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How to optimize your website for the voice search revolution


How’s your SEO game?

Business owners and marketing department whizzes alike have spent the last few years acclimatizing to the age of search engine optimization. A site that ranks high combined with a content marketing strategy that connects with consumers makes for a two-hander that gives any business an edge.

But it’s not just been about learning: it’s been about keeping up with the changes and adapting. The world of online marketing, cyber-commerce, and search looks very different to how it did ten years ago, but it’s been a mostly gradual evolution.

Things are about to start moving much faster as voice search becomes mainstream. Next year, spoken searches will reach their watershed moment as they grow to account for 50% of all searches. We’re moving off of our computers and even off of our phones to make requests to smart speakers and other connected devices around the home and office.

Naturally, Google’s algorithms are evolving to stay ahead of the trends. Are you?

What is a voice-optimized website?

Don’t worry, you don’t need to completely swap out your existing website for an invisible, purely sonic web presence. But if you haven’t made a major refurb of your site for a few years, now is certainly the moment to think about going back to the fundamentals – and realigning the mechanics of your site with the forthcoming wave of SEO tweaks.

Aspects that may have only been secondary concerns before, such as speed of loading and security certification, are about to become far more important. Your web copy, too, will be read in different ways by Google’s robotic trawlers as they hunt the internet for easily parsable answers to common search queries.

How to speed up your website

There will always be a way to make your website faster, regardless of your budget. But ideally you’ll take this moment to invest in better hardware even as you tweak the code and properties of your site. Before investigating your website’s speed, check all the factors affecting it. Exclude your own ISP from the equation by checking your internet speed here, so you don’t blame your hosting provider when your ISP is negatively impacting your experience with the website.

Hardware-wise, it is no longer acceptable to hold your website on a shared server. It just won’t load fast enough to impress Google’s bots, or visitors to your page. Try using Webpagetest to figure out how long it takes for the first byte of your website to drop; it should be less than 500ms if you want your page to rank. If it takes longer, relocate to a new server.

You can reduce the weight of your website by minifying your code and resizing or compressing your images. This will make it much quicker to load – and you’ll be surprised how much lighter you can make it if you’re still running a site that was built to specifications that are five or ten years old.

It’s also possible to shift some of the work to your visitors! Check your caching settings. Allowing browsers to cache your website for up to a year will enable users to automatically store elements of your site locally, so they don’t need to reload from scratch every time they visit.

The security issue

The workings of Google’s ranking algorithms are notoriously hard to crack, but researchers have figured out that nearly three-quarters of the results that Google Home returns are HTTPS-certified.

If your website isn’t used for direct selling, you might not have bothered with such a certificate before. But today, it makes sense to go the extra yard and reassure Google’s bots and your visitors that your website is a safe and happy place to be.

Use a company such as VeriSign or Comodo to get your site certified; you can use a free service like Let’s Encrypt or SmartSSL if you’re on a tight budget. Don’t forget to update the links in your email signature and social media profiles to reflect your prestigious new HTTPS status once it’s up and running.

Fixing your content for voice search

Finally, a creative challenge. The results that Google returns for voice search tend to be briefer, snappier, and more casual-sounding than those that have reigned before. So it’s time to take another look at your web copy, particularly your FAQ page – which should be packed with to-the-point responses to anything potential customers might ask in relation to your business and your industry.

Start using voice search yourself, and observe the kinds of results that Google returns. Then incorporate what you find into the re-writing and structuring of your site.

For example, keep your answers to less than 30 words each. Divide them into discrete paragraphs and headered sections, and tables or lists as appropriate. And re-write them in a natural-sounding, conversational voice – the kind of voice that sounds right coming in response to the average ‘Hey, Google…’ request.

As with all things SEO, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out. But excuses for re-optimizing your website only come along now and then, so be sure to take this chance to ask yourself some serious questions about your code and your content. It will pay off in dividends if you can secure high ranking answers in voice search results.

To get started, work your way through this new visual guide from Headway Capital.

About Taylor Tomita'

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