SEO for Voice Search: Top Tips for Marketers

By Kirsten Oelrich 6 min read

Among mobile device users, voice search isn’t the future — it is here now. Virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana make it easy for mobile device owners to find information online without typing. Machine learning has enabled virtual assistants to continually improve the information they provide, and the technology has caught on with consumers.

If you’ve done a good job of optimizing your website for text searches, it’s likely that you’re already benefiting from voice search. Many people still interact with virtual assistants using the same language they’d use with a search engine. As people become more familiar with the advanced abilities of virtual assistants, though, they’ll begin to use different language when using voice search. Now is the time to begin optimizing your website for voice search. Use these tips to prepare your website for the changing nature of mobile search.

Use Synonyms Liberally

In the time leading up to the introduction of voice search, Google improved its algorithm’s ability to process natural language queries. Latent semantic indexing is one method that Google uses to understand queries that no person has ever used before and to identify great content. LSI is the reason why a page can appear as a result for a query even if it contains none of the words used in the query. It’s also a method that helps Google identify content that’s truly relevant and helpful — rather than content that simply contains the right keywords.

LSI analyzes the correlation between words. By analyzing existing text, LSI allows Google to determine the words that an article about a given topic is likely to contain. If your company’s content creators are doing a good job of optimizing your website’s content for Google, it’s likely that they already write with LSI in mind by using synonyms and terms that relate closely to the target keywords of their articles.

Although LSI is already an important part of SEO, it is even more important for voice search optimization because people don’t use keywords to interact with virtual assistants as they would with standard search engines. Instead, people speak in complete sentences to express their search intent more clearly. More than ever, your website’s content should focus on satisfying user intent rather than using a target keyword phrase repeatedly.

Optimize for Long-Tail Keywords

We just mentioned the fact that people are more likely to construct their queries as complete sentences when using voice search. Optimizing your website’s content to satisfy user intent isn’t just a matter of focusing on quality — and it doesn’t mean that keywords aren’t important anymore. It does, however, mean that your content needs to become much more specific.

Typing is cumbersome — especially on smartphones. People conduct text searches using the fewest words possible. When a person types a query such as “life insurance,” Google has to guess the intent behind the search. Voice search gives people the opportunity to express their true intent.

Instead of searching for a short keyword phrase such as “life insurance,” someone using voice search might ask questions like:

  • How much should I expect to spend on life insurance?
  • Is there a life insurance agent in my city?
  • What type of life insurance should I buy if I’m under 30?
  • Can I still get life insurance if I’ve had a heart attack?

Voice search hasn’t made keywords irrelevant. It has actually made long-tail keywords more important than ever.

Use the Language That Voice Searchers Use

Does your business sell products to consumers? If it does, you may want to look for potential opportunities to adjust the language of your website’s content. Is your website’s language very formal? Try making the language a bit more conversational to match the language that your potential customers will use to find your company with voice search.

Have you used the voice search feature on your smartphone recently? How did you perform the search? If you’re like most smartphone users, you probably asked a question. Adding questions and answers to your website’s content is an excellent way to ensure that you’re communicating effectively with people who use voice search.

These examples illustrate how you could change article titles and subheadings for better voice search SEO.

  • [Product] Free vs. Pro
  • Could become: What Are the Differences Between [Product] Free and Pro?
  • [Product] Feature
  • Could become: What Are the Features of [Product]?
  • Supported Operating Systems
  • Could become: What Operating Systems Work With [Product]?

Bonus Tip: Use LSI techniques when writing website content in a question-and-answer format. You can also phrase the question “What are the features of [Product]?” as “What can [Product] do for me?” or “Why should I buy [Product]?” Use question variations in your text for the maximum possible voice search SEO benefit.

Answer Follow-Up Questions In Your Content

A virtual assistant can process a question in the context of the question that preceded it. These are some of the ways in which a virtual assistant’s ability to process natural language can work in practice.

  • Question: What is the matinee film at the Regal Theater today?
  • Follow-up: How much is a ticket?
  • Question: What is the closest coffee shop to where I am now?
  • Follow-up: Do they have an iced coffee?
  • Question: Who did the Nationals play today?
  • Follow-up: Did they win?

If your website includes the words that people would use when asking follow-up questions, virtual assistants will do a better job of providing fast answers to people who search for information about your company. Your business will provide more of the micro moments that delight customers and generate sales.

Improve Your Local SEO

Most of the people who search the web on the go are looking for information with local relevance. They want to know which restaurants near them are open right now or which local store carries that hot new video game. They want to find hours of operation and driving directions. If your business has a brick-and-mortar location, you need to ensure that Google knows as much about it as possible.

Optimizing your website for local SEO begins with creating a listing on Google My Business. Through Google My Business, you can tell Google your location, hours of operation and primary business areas. It’s also helpful to claim or create listings on popular business directories such as Yelp.

You should also optimize your website for local SEO. Ensure that your business’s address, phone number, and driving directions are easy to find. You can also use schema.org markup to embed location data in your website’s source code.

Bonus Tip: When describing your business’s location on your website, mention local landmarks. A question such as “Where can I get coffee near the post office?” could lead a potential customer to you if you mention the post office when providing driving directions.

Ensure That Your Website Is Mobile Friendly

You already understand the importance of having a mobile-friendly website. Since most of Google’s users now use mobile devices, Google has adjusted its ranking algorithm to favor websites that look as they should on smartphones and tablets. If you optimize your website for voice search, though, mobile friendliness will become even more important.

When your website comes up as the result of a voice search, you have an opportunity to create a micro moment. When the person conducting the search clicks through to your website, you could express your company’s uniqueness, convince the searcher to visit your local store or even make an immediate sale. The fact that your website came up as a result for a voice search will have little value, though, if your website isn’t mobile friendly.

Remember that true mobile friendliness isn’t simply a matter of having a website with a responsive design. You also have to structure your website’s content for fast consumption on mobile devices. Most people who browse the web on their mobile phones probably won’t remain on any website for long. Use short paragraphs, bullet lists and subheadings to make your website’s content readable on the go.

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Kirsten Oelrich

Written By

Kirsten Oelrich