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How to keep your website optimized for digital assistants & voice searches

(MARKETING) With the use of voice searches and digital assistants on the rise, it is more important now than ever before that your website be optimized.

Women typing on laptop representing sites optimized for voice searches.

Voice control’s effect on web content

One-in-five mobile users rely on voice searches to find information or control their devices according to a recent study. Considering many cars now enable you to control your music, messages, and email through voice, this isn’t too surprising. What does it mean for web content though?

With the rise of digital assistants and talk-to-text, should web content be re-evaluated to ensure it is compatible with Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and others?

Deep learning

Digital assistants have certainly contributed to the rise in popularity of voice searches, talk-to-text, and deep learning. Deep learning is an artificial intelligence (AI) process that imitates the workings of the way the human brain processes data and creates patterns for decision-making. Deep learning is a subset of machine learning in AI that has networks that are capable of learning unsupervised from data that is unstructured.

Deep learning is a type of machine learning that uses complex systems to carry out their “learning processes.”

Given the complex algorithms and “learning” involved for deep learning to be fully functional and optimal, it’s not surprising that voice searches are on the rise; the more it’s used, the better it “learns.” Every day more and more people are choosing to say what they need, rather than type it out. With this rise, also comes the need for entrepreneurs and businesspeople to optimize their SEO and web content for voice searches. How can you ensure your site is compatible and flawless optimized?

Phrases instead of keywords

The first thing you should keep in mind regarding your content is how voice users search for content. Instead of searching for one or two keywords, voice users typically ask a question in the form of a complete sentence. For example, you might hear someone say, “Hey, Siri. What’s the best way to make chocolate chip cookies?” Then, Siri might respond with a recipe. How does Siri know what you what? Deep learning.

How does Siri know what to show you? Deep learning and website optimization.

Soon, instead of focusing your SEO on selected keywords, you may be focusing on key phrases (also called long-tail keywords) which will likely answer the questions a voice user would ask. By humanizing your content by thinking about your answers in full sentences, you’ll be one step closer to optimization. For example, think, what would a consumer likely ask in order to find me? Do I have the answer to these questions on my pages and SEO? Not sure what to ask or answer? Answer the Public is a great tool for helping you dig deeper into your content and gets things optimized. In addition to re-evaluating your SEO, you may want to develop questions you think searchers might ask and then include the answers in your Q&A content (thus, making your site higher up in the result ranks).

Mobile friendly/Covering your bases

Another way to make sure your site is ready for voice searches is to make sure it is also mobile-friendly. Google recommends responsive web design, along with several other points you may want to consider to ensure your website is mobile-friendly. Wondering if your site is mobile-friendly? Google developed a test to help you. Simply click here, and enter your site’s URL in the box and it will let you know if your site has passed the test.

If your site does not pass, Google will suggest what could be changed to make your site more mobile friendly.

Also, keep in mind mobile users will often reference microdata, like a business’s location, phone number, price, and more (think: when people speak the phrase “find near me” or “nearby.”) You can ensure voice searchers can find you by making this information easily retrievable for digital assistants by creating a comprehensive sitemap for your site, including your address, relevant contact information, directions from main highways, etc.

Understanding digital assistants

One final thing to keep in mind: Siri and Cortana are not search engines. They default to Bing to collect and collate web-based results. Google Now, will, of course, collect from Google. Given the popularity of both Siri and Cortana, is there a possibility that Bing will outpace Google?

Probably not, but you do want to make sure that you are optimized for both search engines or your business might lose out on voice searches.

If you want to ensure you do not miss out on Siri and Cortana users, you may need to do a bit of research on what works best on Bing. For example, Bing prioritizes local results, whereas Google gives the most popular topic priority. Google is better at semantic search, while Bing is better with specific keywords. Again, both are useful search tools, but if you want to ensure maximum traffic, you should be aware of the difference. (Side note: some tech-savvy users know how to re-program Siri and Cortana to pull from their favorite search engine, but I do not think the larger majority of users choose to do this).

The future of voice searches

Technology enthusiasts are absolutely going to continue to use their keyboards for some things, however, voice searches are on the rise simply because they are more convenient. If the trend continues, and I think it will, it is a worthwhile step to have your site already prepared and optimized because as the capabilities and value of voice continue to grow, so will the need for marketers to evolve. Emphasis will need to be placed on sentences, phrases, and topics rather than keywords. And the demand for mobile-friendly sites will be paramount. What do you think – is your site optimized for digital assistant and voice searches?

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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