Four Strategies to Optimize Your Site for Voice Search

When Siri was launched as a virtual assistant for the iPhone back in 2008, its natural-language user interface was far from perfect. It was a brand-new concept after all.

Over the years, however, Apple’s Siri and other machine learning-backed voice recognition technologies such as Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa have all become much more efficient and accurate.

In fact, according to Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends Report, Google’s speech recognition is now over 95% accurate for the English language!

Why Talk about Voice Search Anyway?

As an online business owner, if you have been ignoring the importance of voice search so far, then the following figure is meant for you. As per a research conducted by eMarketer, 35.6% of all Americans (more than 116 million people) now utilize voice assistants on a regular basis.

So, what does this tell you? Voice searches are becoming more and more mainstream every day. What’s driving this trend? Think about it: what do people searching for something online want?

They want accurate and instant results to their search queries. Typing a few keywords into a search bar is not really hard or time-consuming. Yet it is not as fast or convenient as simply speaking into the device and generating the same search results.

Because of how much voice searches improve a user’s experience while searching for something online, it is safe to assume that the Internet audience is only going to further embrace the use of voice search. In fact, according to reputed American media measurement and analytics company, ComScore, 50% of all online searches will be voice searches by the year 2020—which will be on us in a matter of months!

Where Does the Google Hummingbird Update Fit into this?

Gone are the days when Google blindly matched a search query against keywords in websites. The Hummingbird update, which was unveiled on the eve of Google’s 15th birthday, uses Artificial Intelligence to carefully analyze each word in the query and try to derive the overall meaning of it. Google then uses this perceived ‘meaning’ to pick the websites, rather than the original words in the query. Bottom line: Hummingbird enhances a user’s experience by helping the user find the most accurate information for their search query as quickly as possible. Isn’t that exactly what voice search does as well?

Google is placing a higher emphasis on voice search optimization, so it is a good idea to start thinking of ways to optimize your website for voice search. Here are four effective strategies you can use for that.

1. Ditch Keywords in Favor of Phrases

When people type something into the search bar, they are more likely to use short and snappy keywords, like “Best pizza.” No doubt, these keywords work great on desktop SEO, however, when people use voice search, they use a conversational tone that is easy for anyone to comprehend. So instead of “best pizza Santa Rosa,” their search query is more like “Where can I find the best pizza near me?” So, before you start optimizing your website, you may want to research longtail keywords that your targeted audience might use to find your products or services.

2. Try to Keep it Local

According to Search Engine Watch, mobile voice searches are three times more likely to be local than text-related searches. Because users, in general, tend to resort to location-enabled search as far as voice queries are concerned, you would have a higher chance of online success if you invest in local keywords. Use your location with keywords in your site content and if you have accolades or awards, include those too. Users are often searching for the “best of” or “top” products or services in the area.

3. Be as Informative as Possible

Virtual assistants like Google’s Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby or Amazon’s Alexa gather information from the Internet, so you have to make sure there is lots of information about your online business to be found online.

Keep your website and listings in other Internet-based services such as Google My Business updated with important information like your contact details, operating hours, location, appointment link and latest offers.

Dive even deeper – what kind of payment does your online business accept? What is the category of your business? The more information that is out there, the more of your audience’s questions will you be able to answer.

An FAQ strategy works best if you plan to optimize your website for voice search. Answer questions such as “Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?” Address answers to these questions not just on your website, but use blog and social media posts as well.

4. Optimize Your Page Speed

The speed at which your mobile web page loads matters. The average voice search results page loads nearly twice as fast as a standard web page. So, you will have to keep abreast if you want to get noticed by your targeted audience. Google also includes page speed as a ranking factor and generally favors websites that load quickly, so faster is always better. Check how fast your webpage is on mobile and desktop and how you can improve your speed at PageSpeed Insights developed by Google.

It is going to become more and more relevant – and necessary – to make it easy for customers to “talk” to your business. Instead of standing by for your market rivals to catch up and then get ahead of you, start working on optimizing your website for voice search now and leave the competition in the dust.