Young woman using voice search to answer a question
PHOTO: Shutterstock

The widespread emergence of smart voice assistants like Amazon Echo aren’t just giving us our daily news and weather updates, they’re changing the search engine optimization (SEO) landscape along the way. Here comes voice search optimization.

What Is Voice Search Optimization?

55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults already execute voice searches multiple times per day, with Comscore forecasting that, by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be via voice. That means we’re asking our handy voice assistants Alexa, Siri, Cortana and others to find the nearest coffee shop, to check the latest news in tech and to remind us of the year World War II began (it was 1939 guys, come on).

The process of voice SEO then, is to optimize your content in a way that convinces these smart assistants to present it to end users whenever they ask a relevant question.

But here’s the kicker; voice-enabled search — which, as previously mentioned, is due to become the dominant form of search — doesn’t present the user with a list of results, like a Google search results page does. The user’s time isn’t wasted in that way. Instead, Alexa, Siri, Cortana and company each decide what the top result is, and they present that — and only that.

Thus, when it comes to voice search optimization, you either rank first, or rank nowhere.

Related Article: Learn more about voice SEO

Through Voice-enabled Search, Audio Content Is Making a Comeback

Back when every family used to gather around the obligatory home radio, audio content was the weapon of choice for marketers. Today, following decades of visual content dominating TV screens, computers and smartphones, audio is making a comeback. “It is clear that voice technology is the next big competitive playground for Amazon, Google and other ad giants,” said Collin Holmes, Founder and CEO of San Diego, Calif.-based Chatmeter.

What marketers must be concerned about as these technologies are being developed, according to Holmes, is how their business information, content and reputation will be presented in a natural, non-intrusive and conversational manner that consumers expect when using voice search technologies. "Brands and marketers can waste no time debating the importance of preparing for these technologies,”  Holmes said.

7 Steps Towards Voice Search Optimization

With voice searches becoming more popular, it’s time to start optimizing content to be ranked by smart assistants and consumed by end users. In reality, voice search can take many forms (some users may search for products to buy on Amazon, for example). In this article, we’re focusing on informational search, which traditionally has been carried out on popular web browser search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Related Article: The Future of SEO is Not SEO

1. Know That Voice SEO Is In Its Infancy

First, there’s a lot we don’t know about voice search engine optimization, simply because it’s such a fresh and new frontier. The Apple Homepod itself for example, wasn’t even launched until early 2018. Moreover, traditional SEO for Google’s search engine regularly evolves, and we should expect voice SEO to take a similar path.

With that in mind, you should not only act fast to get your audio content optimized for smart assistants, but you should also be prepared to modify and adjust your strategy in line with the inevitable changes and discoveries yet to be made regarding voice search.

2. Launch Your Own Alexa Skill or Voice-enabled App

If you want to pre-empt the boom in voice search and audio content, you should also consider launching your own voice app or Alexa Skill. Christopher Dean, CEO of San Francisco, Calif.-based Swrve, urged brands to focus on app availability. “If we use Amazon Echo as the example, the device connects via what are called “skills” to third-party services. Examples of third-party services being Spotify or TuneIn Radio, which in all actuality are apps. 

The Echo has emerged as another channel between brands and their consumers, and that channel is ultimately built through the brand’s [Alexa Skill]. For marketers, this means focusing on smart ways to think about ensuring the app, and functionality of the app is available to Echo users and by extension working with developers to ensure responsiveness to voice controls,” he explained.

3. Start Local

Local businesses will be the first to benefit from the increasing popularity of voice search. That’s because, according to the Internet Trends Report 2016, an estimated 22 percent of voice searches were made for local content and information. For example, people may have been asking Siri where the closest supermarket was located.

With that being said, if your business has an office or physical location, the best way to optimize for voice search is to claim your Google My Business listing to help voice assistants find and relay your business location quickly when users ask for it — because they will ask for it.

Microdata like addresses, product names and business names are also important here, as local consumers are likely to include such microdata in their search queries.

Holmes once again chimed in on the significance of voice-enabled search on local businesses, “Local search will be of paramount importance as consumers turn to their voice devices, and eventually connected cars and appliances, to find solutions, offers and services that are convenient and immediate. Brands must curate each of their location’s marketing and business listings accordingly to capitalize on voice search,” he said.

4. Write For Humans

Search engine optimization for Google involves using keywords and formatting that helps Google figure out what you’re talking about. The aim is to use keywords and phrases that get searched for on Google, so your website shows up when consumers execute that particular search. But writing for the web is totally different compared to writing for voice-enabled search. Go ahead and read your last blog post out loud — it’s most likely not how you (or most people) conversate in real life. “Where we once typed, we’re now speaking, and if you’ve ever used voice search yourself you’ll notice that your questions are structured differently. Because of this, brands and marketers who have content optimized for typed searches are at a huge risk of missing out on search traffic if their content isn’t optimized for both types of searches,” said Holmes.

