Voice Search: The Next Frontier for SEO

Post by Colin Mumma, Specialist

Voice search is slowly but surely creeping into the search space, with more and more dedicated smart devices expanding their search capabilities beyond keyword query-based search. Like most technologies, it takes some time for it to work efficiently enough to serve the public, which means developing search functionality for voice search that is contextualized and intuitive to use. Smart device voice search users have to be not only comfortable with using voice search features, but also be satisfied with the results. You may be surprised to know that voice search has been around since the early 2000s and is only now starting to become adopted by the main stream. It is because of smart devices and Personal Digital Assistants (Cortana/Siri) that have made the technology more available in devices that many people already have.

These indicators tell us that mobile optimization and voice search are becoming even more prevalent in 2017 with plenty of room to grow year-over-year.

Who Is Using Voice Search?

According to Google, about 41% of adults and 55% of teenagers use Voice Search.

It can get very granular from here – different people use voice search in different places:

  • People start using voice search at home where they are not in public and eventually warm up to using the feature in more public, open places
  • Men typically use voice search features more than women do, and the more public the area the less-likely a woman is to use voice search
  • Voice search is a more desirable search method than a site’s internal search functionality, but less desirable than using search engine applications or mobile browsers for searching
  • Voice search is primarily used to make phone calls and perform simple, online searches followed by map navigation, note taking and selecting music

In the same study, they polled the top three reasons for utilizing voice search:

  1. Speed
  2. An audible, voice-led reply (via assistant)
  3. Hands free

These three things make perfect sense; the convenience of using the feature is what attracts people to using voice search, and where they see the value of using these tools is in the experience of search.

How Does Voice Search Affect SEO?

There are many indications that optimizing for voice search will differ from that of typical keyword-focused optimization strategies. First off, people do not speak the way they typically search on the web. Voice-driven searches are less predictable with a need for context-based search as opposed to specialized wording of terms. People who use voice search want more answers and fewer results. Different markets will also be affected differently by voice search adoption. Since people talk to digital assistants like people and not like machines, it can be hard to tell what users are going to “ask” their Personal Assistants (PAs). There is an impact on SEO when the below search examples are beginning to change:

Standard Search Query

“blue jeans Chicago”

Voice Search Query

“Hi Siri, just wondering where I can find a pair of skinny blue jeans on the Mag Mile here in Chicago.”

Both searches above are aiming for the same thing: blue jeans; however, the voice search command is a much longer query that is more conversational in nature and must be contextualized before being able to deliver the better, few results that voice search users want. It is because of the uniqueness and specificity of the voice command that ecommerce retailers will likely struggle more. It will likely take some time before that technology is streamlined and widely adopted. Personalized, long-tail keywords will pave the way towards adopting voice search keyword strategies.

Content should also be written in the voice of a natural, conversational tone to make it easier for search engines to match the context of the on-page copy and the user’s query. Schema markup is also essential for making sure your site/content will appear in the Quick Answers section of the SERP (position 0). Users who want quick information find results in this area the most desirable. Make sure that you are doing everything you can to make sure marking up all of your site content with microdata, or JSON-LD (recommended by Google). Creating FAQ pages with lists of often-asked questions also ensures that users have a primary resource for getting their questions answered.

Start Using Your Voice Search Features

The implications for voice search in 2017 are coming to a head. 2017 is a good time to start keeping voice search in mind for developing future digital strategies in every channel. Brands should:

  • Leverage smart phone features: Expect to hear more and more about voice search optimization in the direct future and start using those features yourself if you have a smart device with a digital assistant
  • Understand the implications: Voice search is best learned about through experience as opposed to research. Using these search methods will help marketers understand the way they personally use voice search and the impact it has on their search experience. Ask yourself, “If I were to ‘ask’ my PA about this product, what would I ask and what would I want in return?” This type of thinking is imperative to understanding the wide adoption of voice search implications for marketers and brands (especially brands)
  • Adopt and develop voice search strategies: Soon enough, voice search may become the most casual, predominant way to make quick informational, purchase, and navigational queries due to the mainstream adaption of smart personal devices. Marketers and brands should begin adopting and developing voice search strategies before it is too late. The time to begin optimizing and thinking about voice search was yesterday – start thinking about how your clients can obtain a leg-up by opening a discussion about this technology’s implications on your digital marketing initiatives.

To learn more about voice search, contact Performics today.

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