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Optimising WordPress for voice search

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Your audience is talking to you – are you listening?

Voice searches are rapidly increasing in popularity among web users, with recent figures showing that 1 billion voice searches occur each month on mobile and smart devices such as Amazon’s Alexa.

Continued growth is forecast for voice search, in line with increasingly seamless, intuitive experiences and advances in artificial intelligence and voice recognition technology.

With this in mind, optimising your WordPress site for voice search is essential if you want your business to stay competitive in the market. 

If voice search optimisation isn’t already a part of your business’s SEO strategy, now is the time to build it in.

In this blog post we’ll cover:

  • What voice searches are
  • Why you should be optimising for voice search
  • Key differences between voice and text search
  • SEO and technical considerations

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What is voice search and why should I optimise for it?

Voice search technology allows web users to speak voice commands into a device to perform searches. This could involve a smartphone, car, smart speaker or other ‘smart’ home appliance.

The device’s voice recognition software then analyses the search query, identifies the underlying intent and delivers either a spoken answer or a list of search results based on what content it deems relevant.

Why optimise for voice search

Optimising for voice search gives you an advantage in SEO, making it essential for businesses striving to rank higher on search engines such as Google

Given that the trend towards voice searches continues to grow, knowing the characteristics of voice search ensures you can gain an advantage over your competitors.

Voice searches also help businesses capture organic search traffic. By tapping into voice search, you’ll gain access to new demographics who rely on smartphones and smart speakers to browse the web.

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Optimising your website content for voice search

You’ll need to consider different things when optimising your existing content for voice search, compared to text searches. 

Studying your website data relating to user behaviour will show you who is finding your website through voice searches, what they are looking for, and what content is most likely to keep them engaged. 

Here are some things to consider:

Clear intent

Every search engine user has a specific intent when searching for their particular query. 

It is the search engine’s job to interpret that query and translate it into results that align with that intent. Because voice search queries tend to be longer and more question-based, they attract more high-intent traffic likely to result in conversions. 

These intents can be divided roughly into four categories:

  1. Transactional
    Users who want to take a particular action, such as “buy socks online” or “book hair appointment”
  2. Navigational
    Users who want to navigate to a specific website or piece of content, such as a video, song or news article
  3. Informational
    Users looking for a particular fact to answer a question such as: “What’s the weather forecast for my area this week?or “Which football team won the World Cup last year?”
  4. Commercial
    Users ready to buy a product or service. They may know exactly what they want, or they may want options to choose from. These queries could look like: “How can I buy Glastonbury tickets?” or “What are the best Indian restaurants in my area?”

Some of these user intents may apply more to your content than others. By analysing your web traffic, you can gain a clearer picture of what users are looking for when searching for your website, and optimising your content accordingly.

Conversational tone

Voice search queries tend to be more conversational than text searches. By responding to them in a similarly conversational tone, you can build trust and rapport that makes users feel heard. This can improve the likelihood that users will continue browsing your website.

Not only does a conversational tone convey authenticity, it’s also easier for voice assistants to interpret. This makes your content even more relevant to voice queries. You can adapt your content to be more conversational by:

You should also ensure key information is succinct and readable. This makes it easier for voice-analysing software to understand if your website is relevant to the search. Writing in a more casual tone does not mean you have to compromise on quality.

A good rule of thumb is to say things out loud as you write them. If a phrase or sentence sounds unnatural when you say it, chances are your audience will feel the same way reading it.

Long-tail keywords

Voice searches tend to be longer, more specific, and are likely to be more fully-formed questions than text searches. In other words, more like how we naturally speak. 

To capture traffic from voice queries, one of the best things you can do is target long-tail keywords in your content. 

Long-tail keywords contain three words or more, and they are a key component in capturing traffic from voice searches. 

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You can also make them more specific to your business (eg. “cafes in the Bristol area” instead of just “cafes”), which reduces your competition in search results.

You might be wondering how to identify which long-tail keywords will work for you. The first thing to consider is that long-tail keywords are often questions. Specifically, the “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” and “how” questions that users are most likely to be asking about your business. 

You can also use keyword research tools to find the most relevant keywords for your target customer. Other resources to leverage include the “related searches” or the “people also ask” sections of Google’s results pages to see which questions your audience ask most.

SEO and technical considerations

Targeting voice search can provide a massive boost to your site’s overall SEO. Search engines like Google have been consistently improving their voice recognition capabilities, and sites optimised for voice searches often rank higher in results.

Capturing these prime SEO positions can be challenging. Devices that allow voice search tend to only list the top one to three results for a query, meaning that your content needs to be high-quality and optimised wherever possible.

Local SEO

Local SEO is one of the best ways to optimise for voice search. Searches for “businesses near me” have been on the rise over the past few years, and this trend is showing no signs of slowing down. 

When someone voice searches on a smartphone, they’re likely to be on the go and looking for something nearby, like a restaurant or store. If your business serves customers locally, you can target people who are most likely to be interested in your business by improving your business’s visibility in your area.

The easiest way to boost your local SEO profile is by maintaining an up-to-date Google Business Profile. This profile informs visitors of your location, contact details, opening hours, directions, and other essential information. 

Given that voice search results often pull information from these profiles, having a complete and accurate Google Business Profile means your website is more likely to rank prominently in voice searches.

Featured snippets

Featured snippets are short pieces of content pulled from a highly-ranked website, displayed above organic search results. By being the website linked to in Google’s featured snippet for your search query, you can gain a major boost in organic search traffic. 

There is no way to guarantee that your site will appear in a featured snippet, but there are ways to maximise your chances. Structure your content in a question-answer format wherever possible. This is the optimal format for Google featured snippet placement. Other actions you can take are:

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Schema markup

Another technique you can use to bolster your site’s search engine presence is schema markup. Essentially, it’s code you add to your website’s HTML with key information about your business such as your hours, address, contact details, pricing and reviews. 

Visitors to your website won’t see schema markup, but indexing bots will. Schema markup helps these bots understand your content better. In turn, this improves visibility in search results and can attract more organic search traffic, increasing your chances of landing in voice search results.

Think mobile-first

Mobile devices now make up more than half of internet traffic globally. According to Google, voice searches make up 20% of searches via its mobile app. 

The relative ease of speaking into a mobile device whilst on the go compared to typing on a tiny phone keyboard makes voice searches an appealing option for many mobile users. 

There are many factors to consider when optimising your site for mobile, such as:

Optimising your site for mobile will not only improve the experience these users have on your website, it will also improve your search engine ranking, as Google will favour websites that provide better mobile experiences in its rankings. 

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Fast-loading web pages

Page load time is a major factor considered by Google for both voice and text search rankings. Pages that take longer than three seconds to load have higher bounce rates. Users also view slow-loading web pages less positively

Not only does having a fast website make it easier for potential customers to find you, improving your search engine ranking will boost your organic traffic.

Improving your website speed doesn’t have to mean an entire restructuring of your website. There are many small tweaks you can make that will have an impact on your website’s overall performance. Assess your site’s current speed using a speed-checking tool like Website Grader

Next, identify areas to improve. Consider your server choice, image sizes, use of rich media and streamlining your code. To learn more, read our blog post on improving web performance.

Takeaways

If you aren’t already optimising your website for voice searches, hopefully we’ve convinced you why this is worthwhile. To recap:

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Piers Tincknell Co-founder & Managing Director

Monday 18th December 2023