Hey Google, How Do You Optimize for Voice Search?

Author's avatar SEO Mar 12, 2021 14 minutes read

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    Peter Caputa

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    Being able to ask our phones questions like “what’s the weather today?” or “where’s the nearest sushi restaurant?” once seemed like a futuristic concept only seen in Sci-Fi films.

    Fast forward to today, and this is a very real concept called voice search. No matter where we go, it’s common to see people talking into their phones and watches asking specific questions. Or at home, with their smart speakers or remote controls. In order to capitalize on this concept, you’ll need to make sure your company’s website, and all the content within, are optimized properly. Otherwise, you’ll quickly find that your competitors are leaving you in their dust. 

    Have a specific question regarding voice search optimization? Jump further to:


    What is Voice Search Optimization?

    First things first, voice search is a concept that started with our smartphones but has quickly evolved to include smart speakers, hands-free technology in the car, and even smart remote controls for our televisions. This technology makes it possible for people of all languages to use their voice to search the internet, a website, or a specific app.

    Optimizing content and websites for voice search have quickly become a crucial part of SEO strategies, no matter the industry. The concept of voice search optimization centers around optimizing your content and various pages on your website to appear for specific voice searches. In order to do this, you have to consider how people conduct voice searches and how they talk in general. 

    This is easier said than done, but thankfully our community of experts has shared their voice optimization tips with us so you can start applying these tactics to your SEO strategy today. 

    implement voice search

    How Do I Optimize Content for Voice Search?

    When writing content for your website or blog, making sure it’s optimized correctly for voice search can be a huge factor for whether or not you see it successfully rank for specific terms. Thankfully, there are specific tips and strategy recommendations to implement in order to make sure your content is written with voice search in mind.

    In order to optimize content for voice search, consider the following:

    Write for the 5 W’s

    When it comes to ranking your content for voice search, you’ll need to consider the questions your audience is asking and how your content will answer these questions.

    Explaining this concept further is Janice Wald from Mostly Blogging. “Think about how a search engine user talks. When people speak their queries into the phone to search by voice, they use questions starting with ‘Who,’ ‘What,’ and ‘How’ for example. If you optimize your content using the 5 W’s, you’ll rank easier and generate more traffic. 

    For this reason, I put a Frequently Asked Questions section in my post answering many of the 5 W Questions for my topic. Your FAQ responses get indexed by Google when you use a Heading Tag to type your question,” shares Wald.

    Also utilizing the question and answer strategy for voice search is Chris Wilks at Brand Extract.  Wilks explains, “Use ‘question and answer’ formats. Since voice search happens in natural language, many queries are posed in the form of a question. Match your headline to the most common phrasing of that query or question and then provide the answer immediately after.”

    Utilize a table of contents

    Another way you can ensure your content is optimized and properly ranks for voice search queries is to incorporate a table of contents. 

    Karan Bhatt from Cheap Web Hosting explains further by sharing, “One super effective strategy for optimizing contact for voice search, is by making it super easy for Google to find and show your content in search results.

    Let’s say, your article is about ‘best yoga postures’, first clearly write ‘what is yoga?’ and then write its definition in simple words easy for people to read and Google to show in search results.

    Then, use a table of content and list the ‘best yoga postures’ as Google shows list results mostly from websites with tables of content as it’s easier for them to list it that way.”

    Write for long-tail keywords

    Any SEO expert will talk highly about writing for long-tail keywords if you want your content to rank in the SERPs. This same strategy can and should be applied as you write content with voice search in mind.

    April Maccario at AskApril shares. “Using long-tail keywords can help your audience find their answers more quickly. People don’t use shortcut words but use long-tail keywords or long phrases so that they could find their answers,” Maccario shared.

    If you’re unsure how to go about knowing what your audience is asking, Melanie Musson at LifeInsurancePost.com has a helpful tool that you can use. “Since voice searches typically contain more words than text searches, we optimize for long-tail keywords. Since we already rely on AnswerThePublic.com for generating keywords, we also use that for finding long-tail keywords specifically with voice searches in mind,” Musson shared.

