The popularity and convenience that mobile devices bring to our everyday lives has led to not only mobile data surpassing desktop but an increase in voice search queries.
In-app chatbots, digital assistants and social media have enabled mobile devices to significantly influence the digital landscape and subsequent developments in voice search could see SEO strategies adapt in the same way.
As artificial intelligence technology advances, voice search is growing faster than typed search with the help from digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Siri, Google Home and Microsoft’s Cortana.
According to voice interface specialist, Timothy Turtle, voice search grew from zero to 10% of overall search volume globally in 2015. He also concluded that the increase was the equivalent of 50 billion searches per month.
Most big businesses know the importance of organic search and have successfully incorporated SEO into their marketing strategy. However, new technology is already beginning to influence the landscape of SEO as voice search changes the way we look for information online.
While voice search still has a long way to go to match traditional text-based search queries, it’s an important time for marketing professionals to optimise their SEO strategy and be at a level playing field with their competitors.
The voice search user
A study from Northstar Research stated that 55% of teens (13-18) and 41% of adults used voice search more than once a day. Questions ranged from calling a contact and help with homework to finding cinema listings and asking for directions.
Teens seem to have embraced the use of voice search quickly due to the relationship they have with mobile devices and the speed and accuracy of the information they receive from digital assistants meeting their expectations.
The study also concluded that people generally use voice search while multi-tasking with 54 per cent of teens using voice search socialising with friends and 23% of adults searching hands-free while cooking.
The research suggests that there are different ways in which users search and that there are opportunities for marketers to capitalise on this even though voice search is still in its commercial infancy.
Voice search has also found popularity in Asian markets with Google launching its 2015 Google App campaign in Vietnam with voice search headlining the campaign narrative.
Voice search and SEO
Voice search goes beyond mere keywords and voice recognition but also incorporates voice understanding to interpret meaning and context. This enables mobile devices to respond with natural phrases and relevant search results.
In essence, voice search relies heavily on long-tail keywords that occur naturally in the way people communicate and provides insight to a user’s intent. In the future, businesses will need to reevaluate the content of their online presence in order to drive qualified traffic to their sites.
If a user is at home and says ‘I need a plumber to fix a leak in my bathroom’ to their mobile device, search results will differ from short-tail keywords like ‘plumber’ or ‘emergency plumber’.
Voice search is more likely to take into account the user’s location, content from various plumber websites, external content and social signals to give the user more relevant results.
This means that in an era of mobile-first voice search users, content is still an important factor to rank higher for voice search results.
Content should no longer be created with just single keywords in mind, but also incorporate key natural phrases.
4 tips to capitalise on voice search
There’s still a limited amount of research into the impact of voice search and how it will affect business in the future. However, with the amount of data that we do have, there are still a number of ways businesses can tailor their current SEO strategy to include voice search users.
Natural search in analytics
SEO experts will always start with keyword research when looking at a new strategy for a business. There’s no accurate way to see which users are reaching a marketer’s site through voice search, however, Google is rumoured to be developing this feature in Google Analytics in the future.
In the meantime, looking at search traffic reports in analytics tools for natural language search queries is the best place to start before creating new content.
When creating content for voice search it’s always best to consider natural phrases that include long-tail keywords. The best content should essentially provide meaning behind the query using natural phrases and sentence structure as well as specific keywords.
Marketers need to consider what users want and how they would phrases their needs aloud. Essentially, what are the missing words either side the keywords a user would use when searching with text?
‘’Who’’, ‘’what’’, ‘’where’’ and ‘’how’’ are usually common words when using voice search, especially on smartphones when users are more likely to ask questions when they’re on-the-go.
An easy way to start would be to add a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page to a site. Adding relevant questions and answers regarding a business will help it rank higher with natural searches and direct qualified traffic to a site.
Keeping this content up-to-date is also a good way to be included in featured snippets on search results.
External content + Local SEO
Monitoring traffic from external content will also benefit voice search results. Review sites like Tripadvisor are very popular in the goods and services industry and search engines will use these review sites to deliver relevant search results.
MOZ’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey stated that online reviews make up 10% of most search engines decision to rank search results.
Voice searches are most commonly conducted on mobile devices and businesses will need to keep their online listings and contact information up to date and utilise microformats or structured data to allow search engines to pull this data to display results.
A search query such as ‘where can I get the best latte in London?’ would pull location data of coffee shops in the user’s area, opening times and related content regarding the keyword ‘best latte’ to deliver the search results to the user.
Use voice search in research
As with traditional text-typed search, marketers should continuously use voice search to ask questions that they think would bring users to their sites to see what ranks top. This would also need to be carried out on multiple devices as information will be pulled from different search engines – Amazon’s Alexa will use Bing and Apple’s Siri will use Google.
The more voice search is used for research, the more familiar businesses will become with different voice search queries to create relevant content to rank higher for queries.
Today, marketers need to be more user focused than ever before. Not understanding a customer’s relationship with a business and the customer journey will ultimately lead to the wrong keywords being used.
With ComScore estimating that 50 per cent of searches will be by voice in 2020, it would be prudent for marketing professionals to act earlier with voice search to inform their future SEO strategy.