How to Optimize Your Site for Voice Search: 10 Strategies for Success

Voice search is no longer the future of SEO – it‘s a critical part of the present. With 41% of adults using voice search daily and voice commerce sales expected to reach $40 billion by 2024, the question isn‘t if you should optimize for voice, but how.

Backlinko recently analyzed 10,000 Google Home search results to determine just how sites can be optimized for voice search. Our experts weighed in on the most important findings and provided their recommendations for a successful voice search strategy in 2024 and beyond.

1. Focus on Featured Snippets

One of the most striking findings from the study was that 40.7% of voice search answers came from featured snippets. This is the little box that sometimes appears at the top of the search results with a quick answer to your question.

As Brittany Chin, Growth Marketer at HubSpot, explains, "The goal of both featured snippets and voice search is the same: to provide a concise answer to a question. By optimizing for featured snippets, you‘re simultaneously optimizing for voice answers."

To win featured snippets – and by extension, voice search – consider:

  • Structuring your content in a Q&A format, with the question as a header (e.g.

    ) and a one-paragraph answer directly underneath

  • Summarizing key points in a bulleted or numbered list
  • Providing a clear, direct answer to the question in the first paragraph of the page
  • Using

    paragraph tags to break up text

  • Adding "What is…" and "How to…" sections that give quick overviews of your topic

The easier you make it for Google to find a relevant, formatted snippet, the higher your chances of both featured snippet and voice search success.

2. Prioritize Conversational Keywords

When people use voice search, they‘re more likely to ask questions in a natural way, as if they‘re talking to another person. This means long, full-sentence queries rather than the shorter keywords we‘re used to typing.

For example, someone looking for a good Italian spot nearby is more likely to ask their smart speaker "What‘s the best Italian restaurant near me?" rather than typing in "Italian restaurant near me."

To find relevant conversational keywords, consider:

  • Searching online forums and social media to see how people phrase questions about your topic
  • Checking the "People also ask" section on the SERPs for common question formats
  • Using tools like Answer the Public and AlsoAsked.com to generate question ideas
  • Imagining how you would verbally ask for the information as a layperson

Incorporate these natural-language phrases into your content, particularly in page titles, headers, and within the first few sentences. But avoid keyword stuffing or awkward phrasing – focus on questions that fit naturally in your copy.

3. Write for Readability

"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter," goes the famous saying. Voice search results prove the value of brevity, with the typical answer being just 29 words long on average.

Not only are voice results short and sweet, but they‘re also easy to understand, with the average answer written at a 9th grade reading level according to Backlinko‘s analysis. Compare that to the average web page, which is written at a college reading level.

To optimize your content‘s readability for voice search:

  • Break up long sentences and paragraphs into shorter ones
  • Use simple words and avoid jargon most people won‘t know
  • Aim for an 8th-9th grade reading level according to readability tools like Hemingway Editor
  • Stick to an active voice and avoid passive sentence constructions
  • Use transition words to improve flow between sentences and paragraphs

Writing in a clear, concise, easy-to-understand way is key for voice search optimization. If your content is full of long, complex sentences, it likely won‘t be chosen as a voice answer.

4. Improve Page Speed

If there‘s one thing virtual assistants value, it‘s quick answers. And those speedy responses are only possible with fast-loading pages.

Backlinko‘s study found that the average voice search result page loaded in 4.6 seconds – 52% faster than the average page. In an analysis of 5 million desktop and mobile pages, Google found the probability of a bounce increases by 90% as page load time goes from 1 to 5 seconds.

Page load time vs bounce rate chart
Image source: Backlinko

Some steps you can take to boost page speed include:

  • Compressing images to reduce file size without sacrificing quality
  • Minifying HTML, CSS and JavaScript to remove unnecessary characters
  • Leveraging browser caching so returning visitors can load pages faster
  • Using a content delivery network (CDN) to reduce server response times
  • Limiting redirects and removing broken links

You can test your pages‘ current load times using tools like Google‘s PageSpeed Insights. It will provide specific recommendations to make your pages faster.

5. Build Domain Authority

For a site to be the sole result for a voice query, Google needs to have a high degree of confidence in its authority and credibility. It won‘t risk giving an answer from an untrustworthy source.

One of the best measures of a site‘s authority is Ahrefs‘ Domain Rating (DR), which is based on the strength of a site‘s backlink profile on a 100-point scale. In Backlinko‘s study, the average DR of a voice search result was a whopping 76.8.

While most sites won‘t be able to achieve a DR that high, the takeaway is clear: the more authoritative your site is, the better your chances in voice search. Some effective authority-building strategies:

  • Create link-worthy content like original research, data visualizations, and ultimate guides
  • Guest post on relevant, high-authority sites in your industry
  • Turn unlinked brand mentions into links by reaching out to the publisher
  • Earn PR coverage and links with newsworthy content

Building a strong, diverse link profile from reputable websites should be a key part of your voice search strategy. Just be sure to avoid black hat link building tactics that could get you penalized.

