Backlinko have recently done an in-depth analysis of “Voice search ranking factors” and found 11 variables tied to appearing in Google Home results. The company examines over 10000 results delivered through the smart speaker.

What Backlinko have found, stays consistent with what many other companies have been reporting, but there were also a few surprises. An example of this, the study discounts the impact of Scheme and Page Authority to some degree.

Here’s a cut-down, paraphrased list of the ranking factors:

  1. PageSpeed is a significant factor; voice search results typically come from faster-loading pages.
  2. Google relies heavily on very authoritative domains for results, but pages not as much.
  3. Content that ranks well on the desktop tends to rank in voice search. This might be a correlation rather than causal however.
  4. Schema may not be a factor: 36 percent of pages voice search results came from pages using Schema.
  5. Roughly 41 percent of voice search results came from Featured Snippets.
  6. Voice search results are generally 29 words; however Google sources voice results from long-form content.
  7. HTTPS is critical.

Google has made pagespeed a critical mobile ranking factor. (We did an entire article on Google’s new Mobile First indexing, which you can find here)

Backlinko found that the page-load time for a voice result was almost twice as fast as traditional webpages. Not surprising. What may be a surprise are the findings around Schema.

The company found that Schema was used on more than a third of pages delivered through Google Home, somewhat more than in general results. Accordingly it discounted Schema as a voice search ranking factor:

“Although voice search result pages tend to use Schema slightly more often than your average web page, the difference is not significant. Also, 63.6% of voice search results don’t use Schema at all. Therefore, it’s unlikely that Schema has a direct impact on voice search rankings.”

Below are Backlinko’s findings around Schema distribution in voice search results.

There are plenty of reasons to use Schema in general so this finding shouldn’t be seen as a discount against it. It may also be that Schema pages don’t appear more because they aren’t more prevalent and there are other important variables.

Among them, links matter for voice results as well.
Domain authority was quite high, whereas page authority was rather low in comparison.

We discovered that the average Domain Rating of a voice search result was 76.8% . . . we found that the link authority of voice search result pages was significantly lower. In fact, the mean Page Rating of a voice search result was only 21.1.

Backlinko have thought that the voice algorithm was looking at domain authority, over page authority, because it provides a higher level of confidence with the accuracy of results.

Long form content was also correlated with voice results. “Google voice search results predominantly come from pages with a high word count,” the study asserts. In addition, “FAQ pages tend to perform particularly well in voice search.” Keywords were somewhat less important: “only 1.71% of voice search results use the exact keyword in their title tag.”

The company advises, “Don’t worry about creating individual pages that are each optimized around individual keywords. Instead, write in-depth content that can answer several different voice search queries on a single page.”

Finally, content that ranks well on the desktop appears to also rank well in voice results. This makes sense. Nearly 75% of voice results on Google Home “came from a page ranking in the top 3 for that keyword.”

We recommend that Search Engine Optimisation Specialists should review the post and do their own evaluations of the findings and recommendations. Full article here

While it’s not clear whether smart speakers will take away some query volume or merely be an additive, at least two studies have shown that owners of Alexa and Google Home devices are spending a considerably less amount of time on their smartphones

Regardless, virtual assistants are emerging as an important consumer discovery tool and marketers need to take these platforms seriously and adapt to them. In Google’s case, the Assistant (which powers Google Home) is now available on 400 million devices.