How to optimize for voice search, and why you should

Search engine optimization is a pretty big concern for website owners these days. As you add more browsers, more devices, and more user tech-savviness into the mix, it’s becoming harder to stay on top of optimization trends. And whenever you do feel as though you’ve got a decent handle on everything, the search algorithms change, or something else sends everything out of whack.

The current SEO disruptor? Voice search.

The Key to optimizing your site for voice search

Chances are good you already use voice search in your personal and perhaps even professional lives. Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Google… These digital assistants work based off of user prompts, much like how standard web and mobile search works. The key difference, however, is that there is no typing required. And there is a big difference between typing and stating a search request.

For instance, voice search can be used:

  • For safer web searches (like if someone were driving).
  • Because it’s faster than typing.
  • To get instant help when out and about and in need of a local solution.

These benefits and use cases are just some of the reasons why more people are turning to voice search instead of text search. In fact, based on research done by Google in 2014, 41% of adults conduct at least one voice search every day. In a more recent study, MindMeld found that approximately 60% of those surveyed started using voice search over the last year.

So, where am I going with this? You guessed it. As voice becomes a popular option for search, developers need to take this into consideration when creating and optimizing content for their sites. The following tips will give you a good place to start by helping you reshape your SEO efforts around voice search.

Tip 1: Use voice search yourself

Before you can start optimizing a website for search, you need to have experience conducting voice searches yourself. Without that first-hand experience of using a digital assistant to find something, you may not understand why there’s even a difference between text searches and voice searches.   

My suggestion is that you use a mobile voice search app (like Siri), an Amazon Alexa speaker (if you have one), and your browser’s voice search function for an entire day. Give yourself a chance to get acquainted with how they work and how your own questions and prompts differ from what you’d typically type out in a web search. Make note of it and then continue on with the rest of the tips.

Tip 2: Reshape your keywords

Each page or post on your website ideally should have one focus keyword around which the content was written. If you’ve done any search optimization for mobile yet, then you know that mobile users tend to prefer typing out shorter phrases due to the diminutive screen sizes they’re working with.

As voice search becomes more prevalent, however, that’s going to change. Long-tail keywords are going to grow in popularity as voice search doesn’t put those types of mobile keypad constraints on users. Additionally, keywords will sound more conversational now that they come straight from the human voice. Instead of typing “Chinese restaurants near me,” you’ll see more search queries that sound like questions, like “Where is the best Chinese restaurant in downtown Los Angeles?”

According to Bing, web searches typically consist of one to three words while voice searches instead consist of six to ten words. This means that as more of your visitors adopt voice search, you’ll need to reshape your keywords accordingly.

Tip 3: Create a Q&A

If you’re struggling to incorporate longer keyword strings and questions from voice search into your site’s content, there is a way around this: that is to create a Q&A for your site.

There’s no need to go and pull questions out of thin air. You already have much of this information readily available to you. Simply take a look at the questions that pop up in your site analytics’ list of search terms, questions that users enter into your site’s internal search, as well as questions that tools like Answer the Public give you. Then you can create your new page and other Q&A opportunities on-site from that list.

Tip 4: Revisit your site’s mobile-friendliness

Most developers understand the importance of having a responsive and mobile-optimized website. With 20% of all mobile searches actually being voice searches, it’s important to revisit your site’s design and content once again since that number is expected to go up from there.

Here are a few things you should review:

  • Design responsiveness
  • Page speed
  • Mobile UX (e.g. button sizes and placement, font size, scannability, etc.)
  • Image and video content optimization
  • Local information (e.g. physical address, directions, phone number, prices, hours, product reviews, menus, and so on)

As with anything else, your focus should be developing a website that works well with the user’s experience. If mobile and voice are taking a front seat to the standard desktop web searches, then you need to pay extra attention to the details that make a difference in their experience once they’re on your site.  


If you’re not keeping track, the SEO checklist for developers now includes: optimizing for web, for mobile, for local, and for voice. Luckily, there is some overlap among these, so you may have already taken some of the steps above. For the rest, plan on getting started sooner rather than later on incorporating them into your SEO strategy. ComScore predicts that about half of all searches in 2020 will take place via voice, so your site needs to be prepared.

Brenda Barron is a writer from southern California specializing in business and technology. Read more about what she’s up to on her site Digital Inkwell. More articles by Brenda Stokes Barron
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