Optimize for Voice Search: Tips

Google’s mission to better understand voice search and create the perfect assistant reflects the ever-growing need for voice search optimization.

Voice search technology is rapidly evolving. It gets stronger every day at understanding our speech patterns and recording data.

Voice search on virtual assistants has already jumped from 0% in 2015 to over 10% of searches globally. In fact, innovation in speech pattern recognition has resulted in a decrease of 20% to 8% in word error rate in just two short years.

Its no wonder why voice search is so popular; its hands free, allows users to multi-task, and is better able to understand informal pronouns than text searches. A majority of users rely on voice requests for simple tasks, whether it’s dictating a text, asking for directions or making a call.

There are many voice assistants available on the market, ranging from Siri and Cortana to the new Amazon Echo. Virtual assistants are now becoming a part of everyday life, whether it’s consulting Siri to find the best Chinese in your area or asking Amazon Echo to look up the easiest Vodka sauce recipes while you cook.

Everyone is Using Voice Search

Its estimated that 55% of teens and 41% of adults currently use voice search on a daily basis. According to a survey by MindMeld in 2015, most users only started using voice commands only 6 months prior to their survey. In terms of demographics, a study by Thrive Analytics showed that 71% of people age 18-29 used voice assistants and a surprising 39% of people age 44-53 used voice assistants as well.

A third of all of Cortana’s search queries are conducted using voice search. It is perhaps the most rapidly rising innovation in search technology and it’s still in its early phase.

How Voice Search Adapts to You

Google has been working to understand natural speech patterns and idiosyncrasies in the way users conduct voice searches.

  • Virtual assistants are capable of responding to spelling corrections to display the right search queries
  • Google can utilize previous searches to interpret pronouns, such as “it” within its search queries to understand what users are searching for.
  • Google can use location and personal information to match you with the right search results
  • Google can use information that you’ve viewed on your screen or within an app to match users to relevant search results

Optimization for Voice Search

Longer Tail Keywords

Voice search is without a doubt the future of SEO, so what are keyword researches and content writers to do? While broad keywords will never disappear, it’s keen to note that long-tail keywords and phrases are more an inherent part of natural speech than broad keyword phrases.

While text search with two words may be ideal for research, people who use voice search typically search for fast results and answers to basic questions. Studies have shown that text search typically concentrates on two words and voice search on three. Voice searches have also been shown to provide a higher input than text searches for longer phrases ranging from 4-9 words in a search.

Optimizing written content in a conversational tone and crafting informational content that can deliver a simple answer to a question will dominate search results. In terms of your content writing campaign, you must be able to deliver straight facts to answers while also providing more detail to account for both types of searches. Voice search and search engine algorithms are challenging SEO experts to craft better content that is more relevant to user intent.

Natural Language

Search queries conducted over voice search utilize natural language to connect users with results. Typically if users wanted to find the cheapest flights to Tangier, they might type “flights Tangier.” On a voice search, they may instead ask, “What are the cheapest flights available to Tangier.” For marketing experts this means that keyword research and even ad copy must be adapted to reflect more natural speech phrases. Search engine technology, especially Google’s Hummingbird update, show evidence to search engines’ commitment to better understand semantic language and increase user satisfaction.

Voice searches differ from text searches in the fact that they utilize question phrases more frequently. A study by Search Engine Land found that there’s been a 61% increase year-over-year in question phrases. “Who” phrases haven risen by 134% to put some perspective to this.

Strong Intent Keywords

Voice searches also contain stronger intent than text searches. Typically websites could bid on broad keywords and optimize ad copy based on the context of the search. In a text search users might type “Travel Tangier” but marketers would be unable to determine if this meant that users were searching for flight tickets, hotels, or even things to do in Tangier. While you can draw some conclusions from this search and optimize ad copy to encompass all of these different elements, it’s difficult to optimize bids for these keywords, which may drive a high impression, but low CTR for your website.

Consider conducting keyword research for question phrases relevant to your business. If your business specializes in automotive repair, consider inserting “How much does it cost for new tires?” and other relevant search terms into your keyword list. Also, insert negative keywords to remove irrelevant question phrases from your keyword list. Stronger intent means that voice search now uses specific question phrases to find the information they are looking for.

Identify your strongest question phrases and adjust bids accordingly. Include filler words that help match question phrases with user intent. The more matches you have, the more likely your result will be displayed on a voice search.


Users often reference micro data, such as a phone number, location, or name when conducting a local voice search. Your website will benefit from creating a comprehensive sitemap that encompasses all of its relevant information.

Consider updating schema markup to ensure that search engines can connect users with the micro data they reference. This also helps search engines understand the context of your content, helping it to rank higher for stronger intent search queries. Optimizing micro data and your schema markup has become increasingly more important as search engines have become increasingly gifted at understanding the semantics and context of a search.

The Importance of a FAQ Page

When users conduct a voice search, they typically utilize the adverbs, who, what, when, where, etc. Providing a FAQ page that begins each question with one of these adverbs will give your website a competitive edge to answer the questions users are searching for. Answering these questions in a conversational tone will appeal to voice search queries and most likely help your website rank higher.

The Impact on Local Search

Voice search is three times more likely to be local than text search. This is attributed to the fact that a majority of voice searches are conducted on mobile devices. For local businesses, optimizing your website for local search is a must. Consider inserting any landmarks or local places of interest relevant to your business. Optimizing your landing page to include a description of the surrounding area and environment will be key in making your business more local search friendly. When crafting your landing page, write in local speech, describing your restaurant and the surrounding area as if you were somebody describing your business in the local area.


Voice search does not mean the end of SEO, but rather a more innovative form of marketing better able to capture user intent. Optimizing ad copy, keyword, and landing pages to reflect natural language and speech patterns will not only make your website more search friendly, but more user accessible. In the mobile era, voice search will represent another tremendous shift in how marketers approach their PPC and SEO campaigns.