Optimising your mobile site for voice search

Alannah Maloney, head of sales at O’Flynn Medical, a leading provider of medical supplies to both healthcare facilities and private households, considers how you can optimise your mobile site for voice search. In recent years, the company has optimised its website for mobile users, and has seen a large increase in sales as a result.

In recent years, there has been a discernible shift in the manner in which people go about their online information searches. People are veering towards using voice search on their devices over good old-fashioned text search. People enjoy the convenience of using a personal assistant or voice assistant, such as Google Home or Amazon Echo. Personal assistant Siri provides help to iPhone users, Android has the ever-popular Google voice search, and Microsoft now comes as standard with Cortana, who helps users in setting up and navigating around their PCs, smartphones, tablets, Xbox, and other devices.

Voice interfaces are used routinely now, and we have also seen immense consumer enthusiasm for the convenience of smart speakers. Google reports that 27 per cent of people globally are now performing voice search on mobile. eMarketer predicts that over a third of the US population (that’s 111.8m people) were using a voice assistant in 2019, which is up from 9.5 per cent in 2018. So, we as digital marketers need to take into account the effect that voice search is having now and will have in the future on SEO. After all, a voice search done on mobile is still a standard search and deserves the same quality SEO attention in order to rank well.

Basic anatomy of a voice search
Firstly, we need to understand the basics. Voice searches are mostly performed on a mobile device and tend more towards localized “near me” search enquiries. They are usually more conversational and natural in tone, and therefore tend to be longer than text-based searches. So, it’s more about delivering on-the-go results in the location where the user is currently situated.

Voice Search Optimization Tips:

1. Understand the Official User Guides
It’s worth familiarising yourself with the voice search user guides for each major platform. Windows, iPhone and Android guides can only help optimize your experience. Google, Apple and Cortana provide useful guides on ways in which their PA’s can assist in finding info on your phone or the internet. Third-party guides can also offer some awesome information, like in CNET’s exhaustive list of Siri, OK Google, and Cortana commands. Googles recently published Voice Search Quality Guidelines counts as another key source. Bookmark these resources, so you have a reference of popular questions and phrases people typically use when conducting a voice search.

2. Make Your Content Concise
No matter what your brand is, just remember that when people use their phones to access the internet, they are looking for content that is mobile-friendly and optimized for this platform. So, make sure you are using short paragraphs, simple sentences, and sub-headers for easy reading. Your mobile site must be easily scannable to the eye, without distractions and annoying ads and pop-ups, which could interfere with visitors getting the information they need.

It’s also important to create relevant website and/or blog content that answers questions related to your industry that people are curious about and could search up. Hey, they might just decide your products offer a perfect solution to their problems and purchase your product or services. For example, a health supplement store might have content to satisfy queries like “Keeping healthy while on holiday” and an art supply store may have a blog for answering questions like “What are some ideas for creating artworks for gifts and birthday presents?”

Always keep in mind the common scenario and context behind voice searches; users are more likely to be on-the-go and busy, and not in any position to listen to long texts. Remember, voice search answers will be read out aloud, and so it’s better to cut to the crux of the info. Someone might visually scan a long article when doing a text search, but they can’t do the same with audio.

3. Focus on Longer Keywords
As we’ve covered, people use more “everyday real” speech when using the voice search feature, so it makes sense to target long-tail keywords and phrases. Yoast.com tells us theses searches yield less search traffic, but will usually hold a higher conversion rate, as they are more specific. You must literally “think how people speak.” How would people ask particular questions? And what are the types of question that are most likely to bring people to your site? The emphasis is on natural speech over keyword variations. You need to target as many variations of natural speech as possible.

Answer the Public is a superb tool for this, and Google Search Console is able to calculate the specific queries that are attracting people to your site. Currently, there’s no definitive way to determine which queries come from text- or voice-based search, bur Google has hinted that could be subject to change.

Another clever idea is to document the type of questions your customers and prospective clients ask you, or your customer service representatives. Then, you can create content pages that focus on these more focused search terms.

