Twenty per cent of Google’s traffic is voice search queries. And with the rise of Alexa, Siri and Cortana the importance of optimizing your website for voice searches is growing every day.

By 2020, half of all internet searches will be spoken, not typed. As voice assistants only read out the first-ranked response, if you’re not there, you’re nowhere. It’s a digital marketing disaster if you don’t get this right.

I’m head of voice at Only Digital. Here’s my guide to creating a website that gets you heard over the rest of the online marketing crowd.


What do your customers want to hear?

Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. They are looking for your services. What questions are they going to ask? And let’s be clear, these are questions, not keyword searches.

So ask yourself who, what, where, why and how. Think through your digital marketing from the other side. Pre-emptively answer a would-be customer’s questions. What details would they need to know if they want to make informed decisions about buying your products or using your services?

Ask yourself whether your website clearly states your unique selling point.

Now get those questions – and their answers – into your internet marketing content. No hiding it away in pictures and graphics as Google doesn’t parse images for that kind of content. Just get it into good old-fashioned HTML content. Now you’re on your way.

And don’t worry about Cortana using Bing for its searches or people who don’t use Google. It’s pretty certain if you get your SEO right, you’ll show up in their voice searches.

Remember also that six out of 10 mobile searches are made using Google, such is its dominance. Your online marketing relies on Google loving your site.


The long and the short of it

Don’t forget about long-tail searches’ value to your digital marketing. Long-tail searches are the ones with three or more words in them. They account for 70 per cent of all searches and are more conversational than shorter keyword searches.

It’s this nuanced, chatty quality that helps with voice search optimization. A keyword search is like a newspaper headline, while a voice search is more like a newspaper intro.

Google, the biggest player in voice, is doing everything it can to learn about the way its users search verbally. They have developed semantic search, which tries to figure out the implied meaning of verbal search queries. This has given them better search results accuracy than Siri or Cortana.

Google also developed natural language processing (NLP). It learns the unique characteristics of each user’s voice and the way in which they speak – their slang, their accent and their pronunciation – to help refine its searches.

So getting those colloquialisms on to your site is important to your internet marketing strategy.

Alexa isn’t doing NLP yet as the Echo is seen as something everyone in a home will use.


Make yourself look good

Voice search or not, there are a few things that always give a website a boost on Google. So …

  • Make a mark on Google Maps: “Near me” is one of the most frequently used voice search terms. There were 34 times more “near me” searches in 2017 than in 2011. So be sure you are optimized for it in Adwords’ Location Extension and use Local Search Ads in Google Maps.
  • Be mobile first: Google has been migrating more content to its mobile-first database. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, you’ll slip down the search rankings. Sort it to stop yourself tanking.
  • Stay current: Is your Google My Business listing up to date? Nope? That could explain your dip in web traffic. Google likes websites that keep it current. Refresh your Listing regularly – fresh content is important. And get some images up there. Google Maps loves them!
  • Quality links: If you’re authoritative, people link to your site. The more quality links, the better Google likes you.


Be a Featured Snippets artist

You’ll have seen Featured Snippets at the top of search results as they come up in 30 per cent of Google queries. A Featured Snippet is the boxed short answer to your question. It’s also what Alexa, Siri and their pals read out.

Only one search result claims that spot, at the choice of the voice assistant. It’s digital marketing diamond.

But it’s not just about having a succinct answer that ticks the SEO boxes. You need proper depth of information because search engines love detail. In short, to get that Featured Snippet, you have to bring your A-game to your SEO.


In the grand schema things

Meta-data. That all-important data about data. It helps search engines seek out your site. You could have all-singing, all-dancing fresh content dripping with SEO keywords, but without meta-data it’s hard to get someone along to your show.

Schema is the mark-up language which gives the search engines extra info about your website. It literally describes your site’s data. If your site’s content was files in a filing cabinet, the meta-data would be the labels on the files and schema the X-ray goggles that let Google see inside.

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