How Voice Search is Changing the SEO Game
We all remember the good ol’ times playing around with Siri, asking her the most random questions and receiving her hilarious answers (try asking Siri what ‘Blade Runner’ is about – and share your reactions in the comments ;)). Nowadays, what may seem like a futuristic lifestyle depicted in sci-fi movies, is actually becoming part of our daily routine – thanks to voice recognition software, or more specifically: voice search. This phenomenon means that you literally don’t need to lift a finger or type words into a search box to get answers from search engines like Google or Bing. You simply ask a question out loud, for example, “what’s the weather like outside?” or “pizza places near me,” and your search engine is sure to have the answer. And voice search, my friends, ain’t no passing craze. Its growing popularity among searchers of all ages and devices signals a lot of change in the way people are looking for things online. This means that search engines will have to adapt. And so will you.
Every business owner or blogger who wants to promote their stunning website needs to understand how voice search is different from traditional search, and what that means for their SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Luckily, you are already aware that you need to improve your ranking in order to get found online. The next step is to stay up to date with the latest trends and adapt accordingly. Thus, bringing up your next question: “OK Google, Siri, Alexa, God? How do I optimize my website for voice search?” You’re in luck as we’re going to show you exactly how to adapt your content to answer voice-activated queries.
How trendy is voice search?
Voice search is the fastest growing type of query and there’s no indication of it slowing down anytime soon. While it’s not completely replacing traditional text search, it’s becoming more popular on all devices and is used to gather all sorts of information. Here are some quick stats about voice search that will make you a voice believer:
By 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches.
Google voice search queries were 35 times greater in 2016 than they were in 2008.
55% of teens and 40% of adults use voice search on a daily basis.
Serious about Siri: 19% of people use Siri at least once a day.
Now that we’ve accepted that we live in Minority Report – let’s move on, shall we?
What are the benefits of voice search?
There are several factors that influence this popularity explosion of voice search. The introduction of home speakers like the Amazon Alexa and the Google Home is, of course, part of this trend. I mean, who doesn’t want an AI (artificial intelligence) device acting as a personal assistant in the comfort of your own smart home? But beyond this, people are increasingly using voice search from their phones and tablets.
And the benefits are clear. Since people speak quicker than they write, voice search is often faster and more convenient than typing in a search box. Plus, many users feel that it allows them to get more accurate results, as they can speak longer and ask more specific questions. For multitasking addicts, voice search also offers a great way to search while doing something else, such as reading your newspaper, watching Game of Thrones (yeah, right) or cooking dinner. Last but not least, studies show that for some users, voice search is attractive simply because it’s perceived of as ‘cool.’
Who uses voice search?
That last benefit of voice search – the coolness element – might be a larger contributing factor for younger users than it is for older generations. Teens are the largest group of voice-searchers. It makes sense. In addition to being the most adaptable market, teens just love to talk. In younger crowds, asking your phone or tablet questions in a social setting is completely acceptable. According to the Google Blog, more than 50% of teenagers aged 13 -18 use voice search every single day. That means, as this younger generation gets older, voice search will only become more popular.
But voice search offers particular benefits to older web surfers as well. For people who find it challenging to read text on a tiny mobile screen, voice search can be a lifesaver. Older users often find it far easier to speak their query than to try and type it using the small letters on their phone. Voice search also offers an attractive alternative for anyone with vision problems, regardless of their age.
What does voice search mean for your biz?
Voice search is growing and it’s not just Google and Co. who need to pay attention. The increase in voice searches is significant for every business owner with a website. Since the way people search by voice is different than the way they type in queries, improving SEO for your website now requires understanding how people search by voice. We’ve gathered the main characteristics and will break them down for you so that you know how to tackle every one of them:
Queries are longer.
Queries are more likely to include question words.
Users are more likely to be looking for quick/direct answers.
Queries are more likely to be local.
Queries are longer
As we’ve mentioned, we speak faster than we type, so voice searches are often longer and more precise. While typed searches are an average of two words in length, voice searches are longer. According to Moz, they’re at least three words long and this is expected to grow.
Our tip would be for business owners to find the best ‘long-tail’ keywords to insert into their content. These keywords are usually four to five words long, that describe a business or product in the most accurate way. In this case, keep in mind what their prospective customers might be searching for on voice.
Queries are more likely to include question words
Another reason that voice searches are longer is that we tend to ask queries the way we speak to people, i.e. forming complete sentences or asking questions that begin with words like ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘when’. Let’s look at an example. Imagine you need new tires for your bike. When typing, you’ll likely keep it short and might just type in “bike shop.” In voice search, you would probably ask something like: “Where is a bike shop near me?” or “Where can I get new tires for my bike?”
With both queries, you are looking for the same information, but the words used are very different. As a website owner, this means you need to create content that answers these types of questions. A great way to capture these queries is to target keywords that include question words by writing a ‘how to’ blog post or add a FAQ page to your website.
Searchers are looking for direct answers
Direct answers, or ‘featured snippets’ in SEO lingo, are the boxed answers that appear at the top of the first search engine results page (SERP). In voice search, these results are read out loud by devices like Siri and Google Home. No surprises here, as people performing voice searches don’t have the patience to read through a list of links and choose a website to click through. They want the answer – and fast. Plus, many of them can’t look at their screens since they are simultaneously performing another task which requires their attention.
Inevitably, the growth of voice search will lead to even more “quick answers” in the SERP. If you have a website, you want to do everything you can to get yourself a featured snippet. Don’t be alarmed if you’re not sure how. As we’ve said, try to focus on what your customers are asking and write out the answers in a structured way. It helps if your text is in the form of a bullet point list, with the question on top. For example, a great way to write down a recipe for banana bread could have as a title: “how to make banana bread” and then list the steps of the method listed below.
It also means you want to keep your listings in directories up to date. Sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google My Business (GMB) often show up at the top of the SERP. To improve your chances of bringing in customers via voice search, check your listing on these directories, make sure they are up to date and ask your customers for reviews. A strong profile on GMB can also help your website show up on Google Maps and in the famous ‘local pack’ snippet, i.e. the box that appears at the top of the SERP, which includes a map and a list of 3 businesses, their ratings and contact details.
Queries are more likely to be local
Speaking of the ‘local pack’, voice queries are far more likely to be local. It’s especially true on mobile devices, where voice search is most popular. According to Search Engine Watch, “mobile voice-related searches are 3X more likely to be local-based than text.” This is why it’s so crucial that your website is optimized for mobile devices. More than that, you need to make sure your local SEO is on point if you own a local business.
Using voice search, users will often include location words such as ‘near me’ or ‘near by’. These queries tend to be the ones where the intent to buy is quite strong, which means you have the best shot at converting nearby searchers into customers. To amp up your local SEO game, check that your NAP (name, address and phone number) is clearly stated on your website and consistent in all online directories so that a search engine can easily pull this info from your website. Of course, all other best practices should be applied to your site, so be sure to look at this complete guide to find out how to boost your local SEO.
By Ruth Eschenheimer
SEO Content Specialist