How to Optimize Your Site for Voice Search

Interactive Content Director
Published 5/5/17
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(or, Siri Isn’t Just for Kids Anymore)

“What does the fox say?”

“What is zero divided by zero?”

“Is winter coming?”

For years, Apple users have been asking Siri to answer all sorts of questions, some not quite as innocent as the ones above. And for years, Siri has been delivering clever answers – but she’s also been learning.

Machine learning is a part of artificial intelligence (AI), and it’s how technologies like Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana are getting better and better at providing quality answers. Voice assistants don’t work alone, though; it’s up to us to make sure our sites are giving them the content to respond to voice searches.

For the most part, voice searches return similar – if not identical – results as typed queries. Users are still taken to a search engine results page, with a couple of possible exceptions. (As an example, if someone asks for directions on a mobile device, he may be taken to the device’s mapping app instead.)

If you’re already using SEO best practices and your site is showing up in results for typed queries, you’re in good shape. But there are steps you can take to boost your rankings for voice searches:

#1: Make sure your site is mobile-friendly and doesn’t have any site speed issues

People use voice search almost exclusively on mobile (more than once a day for 41% of adults and 55% of teenagers), so it’s important to resolve any issues before optimizing for voice search.

#2: Flesh out your Google My Business profile

Not surprisingly, Google prioritizes these listings, and it also uses them to associate “near me” listings (such as “restaurants near me”), so making sure it’s up to date and accurate is a must – and be as specific as possible. If you’re a DMO, list the address of your main office, not the addresses of all of your visitor centers. Start or sign in here.

#3: Implement schema markup

Schema lets us give search engines additional data about the content on our sites. By adding schema markup to events pages, for example, we can tell Google “this is the event’s name,” “this is when it’s happening” and the like. The easier we make it for search engines to crawl and identify a site, the more likely it is to show up in search results.

#4: Optimize for long-tail keywords

Using voice search is like having a conversation with your phone. By thinking about how people speak and optimizing a site’s pages for full phrases – like “what’s the weather like in Paris” instead of “Paris weather” – we have a better chance at appearing in results for voice searches.

Other ways to help your site appear in results for voice searches are to create Q&A-style content to help answer questions people will likely ask (use Google Search Console to research the queries coming in) and even bidding on long-tail keywords as part of your SEM program. Long-tail keywords are typically cheaper and boast better click-through rates than shorter queries, so using part of your budget to bid on those can have a positive impact on your site’s organic traffic.

Which will have you saying “Ring-ding-ding-dingeringeding!”