The increasing ubiquity of voice search in recent years has led to some interesting changes in how users interact with search engines, websites, and digital information in general. Whereas internet searches were originally done mostly through typed text queries on keyboards, the rise of voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant has enabled us to use natural spoken language for search.
This shift in search modality from typing to speaking has significant implications for search engine optimization (SEO), specifically relating to the role of domain names. When searching by voice, there is no visible web address or URL – users simply speak their query and get an audible response. So how do domain names factor into voice search results? Do they matter at all when users can’t see them?
In this article we’ll explore the role of domain names in voice search and how brands can optimize them to rank higher in voice results. We’ll cover topics like how domain name length and pronounceability affect ranking, using semantic keywords in domains, and best practices for optimizing your website domain name. With the details in this article, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of domain name optimization for voice search.
How Voice Assistants Work
Before diving into domain name optimization, it’s helpful to understand how voice search works under the hood. When a user speaks a voice query to their Google Home or Amazon Alexa device, here is a simplified overview of what happens:
- The spoken words are captured and transmitted to the voice assistant’s cloud servers.
- Voice recognition algorithms transcribe the audio to text.
- Natural language processing interprets the text query and extracts the user’s intent.
- The query is matched against indexed websites and other sources.
- A relevant result or response is selected and returned in audio form.
During step 4, the voice assistant’s search algorithms analyze web pages and domains in a similar way to how a search engine like Google indexes websites for regular text search. Factors like keyword usage, authority, trust, and domain name all come into play when ranking voice search results.
So in essence, the back-end process is fundamentally similar to text search. The difference is just in the user interface layer of voice input and audio output. This is important to understand when optimizing for voice search – many traditional SEO best practices still apply. Next we’ll look specifically at how domain names impact voice search rankings.
Domain Name Length for Voice Search
When optimizing website domain names for voice search, one of the most important factors is length. The ideal domain name contains fewer than three syllables and is short enough to say comfortably out loud.
Why is a short domain name preferable for voice search? There are a few reasons:
- Clarity: Longer domain names with multiple hyphens and numbers can be difficult for voice assistants to recognize and interpret accurately. Shorter names reduce errors.
- Simplicity: Single syllable domains like TikTok or Medium are incredibly easy to say. This improves the voice search experience.
- Memorability: Humans are better at remembering short, punchy names than long hyphenated strings. This helps reinforce the brand in users’ minds.
- Algorithm Preferences: Some evidence suggests Google and other search engines may rank shorter, simpler domains higher in voice search results.
Many traditional SEO best practices favor shorter domain names for similar reasons – they are easier to remember, type, and fit into text-based search results. But the constraints of the voice interface amplify the importance of brevity.
Ideally, brands should aim for a domain name with 2-3 syllables or less than 10 characters total. For example, Investing.com is a concise, voice-friendly domain name. However, CincinnatiChildrensHospitalMedicalCenter.org is too long at over 50 characters and 10 syllables.
While adhering to a short domain name is best, it is not always possible if the brand name itself is long. Domains like JohnsonAndJohnson.com and CocaCola.com are longer but necessary to align with the brand. In these cases, brands can acquire shorter domains to redirect to their main website and optimize specifically for voice search.
How to Make Domain Names Easy to Pronounce
In addition to being short, domain names used in voice search should also be easy to pronounce. If a voice assistant cannot confidently determine how to pronounce the name, the domain will not rank as high.
Here are some tips to ensure your domain name is pronounceable:
- Avoid obscure words: Use common English words that most people will recognize. Made-up words or obscure technical jargon can trip up voice recognition.
- Avoid hyphens and numbers:Hyphens (-) and numbers make logical separators in text but are not intuitive when spoken aloud. Omit them if possible.
- Use conventional spelling: Unconventional or creative spellings like “tru” instead of “true” sound confusing when spoken. Stick to proper English spelling and grammar.
- Check pronunciation: Say the name out loud yourself and have others test it to catch any parts that sound awkward or unfamiliar.
- Consider alternate TLDs: Try different domain extensions beyond .com if another one naturally improves pronunciation. .fm or .co may work better.
Following these pronunciation best practices will allow voice assistants to recognize and interpret your domain name more reliably. This translates into higher rankings in voice search results.
A domain like CarVue.com is superior for voice search compared to C-rvue.io because it contains real dictionary words without confusing characters. Test your own domain names to ensure they are not just SEO-friendly for text but also optimized for voice input.
Using Semantic Keywords in Domain Names
One legacy SEO technique that remains very relevant today is using semantic keywords in the domain name itself. Having relevant keywords contained right in the domain can signal search engines what the site is about.
For example, a website about juicing could have a domain name like:
All these domains clearly telegraph that the site is about juicing with semantic keywords in the name. This helps establish topic relevance and authority. The same principles apply when optimizing domain names for voice search results.
Including semantic keywords in the domain name can:
- Help the voice assistant understand the site’s topic and specialty area.
