Google Home and Mobile Phone

Guide to voice search optimization 

11 min read
Sean Chaudhary

Voice search is not new; it has been around for years now. However, its popularity has risen in the last few years as more people continue using smart devices to conduct online searches. Think about tools like Google voice search, Alexa, and Siri, which allow people to search for something on the web by speaking instead of typing. It's why you should dig into voice search optimization.

We can confidently say that voice search is not just convenient but necessary.

According to a 2020 NPR report, at least 60 million Americans own a smart speaker, proving that voice search is a great tool for online searchers. Even if someone doesn't own a smart speaker, there's a higher chance that they still perform a voice search, with statistics showing that over 1 billion voice searches are conducted across multiple channels every month.

With the number of voice searches rising each year, it's only fair to optimize your website for voice search to ensure you don't miss out on significant traffic from voice searches. Voice search presents a huge opportunity for getting organic traffic regardless of your industry.

If you wonder how to handle voice search optimization, this article is for you. Here, we look at everything you need to know about voice search for websites.

Understanding voice search for a website

In simple terms, voice search involves using voice commands to search for something online. Some of the common voice search devices include Google's assistant, Google Home, and Amazon's Alexa. Voice search analyzes the user's command and detects their demands using machine learning. The command is then connected to the search engine to provide the most appropriate response to the user.

More specifically, users can either push the button on their smart speaker or click on a voice command icon from their devices to make a query.

The user receives an answer to their queries depending on their device. For instance, a user using a smartphone or tablet will receive their response both in audible and text-based versions, allowing them to read and listen to the results simultaneously. On the other hand, a user using a smart speaker will get an audio response.

As voice search becomes more popular, so is the competition. That means for a website to appear on top of voice search results, it must be optimized for voice search. The only way around this is to make voice search optimization part of your search engine optimization (SEO). That said, here are voice search optimization efforts to put into practice:

Optimize for user intent

Many things happen behind the scenes when a user performs a voice search to ensure they get the most relevant results. Ideally, when a user makes a voice query, they must wait for a few seconds before the search engine processes the results. The search engine converts the voice to text and analyzes the user intent before delivering the results.

User intent refers to the goal a searcher has when making a query on the internet. In other words, this is a person's goal when searching for something on the internet (via text or voice command). The search engines like Google strive to understand this intent to provide a result that matches that goal.

Unlike the early SEO, Google looks beyond keywords and backlinks when providing results to a search query. Google aims to provide the most relevant results to a search query, focusing a lot on user intent. This is the case whether a user performs a text or voice-based search.

As such, optimizing your content to align with the search intent to increase its chances of appearing in related queries is advisable.

Use conversational language

A primary thing that makes a voice query different from a normal text query is that it uses a conversational tone — mostly in the form of a question. This is one of the things you need to remember when optimizing voice search for your website.

To achieve this, use a natural, conversational tone in your content. To be specific, use terms that align with the language people use daily. Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself:

  • What questions are people asking in your niche?
  • What keywords do your target audience use?
  • What are the best answers to a search query?

The answers you get to these questions will help determine how to create the best conversational strategy. SEO tools like Google Search Console and Ahrefs can help perform keyword research to use in your conversational language strategy.

Use long-tail keywords

As mentioned above, voice search is more conversational than text-based searches. As a result, you should focus on long-tail keywords instead of short keywords when optimizing for voice search.

For example, assuming someone is looking for an SEO agency, the term 'best SEO agency' would work best for text search intent but not voice searches. For voice searches, you should use long-tail keywords like 'best SEO agency for marketing,' for instance.

Long-tail keywords not only help boost your voice search rankings it also has a lower monthly search volume (MSV) than short keywords.

That means they will cost you less and have a higher chance of ranking than shorter keywords. And since they are more focused and align with the searcher's intent, they have a higher conversion rate.

The best way to optimize your content for long-tail keywords is to use them within your content, including in the headings and text.

A featured snippet is a brief excerpt from a webpage that Google displays at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). It's one of the ways that Google uses to provide a better user experience. Ideally, this result represents the most relevant answer to a user's query and is helpful to voice searchers who don't want to click the individual results from the search results pages.

In fact, Google pulls most of its voice search results from the featured snippets.

In-depth research is required to increase your chances of ranking in voice search results. As part of an overall strategy for voice search optimization, we recommend researching a list of lots of frequently asked questions and using them within your content.

Tools like Ahrefs can help identify the snippets with the highest ranking in your niche. We also recommend having a FAQ section on your WordPress site to allow room to include the most common questions and their answers. Doing that increases the chances of Google displaying your answers to searchers. The FAQ section also allows you to include the most common keywords and phrases you want to rank for.