4. Get Your Biz up on Google My Business
Claiming your Google My Business listing allows Google to have the necessary details about your business, such as phone number, address, operating hours, industry, and more. Keep this up to date to increase your chances of showing up in relevant voice search results. Try having citations in relevant business directories, and some positive customer reviews if possible.

5. Create a FAQ Page
A wise tactic is to use the customer and SEO data you’ve collected to form FAQ pages to centre your focus on long-tail keywords. Try to write as naturally as possible and aim at grouping common questions together. The goal is for the search engines to hold the best chance of returning information/answers from your site.

6. Boost Your Microdata
Make it as simple as possible for search engines to trawl your website and understand it, thus raising the chances of your content being chosen to answer voice search queries. After adding your Google My Business information, also submit a sitemap which includes important stats like directions and prices. The next step is to utilize microdata and create markups for various use cases which helps Google understand what your text means. Take a visit to Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to guide you through the process, and help you form the correct HTML language.

7. Use Schema Markup Code
When you add schema mark-up to your website, it assists Google in identifying the different elements of a page that might be relevant to a voice query. It is also useful for ranking in rich results like featured snippets for both voice searches, and regular mobile and computer searches. When beginning each new piece of content, add a few quick answers to satisfy Google’s search results for these rich snippets. Use these direct, semantic questions to help your site show up in voice, text and featured snippets search results.
Check out Schema mark-up guides and tutorials on the matter.

8. Increase Page Load Speed
Google’s Speed Update is now in effect, so a quick mobile site is a must. Also, ensure your site’s mobile layout and navigation is intuitive, so viewers will not get frustrated when visiting your site.

Industry commentators reckon mobile searches are on the rise. According to Hitwise, nearly 60 per cent of searches are now performed on a mobile device, and many of these will be done via voice – to find local businesses, restaurants, order products, get directions, and so much more. According to a September 2014 Fast Company interview with Baidu’s former chief data scientist, Andrew Ng, 50 per cent of all searches will be voice by 2020. As marketing professionals, we need to consider the impact that voice search is having on SEO.

People play around with voice search
Let’s be real, most of us have experimented and had some fun when using OK Google, Siri and Cortana. Feel free to Google ‘70+ Awesome OK Google Voice Commands’; ‘131 Questions to Ask Cortana’ and ‘140 Questions Siri Has Hilarious Answers For’. The main point is knowing how users play around with voice search, as it provides helpful insights into user interaction with these technologies. Sure, some answers might be irrelevant, but others might give you ideas of directions to pursue regarding voice search optimization for your business. At the very least, you’ll find some ways to spice up your copy with some humour, and engage your audience in a unique way.

The future of voice search
There are constant evolutions and revolutions when it comes to the state of voice search services, and marketers must adopt the necessary strategies to keep up with the trends. You wouldn’t want your competitors to overtake you in the voice market. New voice technologies are being invented by giant tech companies constantly, voice-activated smart speakers sales are climbing, and we could be facing a future that is SERP-less.

Some marketing gurus are already speculating that if you haven’t optimized your website for voice search yet, you’re already behind the curve. We hear terms like “answer engine optimisation” joining our marketing vocabulary, and we are looking at being present on devices such as Google Home Actions and Alexa Skills.

Clearing up confusion
It’s also worth noting that there is a distinct difference between voice commands such as “Ok Google, open calculator” and “Alexa, play classical music”, and actual voice searches which pull results from the web. So, there might be a bit of confusion when it comes to the hype surrounding voice searches because of this misunderstanding. Distilled CEO, Will Critchlow, reckons a smaller percentage of mobile voice searches than we realise can actually be ranked for. Verto Analytics concluded that smart speaker voice searches might be taking the lead from mobile voice searches.

Based on this data, optimising for voice search isn’t a complete make or break situation, but it could definitely give you a distinct advantage. It’s something worth putting resources towards, especially if your business caters primarily to a mobile audience, and if you operate in an industry sector which receives a good deal of consumer voice queries.

In conclusion, voice searches have become a part of everyday life, and digital marketers need to get in on the power of the spoken word!