The Rise of Voice Search

Written on 19 February, 2018 by Julia Hammond
Categories Search Engine Optimisation

If you haven’t been paying attention, voice search is on the rise and only gaining speed. Tech giants, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, have invested (and continue to invest) the big bucks to develop this “hands free” technology that is beginning to take over the internet. With the growth of digital assistants, such as Siri and Google Assistant, and the introduction of Google Home and other such devices, voice search is certainly here to stay and will have deep and long-term impacts on businesses of all kinds.

It’s time to get smart about the optimisation of your digital marketing for this growing trend. The best time to start was yesterday, so read on and discover how best you can prepare and take advantage of the voice search revolution.


The Evolution of Voice Search

Voice recognition technology has been around for decades; however, the past five years has provided the most consistent commercial development since it’s inception, delivering the technology right into the hands of the everyday consumer. Gone are the days of the iconic “AL-BERT DA-VIES” moments on automated phone responders (above) as the technology has come leaps and bounds, with the error rate in speech recognition down to 8 percent (Bruce Clay).

Today, whether on a desktop computer, smartphone or tablet, voice search replaces the necessity to type your query into the search bar with the convenience of merely asking your device a question. The ease with which users can get answers bodes well with the busy, high-paced lifestyle that has been inspired in the past two decades by the global uprising of digital technology.  It seems that, in light of that, anything that makes these mundane daily tasks quicker is a hit with the layman.

Popping up not only on mobile devices but in homes and workplaces, voice search technology is fast saturating the consumer market. It has proven to be the most efficient way to operate any device, by far, as we can only type 40 words per minute, but we can speak a whopping 150 words on average per minute.

Voice Command and AI

The assistant-style technology now built into smartphones, like the iPhone and the Google Pixel, use a combination of voice recognition and artificial intelligence (AI), giving users an easier way to accomplish tech-centric tasks (like a Google search). When it comes to voice searches by the user, they actually collect data and store it to make smarter suggestions in the future. The data they store relates to user intent and repeated behaviour and helps the assistant to provide the user with more contextually useful information. As a result, this technology is expected to become a universally adopted technology in the future, with 30% of searches predicted to take place without a screen by 2020.

Voice Search is Changing SEO Conventions

In 2016, 20% of mobile searches were made using a voice command feature, and 40% of adults now use voice search every day. As the technology continues to be refined and improved by stakeholders across the globe, it’s important to recognise how this change is affecting search results worldwide.

Search Engine Optimisation is the most discreet and valuable form of digital marketing available to businesses online and is used widely and effectively by hundreds of thousands of businesses around the world. With voice search changing the way users search the web and, of course, the associated search keywords, this is having a significant effect on many business’ SEO campaigns.

Traditional SEO practices will begin to lose effectiveness as voice search begins to dominate the search space. This will spur businesses to readjust their SEO keywords to customise their campaign to the emerging technology.

But isn’t SEO just Keywords?

I hear you. It would seem that consumers would be still searching for the same keywords; however, it’s more about how they search. There is actually a significant difference in optimising your site for voice search as compared to traditional search, and it has a lot to do with phrasing.

When typing keywords into the search bar, the human brain automatically filters out the filler words, resulting in individual keywords clustered together. The opposite occurs when using the voice search function – the brain automatically puts the keywords into a sentence, generally a question. This means that the keyword range expands, and a more complex SEO strategy is necessary to rank well.

Currently, it is very much a case of “first in best dressed,” and businesses that revise their strategy to include the potential to rank for voice search automatically reduce their competition, as it is only slowly catching on. The huge benefits a business might see include the obvious probability of a higher rank and the possibility of achieving higher long-term authority with Google.

How to Optimise Your SEO for Voice Search

There are a number of alterations and additions you can make to your current SEO campaign in order to include voice search compatibility. Take a look and see if you can make any of the following changes to your SEO strategy.

Long-tail keywords

The voice recognition technology used for voice search is intelligent enough to return similar, if not, exactly the same results as a written search. However, with voice searches being primarily carried out with longer search queries using more colloquial language, the targeted keyword clusters may differ.

Broadening the pool of target keywords to include alternate terms will help spur your voice search SEO goals along, while thinking about keywords contextually in sentences will help you establish the types of phrases that will benefit your campaign. These long-tail keywords phrased using natural, conversational language will give you a solid foundation for voice search optimisation.

Mobile Optimisation

Voice search is most popular on mobile devices. While mobile optimisation should really be a part of your SEO strategy anyway, it is particularly important when it comes to voice search. There is no point ranking well in mobile voice searches if your website doesn’t respond well on smartphones or tablets. Google understands this and will rank mobile responsive sites much higher than those whose functionality is lacking, making it essential to ensure your site works across both desktop and mobile platforms.

User experience is a huge ranking factor when it comes to SEO, regardless of whether you’re optimising for voice search or not. The same mandatory conditions apply to mobile as on desktop, such as load times, formatting, design and site navigation, so ensure your web designer has your site up to scratch.

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are a relatively new feature of the Google search engine. These results show up with a portion of the relevant content from your site in a designated box at the top of the results page. Getting your site into these featured snippet boxes generally means that your site is deemed most useful in directly answering the query made by the searcher. This is essentially free advertising for your business and gives you the upper hand when it comes to building brand authority.

This slot is often referred to as “position zero” and is the new coveted spot on Google’s search results not only as it appears front and centre to the viewer but also because, when discovered on a voice search, it is the extract that is read aloud to the user.

The Way of the Future

While it is predicted that voice search is definitely the way of the future, tech developers are already doing a pretty great job of making it part of our everyday lives. ComScore expects that, in 2020 (only two years away!), 50% of all searches will be completed with voice command. With that in mind, it’s clearly important for businesses to stop and recognise that this technology is here to stay and take the necessary steps to ensure they have a strategy in place to implement the change.

If you’re interested in investing in voice search SEO, get in touch with one of our SEO consultants today.

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