    Simplify titles and headers

    As you begin outlining and coming up with content ideas that will lend themselves to voice search, make sure to keep your titles and headers simple.

    For this, Jordan Dwayne from 6 Ice explains, “Your content titles will need to include simple, straightforward keywords so that voice-controlled devices can easily pull up your content via the search results. When titles and headers are too complicated, you may not get the results that you’re after – literally.”

    Sound as natural as possible

    You’ve done the research, you’ve nailed down your long-tail keywords, you’ve written the outline. Now it’s time to start writing. As you go, if you want your content to be voice search friendly, you’ll want your writing to sound as natural as possible. 

    To go about this, consider what Ann Young from Fix The Photo has to say. “I believe that voice optimization doesn’t require deep SEO understanding but the simplest way of writing as we speak. I started writing query-based content by using the speech-to-text tool and it worked well in my case.

    Google’s voice search algorithm is built to understand how humans talk in general. Write as we speak by actually speaking is the best way to optimize your content for voice searches. The more your content is naturally sound, the better it will be satisfying voice queries.”

    Agreeing with this tip for content is  Ashley Cummings from Ashley Ruesch Cummings. “One of the best strategies for optimizing your content for voice search is to reimagine everything as a dialogue. The way people search with a keyboard and the way they search when talking to AI is completely different. For example, if someone was searching Google for a plumber, they may type, “best plumber in Boston.” If that same person is asking Alexa for a recommendation, they would talk to Alexa in a full sentence and say “Alexa, can you recommend a good plumber in Boston?” If you have content that is performing well on Google, repurpose it with long-tail keywords that read as dialogue, so you can capture voice search traffic as well,” shared Cummings. 

    Wrapping things up is David Cusick at House Method, who also recommends writing how you would naturally answer the question. “Using a conversational phrase, just like how you would ask someone or type a question on a search engine, is one consideration for optimizing content for voice search. Think of how you would naturally ask the question,” explains Cusick.

    Optimize for Mobile

    Finally, in order to get the absolute most from your content, it needs to be optimized for mobile. So much of how your target audience uses voice search is on their smartphone, so if they can’t access your content there, all of your hard work was for nothing.

    Jonathan Aufray at Growth Hackers goes on to say, “Voice search is growing quickly month after month and year after year. But, it’s important to know that most voice search is made through mobile, not desktop. So, to leverage voice search traffic, you want to make sure that your content is optimized for mobile with a fast load time of your pages, good mobile user experience, easy to read and scroll content on small devices, and responsive design.”

    Don’t forget about tablets, too! As Anthony Mixides from Bond Media explains, “The voice search is done mainly through the smartphone or tablet, this optimization becomes essential. If your site is not mobile-friendly, it will hardly appear in the results.”

    voice search content

    Editor’s note: When it comes to the importance of optimizing for mobile search at this moment, we can say it’s a tie. While almost half of the respondents surveyed believe optimizing for voice search is not important at the moment, they do believe it will definitely be in the future, so why wouldn’t you start optimizing sooner rather than later?

    future of voice search

    How to Optimize a Website for Voice Search: 5 Strategies to Try

    Once your content is optimized for voice search, it’s time to tackle your website. 

    For that, consider these 5 strategies provided by industry experts:

    1. Add an FAQ section
    2. Implement schema markup
    3. Get localized
    4. Keep it simple
    5. Consider varying types of audiences

    1. Add an FAQ section

    If you’ve found that your audience comes to your website needing answers to the same questions time and time again, consider adding an FAQ page. This way, if your audience utilizes voice search for these questions, your website has a better chance of ranking.

