How to Optimize Around User Intent for Voice Search

User Intent

Search engines exist to provide the best and most relevant answers to users who are looking for information. This specifically means that your search engine optimization (SEO) strategies should be built around the intent behind these queries.

A study by the University of Hong Kong discovered that web search intention can be divided into two means: one, a user may be looking for results to a more specific query (specificity); and two, a user may wish to check out more general information related to the keyword queried (exhaustivity).

Today, a new age of search is on the rise, giving much focus to user intent and voice search optimization. Thanks to new algorithm updates, Google now analyzes the intent behind each query to deliver the most relevant and accurate results that solve problems, not just match with the keywords.

With this, voice search optimization attempts to understand the intent behind the combination of long-tail keyphrases used. Voice SEO does this to deliver the best results and meet the searcher’s expectations in order to gain better search rankings in SERPs.

Google Hummingbird’s Job

As a way to deliver more accurate search results, Google released Google Hummingbird, which features a semantic search and knowledge graph. The algorithm update allows the search engine to have a more advanced understanding of a user’s search intent in order to display more relevant results to corresponding search queries.

This is a long shot from the traditional SEO practice of keyword stuffing. The Google Hummingbird update paved the way for more helpful search matches, finally putting into the register the criticality of user intent. As a result, digital marketers and brands now have the opportunity to produce more useful and valuable content for searchers, helping them rank better on SERPs.

What is User Intent?

Every time users pick up their mobile devices to get immediate answers to their problems or look for information about a brand or product, that action expresses user intent. The crux is that each user who conducts an Internet search has a particular intent. They have specific wants and expect the search results to meet that intent. This is the jump-off point for successful optimization for conversion.

There are four main categories of User Intent searches. This determines the type of results that Google provides to its searchers. The first three can be broken down as Do – Know – Go, and the fourth one being a commercial investigation.

Do (Transactional Queries)

Transactional queries are when users go on the web to perform specific actions such as buying a specific brand or product or availing a particular service. This search intent implies that the user is prepared to make a purchase. Example queries under this intent is “How to start a Netflix subscription?”

However, “Do” queries aren’t always about making a purchase. Some users perform queries that are not explicitly transactional in intent, but search engines still suggest pricing in case the user actually wants to buy (e.g., “Flight prices from New York to Hawaii.”).

Know (Informational Queries)

Informational queries are when users perform a search to find more information and learn about a certain topic or product. Queries like “How to make homemade hot chocolate?” or “What is the thirteenth zodiac?” fall under this category.

“Know” queries are tied to micro-moments. These micro-moments happens when a user acts upon fulfilling a specific query. Since users can pick up their smart devices to quickly look something up, brands and marketing experts are expected to deliver accessible, relevant, and real-time information anytime, anywhere.

Queries in this category of user intent can be simple or complex, but always informational in intent. While some queries may require product research, the action is neither commercial nor transactional.

Go (Navigational Queries)

Navigational queries are when users go on the web to find a specific website or location, usually a known brand or entity. “Go” queries skip going to the navigation bar or bookmark pages.  An example of this is when a searcher says “Log in on Spotify” or “Find Taylor Swift’s “ME!” official video on Youtube.” When users perform these queries, they expect to get directed to a particular location. If the search results deliver a competitor brand result (eg. suggesting Apple Music instead of Spotify), then it fails to satisfy the searcher’s needs. 

Commercial Investigation

Commercial investigation queries are when users have the intention to purchase a product or service in the future, but they go online to do research first. For instance, they would ask “What is the best shampoo for curly hair?” or “What’s the best movie streaming service?”

These users have an intention to buy a product or avail a service, but they’ll need more time for examining their options and conducting product research. These users need a bit of convincing.

How User Intent is Changing Marketing

User intent is reshaping the way people go through the buyer’s journey. Consumers today no longer follow a linear approach to purchasing. With online shopping and the convenience of search engines, customers can now enter the sales funnel at any point of the journey.

This change also allows brands and marketing experts to create their content to match the points in which searchers or buyers enter the funnel. In short, it’s become all about aligning the funnel to correspond with user intent. It’s all about giving people what they want and need. This helps refine your content development and research on relevant queries and topics.

Tips For Doing Voice Search Optimization Around User Intent

Aim for Position Zero

When you ask Siri or Google Assistant a question, they usually provide one answer. This answer usually comes from the featured snippet. About 40% of voice search results are pulled from Featured Snippets—the segment above the fold on page one of SERPs that is coined “Position 0”.

This means that you shouldn’t be just focusing on being on the first page, but also ranking for position 0. This can increase your website traffic which could result in introducing new customers to your brand. Moreover, featured snippets in position 0 generate an 8.6% click-through-rate.  

Project “Position 0” tip: Structure your content with proper formatting by using subheaders and bullet points. Search engines like organized content which they and the readers can easily digest.

Optimize your Google My Business listing

A study shows that roughly 58% of searchers have utilized voice search to look for local business information. Optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) listing and updating it with the latest information can boost your chances of ranking locally for voice search.

