Co-Written in collaboration with Roland Gavrilescu
The way people search for information online is changing. Increasingly, people are using voice search on their mobile devices and smart speakers to search for quick information on the internet. Voice tech is just making it easier than ever for people to simply ask a question and get rapid, on-demand information. This is enabling the creation of a new paradigm in computing, a more natural way to interact with machines, a voice-first user interface.
Voice-enabled searches are growing in popularity among online queries every day. According to ComScore, 50% out of all web searches will be done by voice by 2020. Why? Because a voice user experience represents a faster way of obtaining information on demand, with no friction involved whatsoever.
Google Search and Bing are rapidly adapting to this shift in light computing.
Every entrepreneur or business who wants to promote their website and services will need 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, as well as learn and understand how Voice SEO optimisation is different from traditional SEO, and adapt accordingly.
What are the benefits of voice search?
There are several factors that are influencing this explosion in voice search popularity. The rapid growth of the home speaker market (Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod) has been one of the driving forces of this trend. People are using these speakers in their kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, offices and so on to control lights and other smart devices, easier communication, utility, and, of course, information on demand. Beyond this, people are increasingly engaging in voice search on their phones and tablets — you can find more insight into how Voice is being adopted at a consumer behaviour level here.
The benefits are clear: Since people are speaking faster than typing, voice search is often quicker and more convenient than opening a browser and typing your query in a search box. Plus, for multitasking addicts, the voice medium is offering a great way to search while doing something else, such as cooking, watching TV or working. Last but not least, compared to computers, voice search is closer to the human way of interaction, lowering the knowledge barrier for seniors and children to interact with a computer.
Who uses voice search?
That largest benefit of voice search — the futuristic, Star Trekkie element — has to be a larger contributing factor for younger users than it is for older generations. Millennials 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 this 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.
For more insight into how people are using Voice in their day-to-day lives, be sure to check our latest article where we analyse this topic in depth.
But does voice search mean for your business?
Voice search is growing and it’s not just tech companies 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. Moreover, as a large part of the Voice assistants are operating via Bing, your attention as a brand has to strongly shift to this search engine as well (and not only Google, which is traditionally the standard today).
We’ve gathered some of the main characteristics and will break them down for you so that you know how to tackle them:
From a consumer-oriented perspective:
Queries are getting longer.It is more likely for searches to include question words.Users are looking for quick/direct answers.Queries are more likely to be local.
Queries are getting longer
As we’ve mentioned, we speak faster than we type, so voice searches are often longer and more specific.
According to Moz, Speech searches are at least three words long and this is expected to continue growing, as digital assistants are becoming better at recognizing context and specifics from a question. In comparison, text searcher are more concentrated around 1–3 words.
One tip would be for business owners to find the best ‘long-tail’ keywords to insert into their content, preferably at the beginning of the product/service description, and page meta data. These keywords are usually four to five words long, that describe a business or product in the most accurate way. Considering this, try to reformulate it in the way a prospective customer would verbally make an inquiry for an Assistant.
Currently, product categories such as electronics seem to have a hard time being recommended by voice search results, mainly because of the long technical specifications usually present in the product title. To solve this issue, brands should be looking into simplifying the product names as much as possible while making it easy for the prospective customers to inquire about further model characteristics immediately after, in the first section of the “Description”.
It is more likely for searches to include question words
Another reason for voice searches being longer is due to the query character being similar to the way we talk to people, i.e. forming complete sentences or asking questions that begin with words like ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘when’.
With both types of queries, users are looking for the same information, but the words used are very different. As a business, this means you need to create content that is answering these types of questions.
A great way to capture these queries is to target keywords that include question words by writing ‘how to’ blog posts or adding an FAQ page to your website.
Users are looking for quick/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 assistants like Siri and Alexa. No surprises here, as people performing voice searches don’t have the patience to listen to their Assistant read through a list of links and only then choose a website to access. They want the answer — fast!. Plus, looking at a screen to read the answer can become an inconvenience in certain situations, for example when they are simultaneously performing another task which is requiring their attention, such as cooking.
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 for 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. If you need a hand with optimisation, feel free to write us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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. And this leads us to the final point, which is…
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. Again, if you need help in optimising all these parameters, just write us at email@example.com and we’ll be happy to jump in and give you a hand (or two :) )
Wrapping it up…
The innovations and adoption of Voice Search open new amazing opportunities for brands to be found and purchased by (possibly) new target markets. In this context, preparation in advance is key to ensure Your brand will be the innovative leader who will benefit from the biggest benefits drawn from this transformation. Having a well-optimised Voice SEO is of paramount importance in order to be discoverable by the Assistant and become the easiest to purchase option by Voice users — don’t miss out on it! If you ever feel the need of help in this direction, feel free to write us at firstname.lastname@example.org and out team will be happy to help!
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