OK Google: “What Is Voice Search & How Does It Impact My SEO Strategy?”
- Studies indicate that nearly 65% of the online population has tried a voice search in the last year, and more than a billion voice searches are being conducted each month.
- Voice search will account for anywhere from 30-50% of all search activity within the next two years.
- Voice searches are more likely to be simple and local, meaning marketers need to optimize their content accordingly.
- To keep up with voice search, make sure your content is conversational, use structured data, and optimize your content for local “near me” searches.
Things change pretty often in the world of SEO. Every time Google tweaks its algorithms, thousands of companies scramble to decipher the new rules and find ways to re-optimize their content. The ongoing trend toward mobile search has altered the way we design websites and deliver content. But even in the constantly-evolving world of SEO, nothing can compare to the transformation that voice search is bringing on.
Voice Search and Why It Matters
Chances are, you’re already familiar with voice search. Studies indicate that nearly two-thirds of the online population has tried an online search by voice in the last year, with more than a billion voice searches being conducted each month.
Rapid improvements in phone voice recognition technology (which is now more than 95% accurate; the same as an average human’s word recognition ability), along with the increasing popularity of home assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home, is making voice search a basic part of daily life for many people. In fact, we’ve seen estimates that voice search will account for anywhere from 30% to 50% of all search activity within the next two years.
Why is Voice Search Different?
Before we get into the ways you can position your brand for success in the era of voice search, let’s look at the reasons you need to change your strategies in the first place– why is voice search different from any other internet search? Here are the four key differences:
- Voice searches are conducted in normal language. A typed search query sounds nothing like the way a person would talk—we typically just enter a few words (maybe “pizza restaurant”), or a string of concepts (like “pizza restaurant late night delivery”), and submit the search. But we don’t talk to our phones or smart speakers that way. It doesn’t feel natural, and since we can talk way faster than we can type, there’s no need to cut corners. So in a voice search, we tend to use queries that we’d use if talking to another person, like “OK, Google, are there any pizza restaurants near me that deliver past midnight?”
- Voice searches are more likely to be simple and local. People don’t ask their virtual assistants to explain the primary causes of the War of 1812, they ask them for help finding local businesses and short answers to simple questions. Searches for in-depth information will likely stay in the world of laptops and desktops for the foreseeable future.
- Searchers see fewer results. It’s an obvious but very important point—the smaller screen size of a phone compared to a laptop or desktop computer reduces the number of results a user will see after a search. While this isn’t exclusively a voice search issue—it applies to any search done on a phone—the vast majority of voice searches are done on phones, so the smaller playing field will become increasingly significant as voice search increases its share of total search volume.
- Often, users don’t see any results at all. When Google (or Siri, or any other voice search technology) finds a good enough answer to a voice search query, it gives a spoken response, reading back the answer it’s found. If the user is happy with that answer, he or she probably won’t even bother to look at the phone to see what else might have shown up on the screen. And when searches are done via Amazon Echo or other screenless devices, the entire process happens via voice. Rapid adoption of home assistants will accelerate this trend, with Gartner predicting that nearly a third of all searches will happen without a screen by 2020.
How Can You Optimize Your Content for Voice Search?
Now for the good news. Even though voice search is a completely different world than typed search, you can optimize your content for voice results without sacrificing your desktop and laptop results. In fact, the strategies listed below will help boost your performance in traditional searches as well as voice searches.
- Make your content more approachable. Just as voice searches are conducted in natural language, web content that sounds conversational will perform better in voice search results. If your content is too choppy or too dense with keywords, this is one more reason to give it a refresh.
- Use structured data to make it as easy as possible for Google and other search engines to understand what your site is about and what information you’re trying to provide. Using structured markup is especially important to define physical locations, scheduled events, and information about specific individuals. This is one of the best things you can do to ensure your placement near the top of the results, or even in a featured snippet, the holy grail of mobile searches.
- Optimize your content for local, “near me” searches. According to one recent study, more than 50% of all voice searches are done while driving. If your business caters to walk-in customers, this is an audience you can’t afford to ignore. In addition to using structured data, you can optimize your pages for “near me” searches by making sure that you include relevant information about the cities and neighborhoods where you have a presence.
Want to learn more about where voice search is heading? Get in contact with the experts at Redefine Marketing Group to identify your biggest SEO opportunities today!