Voice search optimisation for Alexa, Siri and Cortana

By Chris Pitt, Managing Director

March 5, 2019 | 6 min read

Voice search has been around for a while now – it’s no longer a novel concept. However, much marketing talk has been focused on how to negotiate with Google’s voice assistant, now powering a billion devices.

But, ‘OK, Google’ isn’t the only way to search for anything on the Internet. Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana can also assist customers with purchasing decisions.

This graph highlights the dominance of Google Assistant devices in the voice assistant market.

Beyond home-based and mobile voice assistants, there's also a brave new world of ‘commuter commerce’. More than half of drivers (53.3%) engaged with voice assistants while driving. The majority use assistants that are built into the vehicle’s dashboard.

Voice shopping is on the verge of going mainstream. Home assistant sales are rising year-on-year. In the midst of this stands, a brand is yet to figure out how to capture and engage with those voice search visitors. Previously, we shared the general tips for making your content voice search-ready. In this post, we consider how you can convince different assistants to pick your website or promote your products.

Cortana Voice SEO

Unlike Google Assistant and Siri, who rely on Google search engine, Microsoft’s Cortana draws web search results from Bing and Bing Knowledge Graph. Bing is often ignored by marketers, meaning that there’s lower competition and higher chances of securing top spots both in desktop and voice search.

Use Bing Webmaster Tools to determine the essential areas for optimisation. This toolkit includes neat analytics suit and useful optimisation functionality.

Voice search also strongly correlates with local SEO as the majority of users want to discover products and services in their vicinity. To secure a recommendation from a Bing-powered voice assistant, it’s best to get registered on Bing Places for Business. The setup process is straightforward and similar to Google My Business. Your business will also get automatically registered on Bing Maps – a default platform used for local searches made with Amazon’s Alexa.

Amazon Alexa SEO

Alexa’s user base may be the smallest at the moment, but it’s growing rapidly. In 2018, Echo accounted for 67% of all smart speaker sales in the US. Just before Christmas, Alexa topped the list of most downloaded free apps in Google Play and App Store. As Amazon speakers arrived earlier to the UK market, their gizmos now reside in 68% of homes.

Users turn to Echo whenever they need help with finding recipes, getting instructions or just receiving a quick answer to their query. Alexa, the voice assistant technology in-built in Echo, now knows how to perform some 70,000 actions (including Yelp searches, calling Lyft or Uber and ordering from Amazon Prime). While you can’t exactly optimise for each, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of being picked up for a smart speaker.

To perform content searches, Alexa relies on Bing as well. Use proper Schema mark-ups for different types of content and optimise for long-tail, natural language queries; these are more verbose and are often styled as questions.

Alexa can also be told to pick and order a product from Amazon. If you are selling goods on Amazon, and want to get chosen by Alexa, pay attention to these factors which influence Alexa’s selection process:

Prime shipping option. At the moment, Alexa can only handle orders for Amazon Prime. When there’s no Prime delivery option available within a product category, users will have to place an order the old-fashioned manual way.

Amazon’s Choice accolade. Alexa always picks up Amazon's Choice products first. If none is available in a given category, the algorithm will pick the best-ranking product for the voice query with "Prime" label.

Apple Siri SEO

Siri relies on Google search results for the majority of queries, except for location-based results. When asked to suggest a venue nearby, Siri will crawl Apple Maps. That's why it makes sense to set up and optimise your business presence there. Visit Maps Connect and/or update your listing.

On top of that, follow the standard rules for voice search optimisation. Use to give more context to algorithms about the content of your page. A bunch of new content-specific formats have been added recently. Be sure to check them out and upgrade your pages. Verify that your mark-up is ‘Bing-friendly’ and use their validator to parse your code (some tweaks may be needed).

At the end of last year, Google also announced a new voice support schema format – Speakable (in beta mode). This new format will help voice assistants answer topical questions and news queries better. At the moment, only media publishers who submit content through Google’s Publisher Center and who are an active Google News Producer can apply. While this feature will be out of reach for brands for some time, it clearly signifies that Google will be paying closer attention to voice search in the next few years. After all, AMP was originally designed for news websites as well but is now open to all content publishers and business.

Chris Pitt is head of marketing at Vertical Leap.


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