Here’s a basic checklist to guide you when completing your GMB profile:

  • Include complete necessary information such as name, address, and phone number (NAP).
  • Indicate the area code along with your phone number.
  • Use a professional business name associated with your website (e.g., [email protected])
  • Ensure that your business location is consistent between your website, GMB, and other local business listings.
  • Select the relevant categories for your business industry.
  • Use high-quality images to make your listing more credible and attractive.
  • Take the opportunity to describe your business, products, and services in the introduction field.

Many people are using voice assistants to ask for business opening hours, contact details, addresses, directions, and other queries that need direct answers. Make it easier for your local audience to find you.

Local and vocal

Speaking of optimizing for local search, Google found that “near me now” searches have increased by 150% over the past years. People trigger queries like “Show me the top Korean restaurants nearby in [specific city]” unless they’re within the vicinity and ready to head out for lunch or dinner.

They want to eat, they want results, and they want them now. Local voice search is all about urgency and delivering value immediately.

Given this, your local optimization strategy for voice search should focus on all the touchpoints. Create a FAQ segment on your website which provides in-depth answers to all common questions. You can also optimize your subheadings to correspond with such search questions, write list articles, or include tables in your site content. This will help you rank higher for local searches and increase your chances of turning queries into leads.

Keep the user’s own journey in mind

Since its introduction, the buyer’s journey has been the staple in mapping and developing campaigns and strategies for marketing and sales professionals. Fast forward to today, the evolution of online search and shopping has transformed the way people go through each stage of this journey. The customer journey is no longer linear.

Before, consumers follow a linear path when searching online: landing page > homepage or form > product page > form. But the inception of mobile and voice search dramatically transformed consumers’ purchasing decisions and their path towards that final stage.

As marketers, you can identify which part of the stage the customer is at the moment based on search results analysis and insights from tools like Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

Consider developing your SEO and content strategy for voice search through mapping questions as per the various stages of the customer journey:

  • Awareness: “What’s the best smartphone?”
  • Interest: “Can you do voice searches on Apple’s iPhone XS?”
  • Evaluation: “Which is better: Apple or Samsung?”
  • Purchase: “How much does the iPhone XS cost?”
  • Customer Support: “Why does the iPhone XS sometimes glitch after the iOS update?”
  • Loyalty: “What smart wearables work with iPhone XS?”         

Focus on content that solves problems

Most people who use voice search are on-the-go and seeking for immediate answers. If you fail to deliver, it’s likely that you’ll fail to rank on the SERPs for voice search.

Most questions start with H + 5W questions: how, who, what, when, where, and why. Google and other search engines tend to prioritize voice search answers that are concise and within 29 words. This doesn’t mean you should only write 29-word blog posts. Instead, you can use your FAQ page for this purpose.

As a guide, you can research questions in their conversational context through Reddit, Twitter comments, and other discussion threads to have an idea of what and how people craft their queries using voice search. You can also use some tools to optimize and segmentation of niche questions.

Complete the keyword query

“OK Google, find an in-depth article that explains what user intent is and how to optimize it around voice search.”

With voice search, keyword queries are longer and more conversational in nature. People are more likely to ask full questions rather than command one or two keyphrases as they would normally type in a search bar. And frankly, it’s easier and more convenient to speak than type. This implies big changes to how you should write the title of your blog post or your content in general.

So, instead of writing around one or two keywords, try experimenting with long-tail keywords (complete, conversational sentences) in your on-page content. Imagine you’re sitting face-to-face with a customer or your readers, think about how they would construct their question related to your business, industry, products, and services. Chances are it sounds conversational in nature.

Additionally, if you type your keyphrases on Google, you can check out the “People Also Ask” box to get a better understanding of other question ideas. You can see that the suggested queries are complete sentences and sound conversational—just as how someone would ask it using voice search.

Use structured data

Producing relevant content is an excellent voice search optimization tactic. Structured data, also known as schema markup language, can help augment your content for better visibility.

Structured data is a form of organized micro-data that you can insert into your site’s HTML code so that search engines can decipher and further understand your site content. Full disclosure: this doesn’t directly affect your site’s ranking. However, it does help Google contextualize and index your data.

The markup sets up your web content’s relevancy signals for voice search SEO through context cues (i.e., title, tags, meta, headings elements, etc.) that correspond with specific keyword queries. Below are some resources you can start with:

  • Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool – Google’s free tool that allows you to see if your markup works appropriately.
  • – An online database of schema vocabularies you can use to make it easier for webmasters to construct their schema. You can also find FAQs, latest updates, and guides on how you can schema it to your site.
  • Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper – Another free tool that helps you markup elements in your website content to improve the search engine to comprehend your page data better.

A famous example of where structured data are seen and maximized is when searching for recipes. When results highlight images, calories, cooking duration, cooking steps, and other information, that’s structured language in action.

Summing up

People don’t just search online for no reason. There’s always a reason for it.

Users search online with a purpose; with an intent to find immediate answers for their queries—specific or general information. To optimize your voice search with user intent in mind, stop thinking like a marketer for one moment. Stand in your target audience’s shoes and think how they would: short, simple, and conversational.

At Voice SEO, we offer voice search optimization services that focus on getting your content in front of your target audience. If you want to drive valuable website traffic, grow conversions, generate revenue, and grow your business, consider voice search optimization tactics. Get in touch with Voice SEO now to optimize your website today!