Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Mastering the Art of Voice Search Optimization

Amazon Alexa“Alexa, tell me about voice search”
“I found this information on: Boy George”

Virtual assistants may be far from perfect – just search #AlexaFail on Twitter – but they sure are popular.

A 2018 survey of over 90,000 internet users found that 17% currently own a smart speaker (such as a Google Home, or an Amazon Echo), with a further 34% planning to purchase one in the near future. 20% of mobile Google searches are also carried out using a virtual assistant such as Siri.

Voice search is clearly here to stay, and businesses need to pay attention. Why? Because while the Alexas and Siris of the world may be saving lives, they could be killing your SEO.

We’ll take a quick look at four foolproof ways to stay on their good side.


1.  Siri Loves Structured Data

It’s true, she really does.

But first, what exactly is structured data? Structured data helps the Google bots to better understand your website, and the content you write. While humans can easily identify tables, lists and reviews by sight, robots need a little more help.

Voice search on phones is increasing in frequency.When you add structured data to your pages, you’ll need to use what’s known as ‘schema markup’. This is a specific type of HTML code that lets Google recognize the format of the data you’ve added, and – crucially – pull this data through for search result snippets. Think of it like speaking to the Google bots in a language they can understand. And the better they understand you, the better chance your site will have of ranking.

That said, adding elements like ‘review schema’ benefits users, as well as robots. By pulling through a review’s star rating to the results page, users have a far clearer idea of the type of content they’ll be viewing, which in turn should boost your click-through rate. Plus, by adding a variety of types of content to your pages you’ll also improve the experience of those viewing your site online (nobody likes to be faced with a huge wall of text!), so it really is a win-win.

So why does voice search favor structured data so much? By adding schema markup in the right places, you’re spelling out to Google exactly where it can find the content it needs to answer a voice search query. The easier you can make its job, the better!

And keep your eyes peeled for the launch of ‘speakable structured data’. It’s still in its BETA phase at the moment, but if introduced it will let you wrap certain parts of your copy in a specific markup code to signpost it as the perfect voice search result for Google.


2. Conversation is Key

Most local searches are done via voice search on a phone.The way we type a search query is different from  the way we search by speaking aloud.

Instead of typing ‘what is SEO’, or even ‘SEO what is’, we’re more likely to say ‘what’s SEO?’. This might seem like semantics (and technically, it is!), but bringing a conversational feel to your content is a surefire way to set you up for voice search success.

Here are three easy ways to nail conversational content:

  1. Use contractions, such as what’s, it’s, and here’s. This is simply more reflective of how we speak. E.g. ‘You might be wondering exactly what SEO is. Here’s a quick breakdown…’
  2. Use questions and answers. Why? Because it makes your content more engaging, and it signposts snappy answers to be picked up as voice search snippets. E.g. ‘So what is SEO? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s all about…’
  3. Use natural language. It can be tempting to drift into complicated language in your copy, which can be off-putting to both robots and humans alike. Follow the easy rule: ‘If you can say it in a simpler way, do’.

3. Revel in Mobile Responsiveness

Mobile responsiveness is no longe an option. Most searches are done from phones now.Mobile responsiveness is no longer the secret of clued-up web designers; all the best website builders in the business now offer completely mobile-responsive templates as standard. In SEO terms, having a mobile responsive website is an essential, not a preference.

But how does mobile responsiveness help with voice search optimization? With the vast majority of voice searches still carried out on mobile, your site needs to offer the best mobile user experience in order to compete for voice search snippets. That means a site that’s fast, and easy to navigate from your phone. Again, this is something that will benefit all your mobile users, not just those using voice search.


4. Fish for Long-Tail Keywords

When it comes to targeting keywords, voice search presents an opportunity rather than a challenge.

People are lazy when they type. They rely on search engine intelligence to decipher the meaning behind their two or three word queries: think ‘best restaurant Washington’, ‘website cost’, or ‘find gas station’.

With voice search, people are a lot more talkative. You’re far more likely to see queries such as ‘where’s the best restaurant in Washington?’, ‘how much does a website cost?’ or ‘how far away is the nearest gas station?’.

You can harness the power of these long-tail keywords in two key ways:

First, the gift of extra information and a question word in these queries gives a much clearer idea of the user intent behind the search. By targeting these long-tail keywords, you’ll create more precise content that gives users the answers they’re really searching for.

Second, you can (almost) say goodbye to shoehorning awkwardly worded keywords into your articles. Voice search queries are generally fully formed sentences that will easily double up as engaging H2s and H3s. Get ready for your content to (almost) write itself!


So there you have it: four simple ways to set your site up for voice search success.

But the best part? As we’ve mentioned throughout, these optimizations will improve the quality of your site for all users, not just those finding you through voice search. That means happy customers, happy search engines, and a website that’s ready to face future Google algorithm updates head on.


Hannah WhitfieldAbout the Author

Hannah Whitfield writes for Website Builder Expert, the number one resource for getting people online. Behind every successful online business is a sound knowledge of SEO, and Hannah wants to bring you the latest developments that’ll keep you one step ahead of the competition.


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