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How to optimize your website for voice search

Google rolled out its first mobile-friendly update in 2015 which signaled webmasters to optimize their websites for mobile devices make them more mobile-friendly. It was also referred to as ‘Mobilegeddon’. With the onset of Mobilegeddon, Google started taking mobile friendliness as a ranking factor for websites on its search results page. Google had to roll out this search algorithm update to force webmasters to switch their focus from desktop search to mobile search, thanks to the growing number of people using mobile phones to conduct online searches.

Like any other webmaster, you would have probably already updated your site to make it load properly on mobile devices. After all, every webmaster fears Google especially after the rollout of a huge update. Before you rest on your laurels I should ask you another question. Is your website prepared for voice search? If not, you need to do something about it very quickly.

Thanks to the increasing popularity and affordability of smartphones, almost everyone has a smartphone these days. And people have begun to use virtual assistants like Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa to conduct voice searches on the internet. It’s not just these mobile users you need to cater to. There are also a rising number of people who use smart speakers and other virtual assistants like Cortana which can run on desktops and laptops.

Although, the good news is that optimizing for voice is relatively simple. In this post, you will see how you can optimize your website for voice search.

Start using natural language

You can stop worrying about keyword density and positioning of your keywords strategically while optimizing your website for voice search. This is because it is easier for users to ask questions rather than typing in search queries. In general, people tend to ask full questions and type in the keywords only while using virtual assistants and search engines respectively to make searches on the internet.

Here’s an example. While looking for tourist attractions in Atlanta, people just type in keywords like, ‘Atlanta tourist attractions’ in a search engine like Google to get results but while using a virtual assistant they ask questions like ‘what are some tourist attractions in Atlanta’ or ‘what are some places to visit in Atlanta’.

This makes things a little difficult for us marketers as it increases the potential number of key phrases that can be used within the same article pointing to the same thing (‘tourist attractions’ in the above example). On the plus side, the artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms powering these virtual assistants is better able to process these variations in natural language. This makes it easier for virtual assistants to extract the right keywords and provide you with relevant search results. You can make it easier for the natural language processing engine to understand the relevance of keywords in your content by making use of LSI keywords.

According to Moz, you should stop focusing on keywords alone and start working on phrases or search queries which people use to make searches online. If you rely on foot traffic for your business, take things a step further and incorporate local phrases which people might use when searching for information online. This helps in strengthening your local SEO strategies.

Write in simple language

Creating a highly technical website with lots of big words and technical jargon might make you feel superior and allow you to believe that you are leaving a good impression on your site visitors. But it really doesn’t help you in any way. It puts off both, search engines and your readers. People like to read content which is simple and easy to understand. Remember that they landed on your website looking for something which they didn’t understand in the first place. Now, don’t make them run to another website so that they can understand what you have written.

To keep things simple, the text you write should be able to be understandable by an average person using the internet. Or even better, your writing should be simple enough for a ninth-grader to read and understand. The key here is to use simple language and create shorter sentences. You want your content to be easily read and understood by the people.

You can analyze your content using any service or software which makes use of the Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level Formula. According to Wikipedia, the ‘Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level Formula’ is used to calculate a score denoting a U.S. grade level, which helps us judge the readability level of various books and texts. This will tell you exactly what grade-level the text you have written is suitable for.

Incorporate questions into your site

As most of the people using voice searches phrase their search queries as a question, having answers present on your site will help you rank better. You could do this simply by creating a Frequently Asked Questions page (if you’re a business promoting a product or service) and by incorporating questions into your content pages.

So instead of using just the keywords as headings in your content, try structuring them as questions. For example, consider that you are reviewing a WordPress theme. You can use questions like – which is the fastest WordPress theme, is X theme faster than Y theme, which WordPress theme is lightweight, which is the best WordPress theme, which WordPress theme is SEO friendly, etc. Think of clever ways to incorporate more questions into your blog content and you are one step ahead of your competition.

Create links to your site from directories

If you rely on foot traffic for your business, it’s important that you list it on a few good online local business directories. This helps people find you when they look for offline services using their virtual assistants. For example, consider that you are running a bar business. Now, even if you don’t have a strong online presence with an official website (which you should have in the first place, here’s how you can create your first website) and many social media followers, people will still be able to discover you when they use voice search if you have listed your business correctly under the right category on online business directories.

Google looks for content everywhere on the internet and these online business directories are a rich source of information about local business listings. Make sure you list the same information everywhere on the internet – be it your business name, location, website address, and category. If there are any discrepancies, it won’t go well with your credibility in the eyes of the search engine. The more matching information it can find from a range of sources, the more credible your business will appear to be.

Even though Google My Business is technically more than just a simple directory site, it deserves a special mention in this article. To make your local business stand out from the rest, you should claim your Google My Business listing as soon as possible and fill in as much information as possible. This will help you establish the legitimacy of your business in the physical world.

Make sure your site loads fast

Time and again Google has stressed on the importance of creating a fast-loading website. This has become even more important with the rising number of people who use mobile devices to make online searches. You also need to make sure that your website is mobile responsive, that is, it should adapt to the mobile display sizes and provide them with the optimal viewing experience.

Making sure your website loads fast and supports responsive web design will help you edge out the little competition you face when ranking for the same terms as your competitor. If you are using WordPress, you can check out my guide on how to optimize WordPress for speed and performance.

Incorporate Structured Data Markup

Voice search relies on a lot of different sources to come up with the best possible search results. That said, you should provide voice search engines with as much information as possible by adding Schema markup to your web pages. They are nothing but additional metadata you can add to your web pages to help search engines better understand your content. Think of it as a cheat sheet for search engines as it was jointly developed by Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo!

Though microdata does not contribute directly to your website’s voice search optimization efforts, it plays an integral part when people look for certain aspects of your business like – your business hours (is XYZ still open), address (how far is the nearest bar from me), ratings (what are some good hotels around my place), etc. Once you have implemented this, you can start optimizing your website for on-page SEO.

Along with structured data markup, you should optimize your content for featured snippets. Featured snippets are those selected search results which are displayed just below the search bar on top of Google’s organic search results. Optimizing your content for featured snippets and voice search plays very well with each other.

Google featured snippets example

Voice search facts and statistics

As a bonus, I am including this voice search infographic from SEO Tribunal that covers various voice search facts and statistics.

It will help you understand –

  • What is voice search
  • What you can do with voice search
  • Interesting facts about voice search
  • A timeline of voice search development
  • Voice search usage statistics
  • When do people use voice search
  • What do people search for
  • Why people use voice search
  • Voice search insights (age, gender, demographics)
  • List of voice search assistants
  • Fun facts about voice search
  • Voice search for SEO
  • Future predictions for voice search

Voice Search Facts and Statistics [Infographic]

Conclusion

The above changes that you have to make to optimize your website for voice search are not major ones. In fact, they are primarily good common sense and it will help you improve your Google rankings. With the ever-increasing number of people using smart devices to make voice search online, it is high time that you start making these changes right away. They’re not that hard to implement, and you should start seeing the benefits soon afterward.

Now, don’t wait for Google to roll out yet another major update to force you to optimize your content for voice search!

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