Forty billion dollars: that’s what voice commerce is due to be worth annually by the year 2022. It’s not surprising when you consider that by next year, half of all online searches will be voice searches.
It’s not that people don’t have time to type any more – although you’ll no doubt hear people complaining of just that once they grow accustomed to using their voice for everything. It’s that the technology is finally in place to make voice search workable. More specifically, the tech has been in place a while now – but it’s just about reached the stage where affordability, and consumer acceptance of this novel way to interact with devices, has reached a watershed.
We have voice assistants on our phones. We have smart devices on our shelves at home, listening intently for our instructions. And these are only going to become more ubiquitous.
In the meantime, while voice search is ‘compatible’ with existing content, businesses need to wake up to the fact that pre-existing content is likely not optimized for voice search. That’s because Google ranks results for voice search in a different way to how it ranks regular results.
In other words, if you want a part of this opportunity to connect with more customers and clients or to wield influence within your industry, you need to update your website to make it voice search-friendly as soon as possible.
Start with speed
Speed is very important for your voice search ranking. Google’s crawlers are figuring out how fast your pages load, and that speed will be reflected in your likelihood of appearing high up in voice search results.
Of course, speed has always been important. But the coming-of-age of voice search should be taken as a good opportunity to rehaul your site and optimize it for today’s (and tomorrow’s) conditions.
Use Chrome’s Developer Tools with something like HTMLMinifier or CSSNano to minify your HTML code. Tidy code loads quickly. If you’re still running the site you started with, you’re sure to find some messy old code in there.
Look at your caching settings, too. For the uninitiated, caching is the process whereby a website user’s browser saves elements of your website locally, so it loads more quickly next time they visit. You can use YSlow to analyze the pace of your website, including your caching settings, and then set it to a limit of anything up to one year.
It’s also worth looking into your server situation. Webpagetest can give you a good idea of how your server is performing. It will tell you the time it takes for the first byte of your website to load: you need this to be under 500ms. If you’re using a shared server, you’re compromising the speed of your website. This is an area where it truly pays to invest. Think, too, about using a Content Delivery Network.
And don’t forget to look at your images, which are often the weightiest elements of a website. No single image should be heavier than 100kb, and there’s no point in them having dimensions of more than 1920×1080. You can use Canva to reduce dimensions, and something like Caesium to compress the files.
Get a security certificate
Security is also an issue when it comes to ranking. Even if HTTPS has been the preserve of commerce sites in the past, today it is fast becoming the norm – certainly among voice search results – with nearly three-quarters of Google Home results secured in this way.
To get a certificate, you need to make sure your website has its own IP address (you can get this from your hosting company). Obtain your certificate from a trusted company such as VeriSign or, for free, Let’s Encrypt, and then hook it up with your website.
Don’t forget to update your URLs wherever you’ve linked them – in your email signature, social media profiles etc. – to reflect your safe new HTTPS status.
Optimize your content
SEO is a complex and ever-evolving art/science. It just got more complex by virtue of Google judging your texts by different criteria depending whether its returning voice or traditional search results.
It can be useful to start using voice search yourself, so you get a feel for how consumers are phrasing their queries and what kinds of answers they’re getting. But, in short, the emphasis is on natural language: a conversational tone and human-sounding (informal) answers.
Start by revamping your FAQ page, which can be a hotspot for search results as well as a great way in to writing for voice search. Keep your answers brief (less than 30 words), clear, and to the point. You can be more thorough by breaking up long explanations into multiple questions and answers.
And think laterally: answer not just questions that are directly related to your business, but those that folk interested in your product or service are likely to have on their mind. That said, if you already rank highly for one particular topic, you might want to capitalize on that area.
Overhauling your website for voice search optimization is a major job and should be near the top of your to-do list for 2019. But don’t get paralyzed by the thought that you need to do it all at once. This new step-by-step guide addresses your options element-by-element so that you can do one task at a time, and work on the other stuff when time allows.