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Should your ecommerce business be optimising for voice search?

By . Posted 8 December 2021

Last modified on 11 May 2022 at 3:57 pm

According to recent research, more than half of UK homes have voice assistant devices, with the two main players being owned by Amazon and Google respectively. It’s clear that the technology has taken off and a study indicates that 65% of adults aged 25-49 years use a voice-enabled device at least once a day.

Whether it’s a weather forecast you’re after, the latest football scores or some help with the kids’ homework, people do use voice search to find information, but do they use it for online shopping too?

There is evidence to suggest that indeed they do! A 2019 report by Microsoft indicated that 40% of consumers had tried to buy something online via voice search. However, 2021 data shows that only around 8% of UK retail websites have enabled voice-activated search, which means that 92% have not!

How are voice searches different to text searches?

A major difference with voice searches is that they are much quicker and more convenient than typing and you don’t have to scroll through answers to choose one, you are delivered an audio answer within a few seconds.

A more significant difference though, is the actual way that voice searches are done, often using longer and more conversational queries than you would if you were typing a subject or question into a search engine. According to Google, nearly 70% of their voice searches use natural language that can differ from text searches.

voice search stat from Google

What do these differences mean for your ecommerce SEO strategy? We take a look below at what you can do to help grab a share of the growing number of voice search results for your site.

What is voice search SEO?

Voice search SEO is the process of optimising a website for searches that use a voice assistant rather than a text search as with conventional SEO. It’s possible to optimise a website for both, utilising a range of methods to help ensure that your site has a well-formulated answer or result for any kind of search.

How do I prepare my ecommerce site for voice search?

If you want to stand a chance of your website being delivered as a search result for voice queries, there are a number of different things that you can do.

Optimise for Google ‘position 0’

Your website’s SEO strategy may well already include a focus on trying to get some of your site content to appear in ‘position 0’ for a specific term or query. This is where Google chooses featured snippets of information and puts it on top of the other organic results.

For example, the below featured snippet appears in response to ‘How to waterproof a jacket’, inspired by this morning’s very soggy dog walk.

waterproof jacket featured snippet

Using Google Assistant for the same query brings back an audio version of the same content as above, which references the source website and products used and means the searcher can visit the site if they want further information or to make a purchase.

By answering questions that your customers are likely to ask in your site content in a direct, concise and useful way, you can start to challenge for featured snippets, which can also help you appear in voice searches, and gain more traffic as a result.

But how do you know which questions your customers are asking?

Use topic-based questions/answers that show a user’s intent

Understanding your customers and their buyer journey is really key to any effective ecommerce marketing, and this branch of SEO is no different. Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes can help you to find out what they would be looking for at various stages of the funnel and how this would be verbalised in voice search. A good source for this kind of information can be Google’s ‘People also ask’ results when you search the topic itself. For example, when searching ‘best winter hats’, a query that shows someone is comparing options before making a purchase, the Google search results include this section:

People also ask example - best winter hats

This gives you a whole list of possible questions you can answer which Google thinks are similar to the original query (when relevant to what you sell, of course) and essentially a load more featured snippets to aim for.

Moz have produced a brilliant guide to featured snippets that you can use to make sure that yours are formatted in the best way for the information you want to get across. This can sometimes just be a short paragraph of copy, but could also be a list or even a table.

Add schema markup to FAQ-type questions

Ensuring that pages, whether they are product pages, category pages or blog content, containing at least two questions and answers are marked up with FAQPage schema can not only help them achieve a rich result but can also get your content into the Google Assistant Directory, which can also bring more visibility for relevant voice searches.

Ensure your site pages load quickly

Page speed has long been something that can affect search rankings and it’s also very much the case with voice search. In order for your site to offer up a useful audio result quickly, the relevant page will need to be accessed almost instantly by search engines in order for them to offer this up to searchers.

If you have a local presence, ensure you incorporate local SEO into your strategy

Local SEO is an important consideration when looking at voice search optimisation if you have physical retail stores as well as selling online. Imagine a potential customer already out shopping who finds that the store they are in doesn’t have what they want in stock – they can easily do a quick voice search on their phone to find out who else in the area sells what they’re after.

This can include making sure that your Google My Business listing(s) are fully updated so that people can easily be directed to your store(s).

As smart speakers, smart devices and voice assistants on our phones become ever more commonplace, ecommerce brands need to ensure that they don’t get left behind and miss out on potential revenue because their website isn’t set up for voice search. Our experienced SEO team can help your business with voice search or any other elements of an SEO strategy. Get in touch using the form below to find out more.