March 01, 2020 The Marketing Issue

Find Your Voice: Can Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant Find You?

Learn how to optimize your law firm website for voice search results.

Mark Homer

Did you just get caught up on optimizing your website for mobile-first search? Well, now you need to prepare for voice search, which is already 20 percent of searches in the Google app.

That statistic, from data provided by Google, it isn’t too hard to believe in 2020. But would it surprise you to learn that this statistic is from 2016? 

Voice search has been undergoing a quiet revolution for the past few years. An estimated 75 percent of households will have at least one smart speaker by this year, according to the Microsoft 2019 Voice Report. Combined with the increasing number of voice searches on mobile devices, this revolution cannot be ignored anymore. Any law firm that focuses on getting new business from online marketing must begin optimizing for voice search. 

But what should your law firm do now to take advantage of the growth of voice search?

Understanding Voice Search Algorithms

First, before I give you all the tactics to help with voice SEO (search engine optimization), you can rest easy knowing that Google, Bing and new voice search players Amazon and Apple want to figure this out—with or without you. They are not waiting for small-business owners to update their websites.

Despite the many advances in technology, voice search can be tricky. Here are two real examples of voice searches for legal help:

“OK Google, give me the number to the lawyer that accident lawyer that I can speak to for free”
“When a juvenile is at fault of a accident what does courtaid”

The goal of voice search tools like Siri, Alexa, Google and Cortana is to use semantic clues to provide results that are as close to the exact answer as possible. They don’t want to return a list of items for you to listen to, sort in your head and ask more about. They want to provide one answer. You want your firm to be that answer.

If you look at what Google has been doing in the search results, you can see where this trend is headed. Over the past several years, Google has introduced knowledge cards about people, businesses, places and sports scores, as well as answer cards with the best-guess answer to a searcher’s question. 

In fact, it’s fascinating to look at the crazy voice searches that come into Google Ads, especially when handled correctly. Google shows the correct ad even though the phrase may be very confusing.

In the above examples:

“OK Google, give me the number to the lawyer that accident lawyer that I can speak to for free”

This triggered an ad to one of our accident attorney websites in the local area of the search.

“When a juvenile is at fault of a accident what does courtaid”  

This showed our client’s ad, which bid on the keywords “juvenile court” but not “courtaid.”

This is one of the better examples of the quality of Google’s voice search algorithm. It correctly understood this strange voice request was really asking: “When a juvenile is at fault in an accident, what does the court ask?” As a result, Google showed the correct ad, which provided a lead to our client.

SERP Features

The good news for you is that even if you don’t do anything differently than what you do now, your content will still get you pretty far as these algorithms improve. 

“SERP features” are the additional features that have been added to the search engine results page, or SERP, over the past 10 years. Before 2010, the search results used to all look the same, 10 results with a blue linked title and a 150-character description underneath.

Now the SERPs are full of new features. For example, if you have asked Google a question in the search box in the past few years, you may have noticed that the No. 1 result is a callout box with Google’s best guess at the answer. This is called a “featured snippet.”

There are many other new SERP features that have been introduced the past few years, such as the “people also ask” box, the knowledge graph of your business complete with phone numbers and reviews, or the local map returns. These are all Google’s way of trying to guess exactly what the searcher is looking for to show the best and most specific answer possible.     

Optimize Your Website Speed

If you want to optimize your website for voice search results, making sure your website loads as quickly as possible is critical. If you optimized your website for mobile, you should have already worked on getting your website to load in under two seconds. If not, start now. It is even more critical in voice search.

Use Schema Markup

Incorporating schema markup (see schema.org) on your website provides the search engine bots with specific semantic information in the exact language they understand. You should be doing this as much as you can on your website to help the semantic part of the search engine algorithm.

At a minimum, you should use the LegalService markup to provide information about your law firm to search engines. You may have been told to use Attorney markup in the past, but that has been removed in favor of LegalService markup. 

Your business’s name, address, hours, contact information, attorneys at the firm, awards, even the Google map link are all things you can provide to the search bots to aid your search engine results.

If someone asks Google app to “find a DUI Attorney near me,” then the algorithm knows from your schema markup if your law firm handles driving under the influence cases, and if it is near the searcher. Both the area of practice and the geographic area could be included in the search returns.

Make Sure People Can Find Your Firm By Name

In addition to using schema to mark up your contact information on the web, make sure your key directory listings used by the voice search industry are completely accurate.

You don’t want someone using voice search to fire up Google or Apple maps and go to your office, only to be taken to the wrong location or get the wrong phone number. A prospect looking for your firm name in search—as opposed to searching based on general legal need—is typically a referral. Referrals are usually the best new clients.

The key directories to optimize include:

  • Google My Business—used by Google
  • Yelp—used by Siri, Alexa and Cortana
  • Bing Places for Business—used by Cortana
  • Apple Maps Connect—used by Siri

Answer Questions On Your Website

People go to the internet to ask questions about things they are unsure about, from “Alexa, what time does Starbucks close near me?” to “OK Google, how do I get out of a traffic ticket?” Firms should consider using longer questions that match natural language when using a voice search feature. These questions can often return a featured snippet in response to a voice search.

To help your content match these longer queries (and potentially get a featured snippet), spend time on your website writing content to answer questions that potential clients may ask when using voice search.

Think about what questions pop up throughout your normal day while you’re talking to prospects and clients. Anytime someone asks a question, write it down in the exact words they use. Now you have a list of questions using real-world language. The content should be easy to write because you answer these questions every day. 

You get bonus points if you use the schema markup mentioned above after writing the question and answer page on your website. The schema markup will help the search engine bots understand that you have added a great Q&A to your website.

Conclusion

As mobile devices have taken over the majority of search traffic the past few years, law firms that did not make adjustments to their sites for mobile searches were hit with a drop in traffic. Start incorporating some of these techniques now to avoid a similar fate with voice search traffic.

Mark Homer

Mark Homer is the founder and CEO of the law firm marketing agency Get Noticed Get Found, and author of the book Online Law Practice Strategiesnow in its fifth edition. He can be reached at gngf.com or on twitter @mark_homer. mark@gngf.com