If you haven’t noticed yet, voice assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa have become HUGE in recent years.
Comscore predicts that in 2020, 50% of internet searches will be made through voice assistants. Smart speakers, like Google Home and Amazon Echo, are built to allow users to easily make voice searches on the fly. And Ovum predicts that by 2021, there will be more smart speakers than people!
Why should you care?
Well, voice assistants take their answers from content and articles on the web. Many of them, upon delivering the search result, will also give users the option to visit the site that the result was taken from.
For example, notice the clickable URL at the bottom of this Google assistant search result:
In other situations, like when people ask more product-focused questions, the result may be a selection of websites. Here's an example from Siri:
That means by optimising your content for voice search, your site could appear in more search results and get tons of new traffic.
And if you don’t optimise for voice search, you could lose traffic to competitors who are one step ahead of you.
Some voice search engines will also mention the name of the website they are taking the answer from, e.g. “According to PC World…”. So you can also get some fantastic brand exposure by appearing in voice searches.
A short caveat before we get going
Full disclosure: your copy isn't the only thing that determines whether your content appears in voice searches. The search engines also need to see your site as an authority on that particular subject.
For example, if you ask Google assistant ‘what is a jet fuel test?’, you will get this result (from a page that I helped optimise for Conidia Bioscience).
However, we can also see that the same page is ranking in the top search results for queries like ‘jet fuel test’.
That means Google already sees the page as an authority on this topic.
Building up your site’s authority involves a number of SEO techniques and strategies. There are plenty of SEO experts who are far better qualified than me to explain them, so I won’t try here.
Regardless, if you're an SEO copywriter, your job is usually to take care of the text and leave the rest to SEO specialists. The following guidelines will tell you everything you need to know right now.
How to optimise your copy for voice search
1. Use question-and-answer style copy in your web content
With voice search, people ask full questions like ‘what’s the best software for accounting?’
When you’re writing your content, including questions like this can help you get featured in voice searches. You don’t have to go crazy adding questions—just put information into a simple question and answer format when you have the opportunity.
Make sure you’re asking and answering who/what/where/why/when and how questions, as these are what people most commonly ask voice assistants.
You can also fine-tune the wording of your questions using a keyword research tool like SEMRush:
In the example above, you can see that 'how often should I bathe my dog' has a score of 390 in the search volume column, whereas 'how often should you bathe a dog' has 1,000. Because the second one has more searches, that will be the best phrasing to use for basic optimisation.
2. Put your search-optimised phrases into sub-headings
There's plenty of evidence that Google and other search engines primarily look at your page title and sub-headings to decide what a page is about. Therefore, you should try to work them into your sub-headings using H2 and H3 tags.
If you don't usually add H tags to your copy, that's fine. Just make sure your designer can clearly see where the copy should be a sub-heading, and let them know you've written it that way for SEO purposes.
Here's an example of how this looks.
Placing keywords into sub-headings like this can help to get your content picked in normal (i.e non-voice) searches too. In the example above, 'jet fuel testing' was an important keyword for the page, so it needed to appear in the sub-headings in one form or another.
However, your body copy is important too. Make sure you're using keywords from the sub-title in your body copy where relevant (in this case, 'jet fuel', 'fuel' and 'testing')—but don't spam them.
3. Write using natural, conversational language.
Try and phrase your questions with natural-sounding language, avoiding jargon that people wouldn’t use in real life.
When people search in Google by typing, they tend to write very short queries—like ‘actor with most oscars’.
But when using voice search, people ask questions like they do in real conversations. They say things like ‘which actor has the most oscars?’
Including this natural, conversational sounding language gives you more chance of coming up in voice searches. Read my guide to conversational copywriting to get more help sounding human.
4. Give concise answers and work FAQs into your content
With voice searches, Google tends to favour answers that are 30 words long or fewer.
You should try to keep your initial answers around that length and add any additional information in a separate paragraph below.
However, you’re probably not going to write many articles that are just a single question and answer. So if you want to get your answers noticed by google, include Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) sections in your content.
This will give you multiple chances to get featured in voice searches from a single page.
5. Include follow-up questions
Some voice assistants will understand follow-up questions—i.e. questions that wouldn’t make sense out of context (like ‘where do I find one?’).
That means you should try and anticipate the next question that somebody might ask and include it in your content.
For example, you ask Google assistant 'who was the lead singer of Nirvana?'. Google responds with a precise answer:
The next question could be ‘what kind of guitars did he play?’ So ideally, if you're writing about Kurt Cobain, your content could answer this question too so you can be found again by the voice assistant. The more comprehensive your content is, the more likely it will win traffic from voice searches.
However, just to be clear, don’t write your follow up questions with follow-up phrasing like ‘what guitars did he play?’ You should still write out the full question, i.e. ‘what guitars did Kurt Cobain play'. That way you also stand a good chance of being featured if that's the first question asked.
That's it...happy optimising!
You may also like to read my 6 website writing tips for startups.