With the range of smart devices and virtual assistants we currently count with, carrying out a web search has never been easier. Not only does it save you time, but it also saves you the trouble of using your fingers to type your request. However, it’s important to note that voice searches are carried differently from the usual text searches. For a voice search, queries are set out in a similar way to how we would normally ask a question in real life. 

In this blog, we’ll start by briefly introducing what voice search optimisation is before heading to explain how this kind of search differs from text search. Finally, we’ll cover some tips for voice search so you can boost your business’s visibility!

What is Voice Search Optimisation?

Voice search optimisation focuses SEO efforts on improving a website’s content in order to become more visible in voice search results. For virtual assistants and voice search technologies to pick up on your business, your content must be adjusted in a way that it is able to answer common verbal queries. 

To have a more clear idea of how this works, we’ll use the following example. Suppose you’re craving some good margaritas to enjoy with your friends during the summer. Your voice search could be something like “Hey Siri. Where can I find the best margaritas in London?”. Siri would then respond and display the top results on search engines. 

If you’ve asked Siri for help before, you might have noticed that it only shows a very limited number of results. Well, voice search optimisation is all about trying to get your website a place in those search results.

The interesting thing about optimising your voice search is that it will simultaneously help your website’s overall SEO and ranking. This is because search engines rank websites that have adopted all kinds of optimisation procedures higher. 

What are the Differences Between Voice Search and Text Search?

While there are some similarities between on-page search optimisation and voice search optimisation, voice search differs significantly from text searches on websites like Google.com in several key ways. 

As we mentioned previously, voice searches resemble the way we talk in our daily life. So, one of the main differences is that this kind of search is more conversational and detailed. In our previous example, the voice search began with a phrase greeting Siri followed by the question “Where can I find the best margaritas in London?” In a text search, however, queries are shorter and straight to the point. If we apply the same example but this time to a text search, then you could be typing something like  “margaritas in london”.  

As voice searches became more widespread, search engines upgraded their algorithms so they could understand longer and more conversational queries to provide more accurate results. For instance, Google’s Hummingbird and BERT algorithms were upgraded in such a way that they could understand the searcher intent, identify the meaning of queries as a whole and of course, offer more complete results in voice queries. 

Now that we know what Google and other search engines have done to enhance voice search results, it’s time to discuss what you can do to make your website stand out. 

Voice Search Optimisation Best Practices

Consider question keywords and other long-tail keywords

The reason why voice search queries are longer and more specific is that when we speak, it’s less demanding than typing. It takes much less effort to pop a question than to write the whole thing, which is why you can expect people to be asking full questions rather than just a few simple keywords. One way to optimise voice search is by looking for long-tail keywords in your content. In other words, you need to be aware of those keywords that are made up of three or more words. More specifically, you need to keep an eye out on question keywords because of what we’ve mentioned before. 

Long-tail keywords are a great source of traffic because the intent of the search helps narrow down the search. When you make your keywords specific to your business, you avoid your website competing on the results page. For example, let’s say you have an ice cream business that offers vegan options in Manchester. You can define your keywords like “vegan ice cream places in Manchester”, instead of “vegan ice creams”.

To make this step easier, think of “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, and “how” questions that customers may be thinking of. Write these questions in your pages’ copy (in H2, for example) and answer them the best you can.  

You can also make use of keyword research tools to find the keywords that best resonate with your target audience or why not take a look at the “related searches”? Google results page has a “related searches” and “people also ask” section which can give you an idea of the most frequently asked questions regarding a specific topic. Enter a text search about your business and see what Google’s recommendations are. 

Based on your observations, you can then list all related questions about your website in a FAQ section, each with a response that can compete for a position in voice search results. This type of information is also best for Google's placement of featured snippets, which we’ll get into later.

Adopt a Conversational Language in Your Content

We’ve said this before and can’t stress this enough, voice searches are conversational. Therefore, your content must have a conversational tone that matches your users’ queries. When your writing style is more casual, your content feels more authentic, makes it easier to process, and most importantly, it becomes more relevant to voice searches.

