Voice Search Tips – Optimising for Digital Assistants

Voice search is on the rise and according to comScore, voice searches will account for 50% of all searches in 2020. Question is, are you ready for voice search? Today we will run through the current digital assistants available, the search engines they use and tips for optimising for voice.

Whether using a smartphone, smart speaker or other mobile device, here is a breakdown of current digital assistants available.

Google Assistant, Home Mini, Home and Home Hub

The Google Assistant is an app which can be installed on your smartphone. To initiate a query the Google Assistant answers to “Hey Google!”. As this is a Google product, answers will be given as a verbal response from information pulled from Google’s search index and other products such as Google Maps.

The Google Home Mini, Home and Home Hub are standalone devices which come preinstalled with Google Assistant. Overall all 3 of these devices use data from Google’s search index and products. As well as this Google Assistant can control smart home devices such as thermostats, smart plugs and lighting.

While the Google Home Mini and Home are smart speakers, the Home Hub has an integrated screen which can display YouTube videos for certain queries.

Amazon Alexa, Echo, Dot, Spot and Show

Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant have a lot in common, however Alexa has the ability to make voice purchases from the Amazon Marketplace. When you interact with Alexa, the command is streamed to the Alexa service in the cloud, Alexa then interprets the speech and determines what the user wants. Alexa pulls information from Bing so it is important to use Bing Webmaster Tools and other properties to optimise your content.

The Echo and Echo Dot are smart speakers which deliver queries as spoken word, the EchoSpot and Show has displays which like the Home Hub displays visual results. Like Google Assistant, you can stream radio and music and control your smart home devices with Alexa’s range of skills.

Apple Siri & HomePod

Siri is Apple’s voice assistant and is available across iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS devices. Unlike Google Assistant and Alexa, Siri does not respond with audible answers on iOS, instead Siri will open mobile search results from a browser. On HomePod, Siri will answer with audible questions and provides help around the house. Compared to the others, Apple is yet to produce a standalone smart assistant with a display.

Microsoft Cortana

Microsoft Cortana is shipped with Windows 10 and retrieves answers to questions from Bing. Cortana doesn’t have any native skills but does currently uses skills developed for Alexa.

Optimising for Voice Search

Now that we have gone over the range of digital assistants available to users, below are some of our tips for optimising for voice search. Remember, the key fundamentals of SEO such as domain authority, trust and website speed also apply to voice search.

Gaining Featured Snippets

You can find out more about featured snippets here. Featured snippets (otherwise known as position 0) is the piece of information found in the what is known as the answer box at the top of search results. Generally the following kinds of searches generate the answer box:

  • How to guides
  • FAQs and other questions
  • Processes
  • Calculations & conversions
  • Health symptoms
  • Requirements

For featured snippets to work, your content needs to rank on the first page of search results, formatted with the correct header and list tags where applicable and include how to or answers to questions.

Conversational Questions

Optimise for full queries instead of abbreviations (you wouldn’t ask someone “best restaurants in Manchester”, for example). For voice search we would change this to “what are the best restaurants in Manchester?”, “the top 10 restaurants in Manchester” or similar. As well as creating separate how to guides and other content you could also create an FAQ page for your site which will help target long tail keywords.

Speedy Page Loading

Ensure that your website loads quickly – according to Google the page loading threshold time is 2 seconds. There are a number of Google tools you can use to help speed up your website including PageSpeed Insights & Test My Site as well as other third party tools such as GTMetrix and Pingdom. All of these tools will help you to identify improvements in your pagespeed from serving images at the correct size, reducing image file sizes, minifying HTML, CSS, JS and others.

Local SEO Optimisations

If you’re a local business, make sure your Google My Business and other citation links are up to date with your address, opening times and other important information. Don’t forget to use the correct local Schema markup.

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Mitchell Thomas

Mitchell Thomas

Mitchell has over 8 years experience in digital marketing with a core focus on SEO. His experience spans small, localised organic search campaigns right up to larger, national SEO campaigns across a wide range of industries.