What is voice search and how is it changing SEO?

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How to optimise your site for voice search

What is voice search and how is it changing SEO?

Voice search is a speech recognition technology that allows users to search the web through spoken voice commands rather than typed text, providing immediate answers to their queries.

Smartphones and digital assistant tools such as Cortana, Echo, Siri and Google Assistant all provide voice activated technology that enables people to communicate verbally with their mobile devices through voice search queries.

Given its obvious convenience and growing popularity, digital assistant technology has lead to a proliferation in voice search, and by 2020, 50% of all Google searches will be conducted via voice.  

This is changing the way Google handles search queries, how users search for the information they need, and how marketers are now required to optimise web content for voice search.

How does voice search change search behaviour?

There are some key differences between voice search and text search behaviour. When we speak to voice assistants, we use conversational language as if we were talking to a human being. As a result, voice search queries use long-tail keywords of 7+ words, compared to the average shorter, typed keyword of between 1-3 words.

Voice queries are also likely to be in question-style format, and are more increasingly locally driven: Google reports that “____ near me” searches have grown by 150% over the last two years”.

How to optimise your web content for voice search

The good news is that you don’t need to completely overhaul your site to optimise it for voice search. A few simple content tweaks should suffice to make it voice friendly.

Think about the types of questions users would ask when they search for your product or service and address these questions with your web content.


People use voice search in a conversational manner so you should present your answers in the same way to give your brand a ‘human’ voice.

For example, if someone is searching for ‘what are the common mistakes to avoid when starting a new business?’, Google will choose a match with web content: ‘read our list of the common mistakes to avoid when starting a new business’ over the more robotic, less conversational short-tail keyword ’new business mistakes’.


Voice focused keyword research should yield conversational-style key phrases that feature question words (where, should, why, what, can, is etc) that will satisfy the query.

Consult online tools such as Google Suggest and Related Queries for inspiration. ’Answer the Public’ combines the suggested searches from Google and Bing and presents them in a user-friendly word cloud format.

You should aim to scatter long-tail keywords and synonyms throughout your web copy to ensure user needs are addressed. This will give Google a better understanding of the context, improve the user experience and increase the chances of your page being delivered in search results.


Featured snippets are shown above the #1 ranked organic spot and feature an excerpt from the page that best answers the query, in a simple and concise way. Content highlighted in featured snippets is more likely to be clicked than the first organic search result, driving more traffic to your site and giving your brand higher visibility. Featured snippets can be shown in either paragraph, list or table format.

Read further instructions on how to optimise your content for featured snippets.


FAQs pages are perfect for voice search as they enable you to feature the exact questions you expect people to use when looking for your product. Use natural sounding questions and phrases that focus on long-tail conversational keyword phrases. A FAQs page will also enable you to rank for multiple voice queries on a single page.


Given the locally driven nature of many voice searches, you should aim to include geo-specific search terms within your keywords and web copy to capture people looking for services in the local area.

You should also claim and optimise your Google My Business listing so that map results are delivered for local searches for your business or business category.


Voice search is on the increase and marketers need to adapt their SEO approach accordingly. Consider the questions users might ask about your product or service and address these needs in your web content.

Use voice centred keyword research, optimise your site for featured snippets and local search and create a FAQs page. Adopting these techniques will ensure your site provides the content users needs, keeping it visible on Google.

Need help with your SEO strategy? Contact Web Foundry today and talk to an expert about optimising your website for voice search.

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