- Improve ranking for queries using those keywords and related terms.
- Build trust and authority by signaling the domain’s focus upfront.
The keywords don’t need to literally match the exact phrasing users say in voice queries. But having relevant terminology directly in the domain still acts as an optimization signal.
When adding keywords, keep the domain pronounceable and under 3 syllables. For example, SFSeafoodRestaurants.com contains semantic keywords but is too long at 5 syllables. SFSeafood.co or even SeafoodSF.com would be more voice-friendly options.
Redirecting Voice Search Traffic
For brands with an existing website domain name, redirecting can be an effective voice search optimization technique.
Redirecting involves purchasing a new, shortened, keyword-rich domain name specifically optimized for voice search. You then setup this new domain to 301 redirect all traffic to your main website domain.
Visitors are instantly sent to your site when they arrive at the redirected domain. But the major search engines still index and recognize this new domain as a signal of your brand and content.
Some examples of using redirects for voice search:
- Your main site is on MyFashionBrand.com. You purchase VoiceFashion.com and redirect it.
- Your company owns SFSoftwareCompany.com. You now get SFSocialMedia.com and redirect it.
- Your current domain is PortlandDogGroomingServices.com. You register PDogs.com to redirect.
With this approach, your main legacy domain stays intact but you also get the voice search ranking benefits of a new, optimized domain. Just make sure redirected domains only contain relevant keywords to avoid being seen as spammy.
Choosing New Voice Search Domains
If selecting and registering an entirely new domain for voice search, keep these factors in mind:
- Brand name: If possible, incorporate part of your existing brand name. This helps establish credibility.
- Keywords: Work in one or two semantic keywords that describe your offerings. Don’t over-optimize.
- Pronounceability: Ensure it’s easy to say with common English words. Test it aloud.
- Length: Keep it under 3 syllables and roughly 10-15 characters total.
- TLDs: Consider .fm, .co or others beyond just .com if they fit better.
- Hyphens/Numbers: Avoid hard-to-speak characters like hyphens and numbers when possible.
- Simplicity: Single one word or two word domains work great for voice. Avoid long hyphenated strings.
To find viable domain name options, use online keyword and domain generators like DomainWheel or GoDaddy’s Domain Name Generator Tool. Start by inputting keywords relevant to your business to discover available options.
With some strategic thinking, brands can acquire new voice-friendly domains or redirect existing domains for better voice search visibility. Just be careful not to violate any trademarks and closely align new domains to your brand.
Technical Optimization Tips
Beyond just the name itself, there are some technical considerations when optimizing domains for voice search:
- Enable HTTPS: Secure HTTPS URLs may be ranked higher in voice search, so switch your site to HTTPS if possible.
- Optimize page speed: Quicker page load speeds enhance voice search crawlability. Compress images, minify code, and optimize performance.
- Use Schema markup: Schema helps voice assistants interpret page content. Implement schema for FAQs, articles, products, and more.
- Create voice search sitemaps: A sitemap submitted specifically for voice search helps index your content. Include your audio and video content.
- Add audio content: Having an audio version of your content, like a podcast, can make it rank better for audio responses.
Paying attention to these technical details allows search algorithms to index and surface your website more readily in voice results.
Voice Search Case Studies
To see real examples of brands optimizing for voice search, let’s look at a few case studies:
Overstock shortened their domain name from Overstock.com to O.co and registered O.info to better compete for voice search queries. The shorter “O” domains are easier to say and remember. Overstock redirects these domains to their main website.
In an interesting voice search experiment, Burger King produced an ad that intentionally tried to trigger voice devices into describing their Whopper burger. The 15 second ad simply showed a close up of a Whopper and had an actor say “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?”. By not naming their brand, they got listeners’ own Google Home devices to define the Whopper.
Home Depot acquired the domain homedepot.com and uses it specifically to redirect voice search traffic. Their main website remains on homedepot.ca, but the .com domain is more recognizable for U.S. voice searchers. The .com redirect allows them to maintain their main domain while optimizing voice search.
Insurance company Geico purchased the domain name Geico.com to supplement their main website on GEICO.com. Geico.com redirects to GEICO and enables better visibility in voice results due to the lowercase spelling. This shows how a minor tweak can improve voice search optimization.
These examples demonstrate that brands are thinking strategically about voice search and making adjustments to domain names to increase discoverability and engagement.
Optimizing domain names for voice search success requires some different considerations compared to traditional text-based SEO. Short, pronounceable, keyword-rich domains tend to perform best in voice results. Brands have options like acquiring new domains, redirecting existing domains, or technically optimizing current websites.
As voice search continues its rise in popularity, brands that strategically optimize their domain names for voice input will gain an advantage in reaching voice-first users. By following the tips in this guide, you can ensure your website domains are set up to maximize voice search visibility.
The constraints of the voice interface put a new premium on succinct, easy to say domain names. But with some planning, brands can craft voice-friendly domains that help users discover their offerings through conversational voice searches.