How Do I Get My Website Ready for Voice Search?

07 May
May 7, 2019

Woman pushed red ball up hill to comply with Google voice search

Google’s a greedy pain in the neck, right?

You just barely got your website secure and the sitemap cleaned up, and you’re still trying to find the budget to make it ADA compliant—and now suddenly Google’s cracking the whip on site speed and mumbling about what it takes to get ranked for a voice search.

You think you’ve got it hard? Try being a marketing and advertising agency that must continually explain to clients each new demand Google imposes.

You want what? You just told me we need to make the website secure and now you want me to pony up for ADA compliance and voice search optimization? What are you trying to pull?

Ah, yes, the glamour of agency life.

Get on Google’s Good Side to Win at Voice Search

As Google scrambles to keep up with the user’s expectation of a quick, quality search experience, they continually run algorithm updates and release suggestions to help us understand how to up our game.

Because of Google’s penchant for continual improvement, anyone who’s in charge of a website feels slightly Sisyphean about their work—each day you slowly and carefully roll that boulder a little bit closer to the top of the hill—and then all of a sudden, Google adds another boulder to your burden—and you start back at the bottom, trudging through another new website project.

In 2018, when Google released an update saying they’d love you more if your mobile website loaded really fast, businesses added site speed to their to-do list.

The thing about Google’s algorithm updates and recommendations is that, in spite of their burden, they make a lot of sense not only for today, but also for tomorrow’s user demands.

Increasing mobile site speed is now imperative for Google rank. The attention you give to your page speed not only helps you rank well, it also readies you for tomorrow’s focus on voice search.

How Do I Get My Website Ready for Voice Search?

If you listen to Google and follow both their general suggestions and comply with their updates, you are well on your way to preparing your website for voice search.

Holding iPhone with Voice Search and metrics icons

Make your website voice search friendly by remembering four things:

  • Make your mobile website fast.
  • Use structured data within your code.
  • Secure your website using HTTPs.
  • Focus on superior quality, hyper-relevant content that drives engagement.

The other big thing to remember is that because Google only has one search result to return for a voice search, they are more likely to select a website that already ranks well and is a site with significant authority.

What Should My Page Speed Be for Voice Search?

In 2018, Google added page speed as a ranking factor for mobile search (it was already a factor for desktop search).

While Google won’t come right out and say how fast your website should load, they do suggest using a page speed tool to analyze load speed for both mobile and desktop.

When you enter your web address into the page speed tool, you will receive your results as a percentage from 0 – 100% for mobile and separately for desktop.

Google’s page speed tool also helps you by offering “opportunities” and “diagnostics”—essentially, general suggestions on how to improve the problem areas of your website. Such suggestions may include things like “defer offscreen images” or “minimize main-thread work.”

If Google’s suggestions sound like Greek to you, ask your integrated marketing and advertising agency to bring your website up to date.

How Do I Add Structured Data for Voice Search?

Although there is some debate about this topic among SEO experts, the general consensus is that, in addition to site speed, structured data helps you rank for voice search.

Structured data is JSON-LD code added to your existing code to help Google’s robots crawl your website.

If you think about Google searching through millions of websites to choose the number one spot to return for a voice search question, Google appreciates it if you make their search faster and easier by not making them guess what the page is about.

Structured data is basically a shout out to the mindless robots to tell them: hey, when my code says one medium slice, I’m talking about the serving size, and when the code says, Elaine Smith, that’s the name of the author.

So, now we know the purpose of structured data, but how can you tell if your website already has structured data, or if you need to add it to your voice search to-do list?

If you’re on a Mac, you can view your source code by right clicking and selecting inspect or by typing:

⌘ + Shift + C

On Windows, view the source code by typing:

Ctrl + Shift + C or by simply hitting the F12 key

Your source code will look something like the image below—and if you have structured data, your code will include something similar to the words indicated in red below.

script
https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/intro-structured-data

So, if you have structured data, great! If you don’t, have your developer start typing.

Why Do I Need a Secure Website?

Google announced a website security mandate in 2017 and began enforcing it in 2019. Secure websites provide encryption for data that flows between the browser and the business’s server.

Having a secure website means that any data a user shares with you through things like a contact form or payment screen includes a layer of protection not present in unsecure websites.

Your business’s website should be labeled as secure in order to build trust with customers and search engines. When a customer sees that your business has a secure website, they feel more comfortable doing business with you.

What does website security have to do with voice search rank?

It’s probably a case of causation vs. correlation—a secure website doesn’t specifically cause good voice search rank, instead, a secure website is correlated with a well-ranking site. The reason HTTPs websites rank better is simply because they are built and maintained by the type of people who have been paying attention to and implementing what Google wants in terms of user experience.

How Do I Know If My Website is Secure?

To check if your website is secure, go to your website and look at your URL in the web address bar. If your website is secure, the very beginning of your web address should begin with https. If it is not secure, it will simply read: “Not secure,” followed by your URL, as in the example below:

unsecure connection
https://security.googleblog.com/2018/02/a-secure-web-is-here-to-stay.html

When users click to your website and are greeted with the “not secure” welcome mat, they may start questioning your legitimacy … Is this the right website? Are they still in business? Am I going to be a victim of identity theft?

Obviously, you don’t want to give your customers a negative first impression. The remedy to an unsecure website is surprisingly simple and inexpensive.

To make your customers feel secure and to satisfy Google’s security mandate, ask your developer for an SSL certificate. They may charge you a one-time setup fee and a small annual fee, but it should not cost you much.

Do I Need a Secure Website Even if I’m Not Selling Item on My Website?

Yes, Google’s security mandate applies to all websites, whether they are e-commerce websites or otherwise. Besides sensitive payment information, the SSL certificate will provide encryption for everything from usernames and passwords to the information entered into opt-in forms and online applications.

Include Quality, User-Friendly Content in Your Website

If you remember that Google’s first priority is to give users what they want, you know that in order to rank well, your website needs to give Google (and thus the user) what they want.

Users want websites that are easy to read and provide the answers to their questions. And users have lots of different questions, right? So, by creating content that is conversational, quick to read, and a one-stop-shop for all the answers, you’re on the right track to ranking for both traditional search and for voice search.

Think about it—if you use your voice to ask Siri what structured data is, you don’t want some five-minute rambling explanation. When you converse with Siri, you want her giving you quick, concise, relevant answers—so to get on the good side of voice search, make sure your own website includes user-friendly content.

Give Them What They Want

Woman happy with her mobile voice search results.

Getting in good with Google so your brand ranks well for voice search, at the most basic level, simply entails imagining what the voice search user wants and then meeting that need through your website.

When you’re thinking about what users want, remember that they want their question answered instantly and in an easily understood format.

It’s not easy to design, write, and code a site that Google respects enough to return as a voice search result. It takes an integrated marketing team able to work within the mindset of appeasing both Google and the user.

Four voice search icons on Google colors

If your website is falling behind on Google’s updates or you need help overhauling your online marketing strategy, we’re here to bring your business to the next level.

©2019 Fabiano Communications.