How to optimise your website for voice search in 2020
Posted: 14th January 2020
“Hey Siri” and “OK Google” are common phrases we can use to prompt our smart devices to turn on and listen to our commands completely hands free. Siri has become a household name along with Alexa but not many people have heard of Audrey. Like everything there had to be a beginning and Audrey is reported as being the first speech recognition system. Audrey had a small vocabulary and could only understand numbers between 0 and 9. It’s fair to say voice recognition has come along way since Audrey and it shows no signs of slowing down. It’s more important now than ever before to optimise your website for voice search.
The technology continues to improve and more people are turning to voice search as opposed to typing. Many have predicted that 2020 will be the year voice change presents a huge change to the way we search the internet. In fact, it’s predicted that 50 percent of all searches will be through voice search this year. Now, to put that into perspective, voice search currently only makes up around 20%.
Optimising your website and its content for voice search is likely to change slightly throughout the next few years. As the technology changes and develops, search engine algorithms will likely adjust in-line with these changes. However, there are some easy fixes you can do now to ensure your website is optimised for voice search.
Focus on long-tail keywords and phrases
What exactly are long-tail keywords and phrases? These are very specific phrases usually around three to four words long that describe your page’s content. When it comes to typing we all tend to be a bit lazy. With location services enabled we have the opportunity to be even lazier. There’s no need to type full sentences in search engines such as Google and Bing. If you want to know the weather you can literally just type in weather and it will display the relevant information based on your location.
However when we use voice chat we lean towards presenting our questions more naturally. Our weather search goes from being “Weather” to something more detailed; “Hey Siri, what’s the weather like in Plymouth”? Because of this voice search commonly starts off with the asking of a question. Two of the top keywords of voice search results begin with ‘how’ and ‘what’.
Long tail-keywords already make up 70% of all web searches. With the prediction that voice search is to increase drastically over the next few years, long-tail keywords in web searches will likely also see an increase. Its important to use long-tail keywords to optimise your website for voice search.
It’s also worth mentioning that here in the UK it is illegal to hold a phone or mobile device whilst driving. However, using a phone hands free is legal and the best way to do this is through voice search or voice assistants. People driving will likely be using voice search for local listings such as directions. Ensuring your business listing is available across all search engines and maps is extremely important, which will be discussed a bit later on.
The above leads us to another thing to think about when optimising content for voice search. As we have established that people ask questions using their natural language it only makes sense to create content that answers questions. This can be achieved in a number of ways;
Often enough when a user types a question into Google it will pull the answer from a relevant website. This appears at the top of the search engine result page (SERP) as a featured answer box. However, only Google can determine what content becomes a featured image. Its reported that Over 40% of the questions have a featured snippet. Why is this information important?
When devices such as Alexa are asked a question they usually respond with something with the likes of “Here’s what I found online’. The device then proceeds to tell us what it found. When a verbal response is given the device does not provide a list of relevant websites from us to choose from. It will only read one result, which will be a featured snippet when one is available.
Implementing a frequently asked questions section to your main pages can be a great way to answer questions. The best practice in regards to voice search is to choose questions and phrases that are natural sounding. It’s likely you’re used to using single keywords in your FAQ’s as an attempt to boost your website’s SEO. Combining long-tail keyword with a FAQ section is a good way optimise your website for voice search
Ensure your business listing is available across all search engines and maps
Voice search sees an extremely high amount of queries related to local-SEO. It’s reported that 75% of smart speaker users perform local voice searches at least once a week. Ensuring your website is listed locally is a great way for your website to be found in voice searches.
There’s no denying that Google is the leading search engine, its closest competitor Bing only accounts for 2.61% of the search engine market Market Share Worldwide. Google makes up over 92%. Many businesses have probably only focused their efforts on Google because of this. However this will soon become a risky move due to voice search. Unlike Siri which uses Google by default as its search engine not all voice recognition systems do. One of them being Amazon’s Alexa which uses bing. Alexa is also one of the most popular smart speakers worldwide;
If your still not convinced this is important for your business, reports suggest that over 20% of voice queries are for finding local information. You will want business listing to be available across all search engines, especially considering Alexa is one of the most popular smart speakers on the market
You will find more infographics at Statista
Remember listing your business on Google My Business will only get it to be listed on Google. Other search engines will have their own directory, such as Bing’s ‘Bing Places”.
Ensure your website is mobile friendly
‘Mobile First’ is already in full force by search engines, particularly Google. Google believe your website should be designed with mobile in mind first. Historically Google used to crawl, index and rank a website based on the desktop version. Almost half of web traffic is from mobile devices. This is an increase of around 20% since 2009. With 5G rolling out this year in the UK this number is likely to continue to increase.
This is why Google introduced mobile first, instead of using the desktop version to crawl, index, and rank a website the mobile version will now be favoured. An important factor to take into consideration is your websites speed on mobile devices. A study by Backlinko found that Google favours fast loading websites in voice searches. This is because when people are on the go using their mobile devices they want information quickly. Their study found that web pages found through voice search loaded faster than the average webpage.
Website speed has been a defining factor in a websites online ranking but the focus was on websites load time on desktop. As a result of mobile first Google announced in 2018 that page speed on mobile devices will also be a ranking factor.
Remember voice search is leaning towards a more natural way of conversing and because of this a speedy response is important. Not only is it convenient but actually replicates the realism of a natural conversation. When you ask another person a question you wouldn’t expect to stand there for 10 seconds whilst waiting for the answer.
Ensure content is detailed and easy to read.
A study by Backlinko found that content that was easy to understand ranked well in voice search results. In fact, their study showed that the average reading level of website found through voice search was at 9th grade. Here in the UK that is the equivalent to year 10 or students aged 14-15. There’s no evidence at this time that Google use reading level to rank pages as part of their voice search algorithm. However it could be a possibility and should be taken into consideration when writing content for the web.