tell them to do while in town? You’d (hopefully) tell them about the best things to do in your city and give them the biggest list of attractions that you can possibly think of. The same goes for your website visitors – tell them the best things to do.

CHECKLIST

  1. Add a Publication Date

Many websites avoid including dates in their articles in order to remain relevant for as long as possible. This isn’t always best for users, however. All else being equal, most users probably prefer recent information over older content.

Google does provide dates whenever possible and dated content appears frequently in featured snippets. Here are the percentages of featured snippets that included a date among the various types:

  1. Paragraph: 44%

  2. List: 47%

  3. Table: 19%

  4. Video: 20%

According to research, although recent content was preferred, older articles won the featured snippet if they gave the best answer. Only about 1% of featured snippet content was less than a week old, so the MOST recent content is not necessarily the best either.

The overwhelming majority of featured snippets were from content published in the last 2-3 years.

The debate over whether or not to include dates on content isn’t going away anytime soon, but the arguments in favor are compelling:

  1. Most readers preferred dated content because it prevents confusion and frustration.

  2. Dated content fosters trust, particularly when it demonstrates that it has been updated with recent data.

  3. Algorithms may show a preference for newer content, and there may be a recency bias in click-through rate.

Pro Tip: Update and Republish Content

Look for existing pages from your blog that have performed well by identifying which ones have the most click-through rates and engagement or conversions metrics. Update those pages when they start to stagnate and republish them with a new date.

One easy way to do this is by keeping your statistical data current. Tell readers when it was first published and when it was last updated. You could get a featured snippet and improve your metrics without the need to create entirely new content.

CHECKLIST

  1. Use 1-2 Subfolders

Subfolders appear in URLs as text in between slashes, as follows:

As per research, long URLs are less likely to get a featured snippet. One or two subfolders is a good starting point, with three being the upper limit.

Pro Tip: Arrange your blog like the folders on your desk

Imagine printing out all the content from your website. Perhaps you have 20 articles that you want to arrange and organize. You probably wouldn’t just toss them all into a single folder called “blog”. To keep everything in place, you’d make folders for different topics, right?

This is a good example of a simple and user-friendly method to organize your content. Take the same approach when organizing your website content and you’ll be taking a step towards optimizing your site for featured snippets.

CHECKLIST

  1. Aim for Quality over Quantity

One of the most important rules in SEO, whether targeting featured snippets or traditional organic rankings, is to focus on Quality over Quantity. We’ve included several averages in this guide, such as 6 items per list and 5 rows per table, but keep in mind that the amount of content won’t matter if your content isn’t useful to readers.

Pro Tip: Spend your time thinking about Quality

Google will never reward you for publishing tons of garbage. It’s better to have 1 great article than 5 average articles.

CHECKLIST

Remember this!

Create a true “resource” for your target audience. Don’t

Remember that your objective should be to provide useful content for your readers. After all, they are your potential customers, clients, or subscribers. Demonstrate that you’re an expert by providing them with a resource that answers a common and specific question.

Once you’ve chosen the information you want to share with people, adjust your article to fit one of the four standard types of Featured Snippets. Adjust your content according to the principles here.

Good Luck!

Next Steps

> Download the Cheat Sheet> Advanced Topic: Build a Featured Snippet Hub

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