    Explaining further is Nikola Roza from SEO for the Poor and Determined. Roza shares, “Web users use their voice assistants to ask their devices questions. The questions they ask are free-form, long-winded queries they’d never type into Google. From these, add an FAQ section to your website where you try to predict the questions users actively ask about said topic. Even if you don’t get a 100% match, Google will recognize you’re relevant and will show you more for voice queries.”

    Niles Koenigsberg from Real FiG Advertising + Marketing is also a fan of this method regarding optimizing your website for voice search. “As a content creator, you can safely assume that people are searching for these questions via voice search on their smart speakers and with their virtual assistants.

    Once you’ve selected a handful of those questions, craft your content to address those questions. For instance, you could create an FAQ blog for your keyword and place those questions into your headers. And once you place the right schema markup on the page, Google may start to pull your answers into the PPA sections of SERPs. Just make sure your answers are succinct so that Google will pull the right information when generating those rich snippets,” shares Koenigsberg.

    2. Implement schema markup

    Another important element as you optimize for voice search is implementing schema makeup to your website. Schema is a code that you place on your website that will help search engines, like Google and Bing,  return the most accurate information to users. 

    Going a little deeper into what this means for voice search is Elizabeth Weatherby at Doorage, who explains, “When optimizing for voice search, schema markup is extremely important. When you input schema markup codes on your website pages, this helps search engines to crawl your site more effectively and efficiently, thus resulting in a better chance of ranking, and even appearing in a rich/featured snippet. With voice search, it’s helpful to include concise, informative copy. When it comes to voice search, it’s important to list clear information, short yet informative answers to questions, etc. This is helpful for Google voice search, Alexa, Siri, and more voice search opportunities.”

    Andrei Vasilescu from DontPayFull also explains the value of adding schema to your website. “Using schema to mark up the contents is an effective way to optimize the contents for voice search. This actively helps search engines to learn the context of the contents. Google easily recognizes contents by using schemas and hence, quickly learns what your site’s about. Thus, it presents your contents to answer the voice search queries,” shares Vasilescu.

    3. Get local

    Since so many people who utilize voice search often end their questions or queries with “near me”, it’s vital that your website is optimized for the right location, so it’ll appear as a result when a user is looking for what you offer in nearby proximity.

    So focus on optimizing your local SEO. Location is crucial in the keywords. Include your city and the neighborhood and use Business Listings Information. This will ensure you have added all necessary information such as the name, address and opening hours, etc.”

    4. Keep it simple

    Another great tip for optimizing your website for voice search is to keep the overall look and feel of your website simple. Don’t add anything too complicated, confusing language, or anything that will slow download time.

    Francesca Nicasio from Payment Depot goes on to explain, “Keep it simple. Google is an incredible search engine, but the easier you make it to crawl and parse your content, the more likely you are to show up in search results. For example, don’t put important information in images. Google does parse images, but it will probably hurt your visibility.”


    5. Consider all types of audiences

    Last but certainly not least, as you optimize your website for voice search, you want to keep in mind all types of audiences and people who are using voice search in the first place. 

    “We can’t talk about voice search without mentioning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standard. ADA compliance means that websites and their design must be accessible to people with disabilities.

    Optimizing for voice search helps your website become more ADA compliant due to the wide range of people who are able to use the voice search feature.

    Other ways to enhance your site for voice search, such as adding alt text for images and videos, will also help improve voice search. Using a clear heading structure makes it easier for search engines and users with disabilities to understand what your page contains,” explains Scott Benson of Benson SEO.

    Okay Google, What is Voice Search?

    The answer? Here to stay.

    If you want your content and your website to appear when your audience is asking their phone or smart speaker a question, now is the time to roll up your sleeves and get started.

    Author's avatar
    Article by
    Mara Calvello

    Mara is a freelance writer at Databox and a Content Marketing Manager at G2. In her spare time, she's either at the gym, reading a book from her overcrowded bookshelf, enjoying the great outdoors with her rescue dog Zeke, or right in the middle of a Netflix binge. Obsessions include the Chicago Cubs, Harry Potter, and all of the Italian food imaginable.

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