Voice Search Optimization: What, Why, & How to Prepare Your Site

Voice Search Optimization: What, Why, & How to Prepare Your Site

People used to say that smartphones would never be a legitimate alternative to browsing on a computer. Now about 60% of online searches happen on mobile every day, so of course, companies are now paying attention and optimizing for mobile—late to the game though. The same thing is happening with voice search and voice search optimization.

Just like the rise of smartphone search a few years ago, there’s a new kid in town, and his/her name is Alexa/Siri/Cortana/OK Google.

Let’s look at some stats:

  • 40% of adults currently use voice search at least once per day (ComScore)
  • 20% of all searches have voice intent (Google)
  • Predicted 50% of searches will be done by voice search in 2020 (ComScore)

voice search queries

Point being, it’s growing fast, and the time to take action is now.

Voice search is about to boom, so let’s talk about what exactly voice search is, why it’s going to be massively important for all businesses, and some strategies to win at the optimization game.

What is Voice Search Optimization?

Since the beginning of business time, marketing has been about paying attention to trends in human behavior, and capitalizing on new ways to reach customers based on those behaviors.

The practice of search engine optimization (SEO) sprouted from the large amount of people using search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the pioneers that paved the way before them like Ask Jeeves and AltaVista to find information online and do research before making purchases.

With the rise of intelligent personal assistant technologies such as Amazon Alexa and smartphones with built-in assistants like Siri, more people are using their voices to search for information online rather than typing it out to search Google, etc. directly.

Put simply, voice search is the act of searching the internet for information by speaking into a device that finds the information or performs the task (like playing music or researching the weather) for you, and voice search optimization is the practice of optimizing your website to be found when people perform searches with voice.

Why is Voice Search Optimization Important for Business?

As voice search continues to gain traction, it is becoming progressively more vital to position your business for leveraged growth, because the alternative is your business being left behind—and voice search is here to stay.

It’s predicted that voice search will be the #1 method of online searching by the year 2020. That’s going to come fast.

Optimizing your business to be found via voice search is important for because it’s going to be the way most searches will be done in the future, so businesses that don’t adapt will shrink their online presence.

While it’s important for all businesses to take action on this, it’s particularly important for local businesses with physical locations. Some of the most common voice searches are for finding local businesses, particularly while driving or multitasking at home.

“What fast food restaurants are nearby?”

“What movies are showing in Los Angeles tonight?”

“Towing companies near me that are open right now”

Whether your business has a physical location or has an online-only presence, the search for information via voice will continue to grow and the technology will continue to improve. Here are some strategies to optimize your site for voice search.

Strategies to Help You Win at Voice Search Optimization

1. Speak naturally

Most searches done by voice use different wording or phrasing than searches that are typed out. We were trained in the early days of search that normal phrasing wouldn’t always provide the results we were looking for, so instead of searching “What’s the closest Starbucks?”, we type “Starbucks on Venice Boulevard”, even though that’s not how we would say it out loud.

Search engines are getting smarter, and people are adapting and speaking in natural phrasing, so it’s a good idea to have a section of your site that has natural language to capitalize on that, especially for local business.

One way to add more natural language is to consider what questions people might have when trying to find your business (or a business like yours), and create an FAQ or Q&A section using common phrases. Also consider that voice understands follow-up questions (compound queries), so if you’re a restaurant, you might have an FAQ that asks/answers “What type of food is served at [restaurant name]” and also include “Does [restaurant name] have vegetarian options?”

2. Make it easy for search bots to crawl your site and know what it’s about

Just like with regular search, the easier it is for search bots to crawl your site, the better chance you’ll have at ranking for voice searches.

Some things you can do to improve crawl-ability are:

  • Submit your sitemap to major search engines like Google and Bing
  • Utilize schema markup to give search engines context about not only what your website data says, but also what it means
  • Markup your content items for rich cards and rich snippets

The more information and context search engines have, the better chance your site will have at returning as a result for voice search queries.

3. Take advantage of business listings and local citations

A good majority of voice searches are people in the car looking for something close by, and search engines use their current locations to determine nearby results to show them. By submitting your business and address/contact information to local-based sites like Yelp, Google Maps, Bing Maps, and other high-quality sites, you’ll improve your chances of being found. Here’s a list of sites to submit to based on category.

4. Make sure your site is mobile friendly

Since a lot of voice searches are performed on the go, that means search engines will be heavily considering the mobile-friendliness of the sites they’re recommending.

With more regular and voice searches being performed on mobile devices than any other, your site should already be mobile optimized. If it’s not, I’d make that priority number one. Use this test to see if your site is mobile friendly or not.

Take Action Now

With the rise of voice search, there’s a unique opportunity to take action and optimize now while it’s still in its infancy. Don’t wait until your business suffers to implement these strategies—make a positive impact now instead.

Want to make sure your site is optimized? Click the button below to grab our free voice search checklist.