How—And Why—To Optimize Your Website for Voice Searches
Take 4 steps to ensure your business is first to be found.
Alexa, where is a hot yoga class near me?
Siri, how many reps should I do when I’m strength training?
If your potential clients haven’t uttered one of those phrases yet, they soon will—as voice search becomes the way of the future.
The growth of voice search is being driven by the explosion in the smart-speaker market: up 78% in 2018 in just one year (NPR & Edison Research 2018). In fact, Gartner, a research and advisory company, has predicted that by 2020, 30% of searches will be done on a device without a screen (Levy 2016). And people are liking what they hear: One study found that 85% of the shoppers who use voice-activated devices felt confident about the recommendations they received (Stych 2018).
That means it’s important to hit the top spot, so your site is the one served up during a voice search.
While you can’t know whether a particular user has used voice search, there’s no question that it will become an increasingly important way for traffic to find you, says RunRepeat athletic footwear site’s search engine optimization (SEO) manager Sadi Khan, who has worked with fitness professionals and fitness websites.
With the search universe increasingly turning to voice, he says that while some early adopters might benefit from it now, before long voice search will no longer be something to help you “stay ahead.” Instead, says Khan, “it [will be] something you need to stay alive in the game.”
Two questions make it simple and direct:
- What is voice search? Voice search is a way to search the web using spoken commands; in essence, you are asking your device—whether it’s a personal assistant or your mobile phone—to help you find something without having to type words into a search bar.
- Why will voice search affect me? These days, you are practically invisible if you don’t have a robust SEO presence on the web—that is, if your site doesn’t rank for specific keywords that someone might search for. As voice search becomes more prevalent, fitness professionals have a lot at stake. It pays to make sure your site pops up for potential clients, whether they are looking for general fitness information or something specific, like a class you offer.
Now, if you’re ready to harness the power of voice search, here’s how.
How to Optimize Your Website for Voice Search
Convinced that voice search is crucial to your future? Here are four ways to organize your website so it will show up in voice search.
1. CREATE FAQ PAGES
Optimizing for voice search is best accomplished by addressing common questions and answers and phrasing them in “natural language” that is commonly spoken, says Matthew Post, co-founder of search marketing firm SEM Dynamics. That’s why having a detailed FAQ page of frequently asked questions is a great way to get found.
Brainstorm and write down all the questions your target audience would likely ask in a voice search. Then add short, concise answers. For example, if you want to position your outdoor boot camp, have answers to questions like these:
- “What do people do in outdoor boot camps?”
- “Where are outdoor boot camp classes near me?”
- “What gear do I need to bring to my outdoor boot camp?”
For both the questions and the answers, use keywords that match words a searcher might use, and present them in a conversational style.
Another option would be to target how-tos for specific exercises or common fitness-related questions, such as “How do you do a plank?” or “How do I get six-pack abs?”
“These types of questions often have a featured snippet attributed to them, and it is this featured snippet that is commonly used to directly address the searcher’s query,” Post says. (A featured snippet is the answer that appears in a box at the top of a search result, with a link to the website where the answer was found.)
And don’t forget the local aspect: Most fitness professionals want to attract local clients, which means a top keyword should be “gym in [your city]” or “personal trainer in [your city]” in both your questions and your answers. This is also a good time to double-check that you have completed your free Google Business Profile, which can help Google cite your business in relevant voice searches.
Be sure to keep the answers simple; one study found that the typical voice search result was 29 words long and written for a ninth-grade reading level (Dean 2018).
The key is to make your content conversational, matching the tone of the questions that searchers will ask. If your class offerings are in a table format, for example, they won’t be as easy to find via voice search as they would be if you separated them into sentences that sound natural when they are read back.
2. OPTIMIZE YOUR WEBSITE FOR SPEED
While having a fast-loading website has always been important—according to Google research, a visitor is 90% more likely to abandon your page when the load time goes from 1 second to 5 seconds—the rise of voice search makes it even more crucial (An 2018). Khan says that’s because nearly all voice searches are made on mobile devices, and Google likes to serve mobile-friendly, fast-loading websites to people making these searches. To check your own web speed, run a Google Speed Test.
3. USE SCHEMA MARKUP TO OPTIMIZE YOUR WEBSITE FOR THE FEATURED SNIPPETS
Don’t worry; schema markup isn’t as scary as it sounds, and it can be a significant way to boost your website in search engine result pages (SERPs).
Post says to think of schema markup as a summary of the web page, site and company that is easily understood by a program, such as a search engine. “This code can include your company contact information, instructor bios, reviews and questions with answers,” he says.
For example, if you’ve ever searched for a healthy dinner recipe, you may have noticed that your search results display a thumbnail image along with ratings of the recipe. This is “schema markup” that gives Google specific details about that page; Google then uses those details in its results.
You can find out more about how to use schema markup at Schema.org, which offers a shared vocabulary that will help search engines know what to look for.
Schema markup is a smart skill to master, Khan says, because websites that rank in featured snippets are more likely to rank on top in voice search results.
4. TARGET LONG-TAIL KEYWORDS
Probably you’re already optimizing for keywords. Most fitness professionals focus on short-tail keywords, like “yoga studio in [city],” which essentially are generic phrases that shoot back tons of results.
Long-tail keywords are far more specific and can offer the searcher targeted results—and in turn serve up exactly the clients you are looking for. So, you might focus on long-tail keywords like “yoga for pregnant women in [city]” or “evening hot yoga in [city]” or other terms that describe your offerings more specifically.
This is especially important for voice search, because people are more likely to speak full sentences in a conversational tone, compared to typing a couple of words or a short phrase into a search bar.
The key to all of these steps is to present your content in a format that is easily found via voice search, making it more likely that yours is the site that searchers will ultimately be sent to.
Glossary of Terms
Featured snippet: the block that appears at the top of a search result, with an answer and a link to the web page where it was found
Keywords: words or phrases that match the terms people search for
Long-tail keyword: detailed key words with specific information
Schema: the system of markups in HTML code that helps search engines better grasp information on a web page
SEO: search engine optimization
SERP: search engine results page
An, D. 2018. Find out how you stack up to new industry benchmarks for mobile page speed. Think with Google. Accessed Mar. 22, 2019: thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-resources/data-measurement/mobile-page-speed-new-industry-benchmarks/.
Dean, B. 2018. We analyzed 10,000 Google Home results. Here’s what we learned about voice search SEO. Backlinko. Accessed Mar. 22, 2019: backlinko.com/voice-search-seo-study.
Levy, H.P. 2016. Gartner predicts a virtual world of exponential change. Smarter With Gartner. Accessed Mar. 22, 2019: gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/gartner-predicts-a-virtual-world-of-exponential-change/.
NPR (National Public Radio) & Edison Research. 2018. The Smart Audio Report. Accessed Mar. 22, 2019: nationalpublicmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Smart-Audio-Report-Winter-2018.pdf.
Stych, A. 2018. 5 retail trends to watch in 2019. L.A. Biz. Accessed Mar. 22, 2019: bizjournals.com/losangeles/news/2018/12/26/5-retail-trends-to-watch-in-2019.html.