A new study has confirmed what you might have already suspected about voice search ranking signals, but it found some surprises as well.
Backlinko analyzed 10,000 Google Home search results. The whole effort was an attempt to answer a straightforward question: how do you optimize your site for voice search?
The study looked at 11 ranking signals, such as page load time, HTTPS, and the use of schema markup.
The results are in. Let’s take a look at what the research has found.
Voice Search Ranking Signal – Speed Matters
One unsurprising discovery was that faster pages seem to get preferential treatment.
In fact, the study found that voice search results load faster than most websites on average. The time to first byte for a voice result was .54 seconds. It’s 2.1 seconds for the average web page.
There was a noticeable full page load differential as well. Voice results loaded in 4.6 seconds on average. It’s 8.8 seconds for the average web page.
The takeaway here is obvious: if you want your site to make it into voice search results, make sure your page loads quickly.
Voice Search Ranking Signal – Security Matters
If you’re still using the non-secure HTTP protocol instead of HTTPS, you might have a hard time landing a voice search result.
The study found that more than 70% of voice results used HTTPS. That compares with only about half of desktop results that use the secure protocol.
Google is throwing off a number of signals these days that it expects webmasters to move to HTTPS if they haven’t done so already. If your site is still using HTTP, consider making the switch.
Voice Search Ranking Signal – Size Matters
Size does matter. In this case, though, smaller is better.
Specifically, Google wants to deliver audible answers that are brief.
Backlinko found that the average voice search response consisted of just 29 words. That makes sense because people are listening to the answer rather than reading it.
People tend to be more patient with verbiage when reading than listening.
If you want to rank in voice results, answer questions in less than 30 words.
Size Matters Part Deux
Although Backlinko found that the delivered answer was brief, it also found that long-form content tends to rank well in the voice search results.
The average word count of a results page was 2,312.
Is that a discrepancy? Not at all.
With long-form content, Google has more opportunities to sniff out the right answer to a user’s question. It will deliver the response from that content.
So even though you need to be brief when answering a question, you should write long-form content to demonstrate your knowledge of the subject.
Voice Search Ranking Signal – Structure Matters
Next: the structure of your page matters.
The study found that 2.68% of voice results were delivered from FAQ pages. Only 1.54% of desktop results were delivered from FAQs.
If you haven’t done so already, consider adding a FAQ to your website that answers important questions about your niche.
Voice Search Ranking Signal – Snippets Matter
Does your website rank for a Featured Snippet? If so, then you stand an excellent chance of getting that same result ranked for voice search.
Backlinko found that 40.7% of all voice results were from Featured Snippets.
Schema Doesn’t Matter
One surprising result from the study: it looks like schema markup doesn’t help with voice search.
The consensus is that markup will improve your rank because it makes it easier for search engines to parse your content. For whatever reason, that doesn’t seem to be the case with voice search.
Backlinko found that almost two-thirds (63.6%) of voice search results didn’t use markup.
That said, it’s pretty clear that markup won’t hurt your rankings with voice search. So if you’re already using it, you probably shouldn’t stop doing so.
Strong Backlinks Matter
Voice search is similar to desktop search in that you’re more likely to rank with a strong backlink profile.
The study analyzed voice results for Domain Rating and Page Rating (Ahrefs stats). It found that the average Domain Rating was 76.8 and the average Page Rating was 21.1.
Google prefers domain authority when it comes to voice search. The reason for that is obvious: voice search only delivers a single result. The Google algorithm relies on domain authority to be certain that the result contains reliable info.
Backlinko also found that voice search results also had an unusually high number of social shares. The average number of Facebook shares was 1,199, and the average number of Twitter shares was 44.
In this case, though, that probably doesn’t mean anything.
Why? Because Google has made it abundantly clear that it doesn’t use social signals as a ranking algorithm.
In other words, you don’t have to go on a campaign to get social shares for some of your content so that you can rank for voice search. Just provide valuable answers to people’s questions.
Voice Search Ranking Signal – Elocution Matters
You might not have even heard the word “elocution” before, but Google uses it as a voice ranking signal. It answers the question: “Was it easy to comprehend the answer as spoken?”
Note: it might be easy to comprehend a written answer but more challenging to understand the same answer as spoken. That’s because a good written answer might not be put in a conversational tone.
Backlinko found that the average voice result was written at a 9th-grade level. In some cases, though, the results were at an even lower level.
Bottom line: write your content like you’re writing for school children.
Wrapping It Up
As it turns out, SEO strategy for voice search isn’t a whole lot different than it is for desktop search. Focus on the trends that Google seems to be following (HTTPS, page speed) as well as practices that have always worked (long-form content, backlinks). Above all, though, make sure that your answers to specific questions that people might ask are brief.
Follow that advice,t and you’ve got a good shot at ranking for voice search.