Create short and easy-to-read answers

One of the primary reasons people use voice search is that they don't have time to type or read long answers. Therefore, when a user performs a voice search, they expect a short and clear answer from the available results.

If your answers are long and hard to read, it's unlikely that Google will rank higher on voice search results.

Of course, you can still have long and more detailed content on your pages but try to keep the sentences short and readable to make it easier for Google to pick answers from there when providing answers to related queries.

Apps like Hemingway can help check the readability of your sentences and paragraphs. It checks the grammar and sentences that are hard to read. Another invaluable tool to help conduct readability analysis is Yoast SEO, a WordPress plugin. Besides helping check readability, Yoast SEO offers great suggestions on how to optimize your website for SEO.

Improve site speed

The need for a faster-loading website cannot be overstated. A slower-loading site will lower your conversion rate. As such, you can experience a significant traffic increase if you improve your site speed to avoid losing traffic to sites that load faster than you.

Remember, you're always competing with other websites that want to rank for the same keywords as your site. Therefore, you need to eliminate anything that could prevent search engines from indexing your site. Here are tips to help improve your site speed:

  • Test your page speed — The first step toward improving your WordPress speed is to test your current speed and compare it with competitor sites. Tools like Google PageSpeed can help with this.
  • Compress your images — Large visual files (images and videos) increases your pages load time
  • Use a content delivery network (CDN) — These are geographically distributed proxy servers that ensure people access your content at a uniform speed regardless of location.
  • Reduce HTTP requests — The more files you have on your webpage, the more HTTP requests you'll have, ultimately slowing down your site. Use fewer files in your webpage to increase your WordPress site speed.
  • Upgrade your hosting — Sometimes a slow loading site can be due to poor hosting. In such a case, you should upgrade your hosting if your system is overwhelmed by the traffic you're getting.

A slower loading site means a bad user experience and negatively affects a site's ranking on search engines. Try to improve your site speed to increase your chances of ranking on SERPs.

Use structured data

As earlier mentioned, search engines aim to provide users with results that match their search intent regardless of whether it's a text or voice search. However, for Google to provide results from your site to a relevant search query, it needs to understand your website. Some of the things that Google should understand about your site include:

  • Your target audience
  • The type of content you offer
  • Whether searchers will get the answers that they want from your site

One way you can help Google understand your site is by use of structured data or schema. Ideally, structured data helps search engines understand the context of the content on your website.

For example, it helps Google differentiate contact information and a random number on your site. Think of it like a name tag on the different aspects of your content, including articles, reviews, events, people, products, etc.

Optimize for local SEO

Typically, users use voice searches to perform local searches, like 'coffee shop near me,' or 'salon near me,' and many other things in their locality. That means you need to optimize your business for local SEO to appear in these searches.

The first step towards local optimization is to claim your Google My Business listing and optimize your profile. Once you list your business on Google maps and local search results, there's a possibility that searchers will find it when they perform a related search. Here's the information to include in your local business listing:

  • Your business name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Operating hours
  • Reviews
  • Questions and answers

Google considers relevancy and proximity when providing local search results. To increase the chances of your business being found via a local voice search, ensure that your Google My Business page has all the information relevant to the user.

Optimizing for Google My Business helps users know your business location, which helps them to plan their travel time. The best part is that customers can leave reviews on the Google My Business page. You'll increase your chances of ranking on local search results with more positive ratings.

Here are things to remember when optimizing your Google My Business page for voice search:

  • Be clear about your business category
  • Include subcategories relevant to your business
  • Encourage users to leave you a review—ensure to respond to all reviews, whether positive or negative.
  • Include your phone number and website URL on your page to enable users to call you or visit your WordPress website

Design a mobile-friendly website

Since having a mobile-friendly website is a ranking factor for traditional SEO, we can assume that it is also a ranking factor for voice searches. And since most people performing local searches do so using mobile devices, having a mobile design presents a huge opportunity to reach your target audience and boost traffic to your website.

Drive more voice search traffic to your website today

That's it. Those are the steps to optimize your website for voice search. Besides following the above tips, here are things you should keep in mind to ensure your site ranks better on voice search results:

  • Create a FAQ section and complete the sitemap
  • Secure your website with SSL and HTTPS
  • Optimize the content on your website (both long-form and short-form)
  • Update your content frequently
  • Be active on social media

As virtual voice assistants become more popular, voice search optimization is not an option but a necessity. We hope the above tips will help optimize your site for voice search regardless of your industry.

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