How To Optimize Your Website For Voice Search

The Increasing Use of Voice Search

With the increasing use of personal assistants such as Cortana, Alexa and Siri, it should come as no surprise that almost 60% of smartphone users now use voice search to look something up at least sometimes. While serious researchers will probably still prefer to type queries into laptops and desktop computers, many types of search look destined to be performed mostly using voice.

How Voice Searches Are Different

This increase in voice searches is accompanied by changes in the words people use to search. Greg Sterling of Search Engine Land noted in his SMX West presentation that the average voice search query is five to six words in length, which is longer than that for typed queries. After all, if you are searching for a Burger King using your laptop you might type in "Burger King" and then click on the various map locations. With voice search (with location detection enabled), you are more likely to ask "where is the nearest Burger King?" instead. In fact, voice search users more commonly employ a long, casually phrased question that asks who, what, why, when or how.

With these kind of semantic (or "natural language") search queries on the increase, it's more important than ever that search engines understand your website's content, so that they can correctly identify it's meaning and context, and match it with a user's search intent. Many such searches will not result in clicks on your website in search results, even if you are ranked number one, because almost 60% of smartphone users expect the answer to be spoken back to them. That said, it is still a good thing to be ranked number one in these scenarios because it means that search engines fully understand your website's content and your website will therefore benefit from more clicks for more complex queries.

Optimizing For Voice Searches

The most effective ways to increase organic traffic from search engines in recent years still stand. You should regularly publish high-quality content that is always related to your main website topic or sub-topics and should be of a suitable length to really explore the specific subject of the page. It also helps to imagine what questions might be asked by your readers and to answer these within your content - it is a good thing if a visitor can find information about the subject which is complete, and that means they don't have to return to the search results to look elsewhere.

You should also consider whether your content is as organized as it could be - for example a question and answer format will be more easily interpreted by search engines than embedding multiple discussion topics into one article. Lastly, if your website contains structured data - such as organized lists of recipes, reviews, instructions, quotes or songs - you should very strongly consider using Schema Mark-Up to help search engines interpret both the content of your pages and it's context.