This all matters because the keywords a consumer would type into a Google search bar will not be the same as the keywords they would utter to their smart voice assistant. Furthermore, Moz reported that voice-enabled searches tend to be longer, containing more long-tail keywords.

The solution is to write content for humans, rather than for search engines. Not only will this improve your SEO anyway, but smart voice assistants will also be able to pick up on the long-tail keywords you’ll naturally use to describe a product, service, event or fact.

Swrve CEO Christopher Dean remarked that, "while consumers approach a text search as a coded way to get information from a screen, they speak to Alexa or Google Assistant like a dear friend. [Brands] need to think clearly about these differences and take account of them.” So, the next time you're writing the copy for your website or blog, base your headers, subheaders and the content in general around phrases that a human would actually ask their smart voice assistant — not what they would type into Google.

5. Write Short Answers To Long Questions

Consumers are drawn to the time-saving nature of smart voice assistants, so asking a quick question in hope of getting a quick answer is high on the list of consumer wants and needs. Thus, voice-enabled search is dominated by questions. A study from Search Engine Land even found that there’s been a 61 percent year-on-year growth in question phrases for voice-enabled search. Moreover, "Who" phrases were up 134 percent and "How” phrases were up 81 percent.

So, to get your content through the ears of your audience, you’ll want to start producing content that answers questions. A page dedicated to FAQs would be a great start, as would short blog posts with titles phrased just as the consumer is likely to utter their query. Remember, write for humans in this case, but keep it short and snappy in order to give consumers succinct answers to their questions. After all, they’re looking to save time, here.

Holmes commented that one simple way to optimize for voice search is to ensure all site and digital content includes FAQs, or is peppered with questions and answers. “‘Where is the best soy-milk vanilla latte downtown’, [would be one common query], which is a detailed, product search query that most [brands] have not optimized for. This requires the development of content that is very different than the article and keyword-driven content that marketers have been building for years,” he explained.

Gavin Duff, Head of Digital Performance at Dublin-based Friday advised companies to use their employees to capture the voice of the customer (VOC) and produce relevant questions and answers. “[Leverage] team members from the front-line, those who best understand the queries that people have about your product, service or even general queries pertinent to your sector. This is a very valuable resource for creating content that answers these questions. Perform a sentiment analysis from past customer care emails or contacts, create questions and answers on the back of this research because it’s likely they will be searched for,” Duff advised.

6. Optimize Content With Schema Data

The importance of using Scheme data, also known as structured data and schema markup, has been previously discussed on CMSWire. represents an initiative put together by Google, Microsoft, Yandex and Yahoo — a group of search engine competitors that came together to solve a common issue. Imagine a user asks a search engine about "hot chocolate". Are they requesting data about the drink, or the band? How can a search engine ensure that the content they present is relevant?

Schema markup seeks to avoid those confusions by allowing webmasters to use HTML tags to describe what their content is actually about. With schema data in place, search engines can correctly categorize your content using the HTML tags and long-tail keywords used throughout your content (we told you they’d come in handy!) to eventually to show the end user the content they want to see. Now, with voice-enabled search growing as it is, schema data will play an even bigger role, particularly when users pose follow up questions about a previous query.

Duff advised companies to take a look first at your website’s FAQ and support content. "Is the correct markup in place for those appearing on desktop queries, so that they can also be visible for a voice search? Have you spoken to the face of your customer support?” he said.

So, that team member (or members) who is on the front-line and best understands the queries that people have about your product, service or even general queries pertinent to your sector? This is a very valuable resource for creating content that answers these questions. Perform a sentiment analysis from past customer care emails or contacts, create questions and answers on the back of this research because it’s likely they will be searched for.

7. Ensure Your Mobile and AMP Friendliness

According to Google, 20 percent of mobile searches are voice searches but if your website isn’t mobile optimized, or AMP-enabled, their attention won’t last long, as 47 percent of consumers expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less. Worse yet, a one-second load delay results in a 7 percent reduction in conversions. Will Craig, Managing Director of Glasgow-based Digital Impact, underlined the importance of mobile responsiveness and overall site speed, “If [brands] want their pages to rank, and have a low bounce-rate, they have got to be optimized for mobile. This includes user-friendliness, responsive design, fast site speed and easy to read content,” he said.

You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to check your mobile friendliness, and then it’s wise to check out Google AMP requirements to help boost your site speed.

Speak To Your Customers

The technology is here, the demand is growing and the reward for first-movers will undoubtedly come through. Are you planning on carrying out voice search optimization in 2018?