6. Target Featured Snippets

We‘ve already touched on featured snippets, but they‘re so important for voice search that they‘re worth diving into further.

Google‘s John Mueller has confirmed that featured snippets are a major source for voice answers. Optimizing for featured snippets can also boost your overall traffic, as they receive an estimated 8% of all clicks.

A few tips to increase your chances of winning featured snippets:

  • Answer questions directly and succinctly, ideally in 40-50 words
  • Organize your page in a clear hierarchy with H2s, H3s, etc.
  • Structure your content in easily-digestible sections like lists, tables, and graphs
  • Use a definition-focused intro paragraph that answers "What is X?"
  • Avoid promotional or opinion-based language

Creating clear, direct content optimized for snippets can be a powerful way to earn more voice search appearances and organic traffic in general.

7. Mark Up Content with Structured Data

Voice assistants love content that‘s marked up with structured data. This is additional code that provides search engines with information about a page‘s content, helping them understand and categorize it better.

A 2017 study by Bing found that Cortana was 20-30% more likely to offer a voice result with matching structured data. And while Google hasn‘t confirmed it uses structured data for voice answers, experts believe it relies on it heavily.

The most relevant types of structured data for voice search are:

  • Speakable – indicates which sections of a page are best suited to be read aloud by voice assistants
  • FAQ Page – lists frequently asked questions with corresponding answers
  • Q&A Page – similar to FAQs but with more of a discussion format
  • HowTo – provides step-by-step instructions on how to complete a task

Of course, only use structured data types that are a natural fit for your content. You can implement them manually or with Google‘s Data Highlighter tool.

8. Optimize for Local Listings

According to BrightLocal, 76% of smart speaker users search for local businesses weekly. And since many voice searches are done on mobile phones while on the go, local optimization is key.

The most important step in local voice search optimization is claiming your Google My Business listing. This free listing is what powers the information in Google‘s Knowledge Graph, Google Maps, and voice search results.

In your Google My Business profile, be sure to include:

  • Accurate business name, address and phone number
  • Your business category
  • Opening hours, including holiday hours
  • Attributes like "takes reservations" or "wheelchair accessible"
  • Photos of your business, products or services

The more complete and accurate your Google My Business profile is, the higher you‘ll rank in "near me" voice searches. Monitor your listing and correct any inaccurate information that may be added by users.

Local Voice Search Factors
Image source: Moz

9. Focus on User Intent

At the heart of voice optimization is understanding and satisfying user intent. Why is the user asking this question, and what information are they really seeking?

Let‘s say someone asks their Alexa, "What are the best running shoes?" They likely want recommendations for quality, high-performance running shoes. A page comparing the most popular running shoe brands with information on features, pricing, pros and cons would fit the intent well.

On the other hand, a product page for a single pair of running shoes probably wouldn‘t be a great voice search result. It‘s too narrow and promotional to fully address the intent behind the query.

When creating content you want to rank for voice, ask yourself:

  • What question is the user asking with this query?
  • Why are they asking this question?
  • What information would thoroughly answer their question?
  • What format would deliver that information clearly and quickly?

Creating comprehensive, intent-focused content should be the foundation of your voice strategy. Avoid thin content that only partially matches the query and intent.

10. Don‘t Neglect Traditional SEO

While there are some key differences between traditional screen searches and voice searches, the fundamentals of good SEO still apply.

Factors like page speed, mobile friendliness, HTTPS, and domain authority were all strongly correlated with voice search rankings in Backlinko‘s study. In fact, the average voice result was in the top 3 positions of the regular SERPs.

So before you dive into voice-specific tactics, make sure your site follows SEO best practices like:

  • Having a responsive, mobile-friendly design
  • Using descriptive, keyword-rich page titles and meta descriptions
  • Optimizing images with alt text
  • Securing your site with HTTPS
  • Creating quality content that earns links naturally

By building on a strong foundation of traditional SEO, you‘ll be better positioned for success in voice search and less likely to be negatively impacted by algorithm updates.

The Takeaway

Voice search presents a massive opportunity, but also a challenge. With only one result, you can earn a much larger share of voice if you rank. But there‘s no second place in voice.

To recap, the keys to voice search optimization are:

  1. Targeting question-based keywords
  2. Writing clear, concise answers
  3. Improving page speed and overall site authority
  4. Optimizing for featured snippets and using structured data
  5. Claiming your Google My Business listing
  6. Focusing on user intent over keywords

By understanding how people use voice search and implementing these strategies, you can increase your chances of being the voice answer that reaches thousands of ears. The opportunity is too big to ignore.