Now, you may be wondering how exactly you can make your content conversational and we have a few hacks for you. One way is by writing it in either first-point of view, using pronouns like “I”, “me”, “we” and “us”; second-point of view, talking directly to the audience using the pronoun “you”; or by mixing both styles (just like we’re doing it right now with you).

When you’re making your content conversational you’re also simplifying it, in the sense that you’re making it easy for your audience to read and understand. This takes us to our next tip: avoid jargon and technical language. 

It’s also helpful to add a little bit of humour. After all, who doesn’t like having a good laugh from time to time? If you have a predetermined brand voice, try making that tone fall to the most casual end of that voice. 

Also, note that just because you’re making your content more conversational doesn’t mean that you’re degrading its quality. On the contrary, by making it more conversational you have the opportunity to create content to which your audience can most relate to and enjoy. This eventually will make them realise how valuable your content is.

If this isn’t convincing you enough, just think that Google values high-quality content. So, just make that high-quality content sound similar to having a real-life conversation with someone.   

Prioritise Local SEO

Local SEO aims to enhance the visibility of local businesses and brick-and-mortar businesses in search engines. Local SEO is key for these types of businesses as they are exposed to all potential customers within the area, and as you may have imagined, it’s also a great way to maximise voice search. This makes sense considering that many of us carry out a voice search on our smartphones before going somewhere nearby, be it a store, restaurant or other place.

Going back to our example about the margaritas, imagine you’re already in London and neither you nor your friends can decide on the place to get drinks. You get your phone out and type “margaritas near me”. Google will then open a listing with different restaurants or cocktail bars, showing their contact info, opening times, directions and links to their website. It will also open a map showing you your exact location, and pinpointing the closest options to get your drinks. 

This listing is made up of Google Business Profiles. If you want to boost your local SEO, it is important you create your own profile and look after it. With a Google Business profile, you increase the likelihood of people finding and learning about your business through both, text-based searches and voice searches. 

Go after Google Featured Snippets

Google featured snippets are extracts of information that appear at the top of Google search results page. These pieces of information are taken from a website with a high ranking and often appear for long-form search queries. Featured snippets can be displayed in different ways: could be as a paragraph, list, chart, video, or other format. 

Featured snippets are important to voice search because they are usually used as the answer provided by the virtual assistant. If you want your website to be picked up in voice searches, then you have to go after the featured snippet. However, we admit that it’s easier said than done. But if you need further advice, we’d be more than happy to help!

Use Schema Markup

Schema markup is structured data that you add to your website’s HTML. Simply put, it’s code that helps get more detailed results from Google or any other search engine. So, this practice helps improve both your on-page SEO and voice search optimisation. 

Schema markup is not made for human visitors since it’s not something they can see, but instead, is made for indexing bots so they can grasp your content, make it more visible in the search results and encourage more clicks. Schema markup is then important for voice search because search engines need to quickly and accurately understand the content to provide relevant answers.

Optimise for Mobile

The number of text searches done through smartphones has been on the rise and it’s no different for voice searches. Because they’re easy to access, it gives users the comfort and ability to ask Siri, Cortana or any other virtual assistant, whatever it is they’re looking for. 

Google ranks your website based on the overall user experience. So, adopt a responsive design and look for other ways to make your website mobile-friendly if you want to appear in results for both text and voice searches. This will help your business stay relevant and competitive.

Work on Your Page Speed

Part of measuring your website’s performance involves making sure that your pages load fast. As a rule of thumb, a page must not take more than 2 seconds to load. Otherwise, you run the risk of having visitors leave your website.

Page load is another factor that Google evaluates when assigning a ranking score in the search results page for text and voice searches. At the end of the day, how fast your website works impacts the user experience. So, Google will make sure to display those websites that make users happy.

Now that you know what are the best practices for optimising voice search, it’s time to put them into practice! If you need help optimising your website, then don’t hesitate to contact us. We offer a wide range of SEO services. Keep an eye on The Zip for more digital marketing tips that will help your business grow!