Voice Search and SEO: Understanding the Trends and How to Make Them Work for You

Monday, March 20th, 2017
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In 2014, there was only one way to glean information from search engines: By typing in search queries, either on your mobile device or on a computer. By the beginning of 2016, however, there was another, suddenly popular, method of searching the Internet: Voice queries. By speaking into a mobile device (or now personal assistants like the Amazon Echo), people could pull up information or find websites without lifting a finger. Voice search is enjoying a rapid growth in popularity, in part as the accuracy of voice recognition increases, and in part as more people become aware of and have access to this search method. And, its growth is likely to continue. The ease and speed of talking as opposed to typing makes voice search an intuitive choice, especially for millennials, while accurate responses and a perception of trendiness add to its appeal. The growth of voice search necessitates a new approach to search engine optimization. Rather than just creating content around typed search queries, website owners must now also create content that is easy to access through voice search. Achieving this kind of search engine optimization means understanding the trends driving voice search and how they impact website development and content creation.

Voice Search Statistics

The statistics behind voice search testify to its increasingly widespread use. This information also provides insight into the reasons that so many people are opting for voice search, and the times that they might select voice search over a more traditional typed approach. Following are a few of the most useful pieces of information to have about the growth and the use of voice search.

“30% of users report having used a voice search assistant like Siri within the last day…”

Voice search is popular and recent.

Perhaps the most important statistics when it comes to voice search are these: 40% of adults use voice search and 60% of people who use voice search have just begun doing so in the last year. Voice search may be young, but it is already being utilized by a large section of your target audience.

Voice search is used frequently.

Up to 20 percent of users report having used the voice search function on their mobile devices within the last month, and almost 30% of users report having used a voice search assistant like Siri within the last day. Perhaps most striking: Up to 325 million people used voice search within the last month. That is a large potential audience you can reach with the right kind of search engine optimization, web development, and content creation.

Music streaming, product research, and local searches lead the reasons people use voice search.

Statistics show that there are three very common ways in which people use voice search

  1. to stream music
  2. to conduct product research
  3. to conduct local searches

For example, a third of Amazon Echo owners use their devices to stream music. Voice searches are 3 times more likely to be local searches than are the more traditional typed searches, and fully half of people use voices search to research products they are interested in learning more about or purchasing.

People use voice search because of its accuracy, speed, and convenience.

Finally, statistics reveal some of the reasons that people select voice search over typed searches. About 28 percent of voice search users think that method yields more accurate answers than does a typed search. And, they may be right, with voice search technology returning a voice recognition accuracy rate that is about the same as that of a human being listening to spoken speech. Speed is also important to voice search users, with 43% of users finding that method to be faster than typed searches. Other reasons people might choose voice search is because they are driving and cannot type or because they simply find typing (especially on a mobile device) to be too cumbersome.

Voice Search vs. Written Search

The statistics cited above provide insight into some of the reasons that voice search is enjoying such favor among users. This information can help to guide your search engine optimization. In addition, understanding the basic differences between a typical voice search and a typical typed search can also provide insight into how best to optimize your site for voice search. In general, there are three main differences:

Intent

Often, the intent of the user is different between voice searches and typed searches. Typed searches are frequently conducted by people who are doing research or gathering information for later. They intend to act upon the information, but not right away. As a result, they might peruse your website about gardening to get tips and tricks, but not buy from you until a week later when they are ready to move forward with their garden. Many voice search users, on the other hand, are looking for information they can act on immediately. For example, they often conduct local searches because they are hungry and looking for a restaurant or are visiting a city and want to find a hotel where they can spend the night or a store where they can purchase a souvenir. Their intent is to use the results of their search right away.

Phrasing

One of the biggest differences between voice search and typed search is the phrasing that is used in each. Typed searches tend to be abbreviated. For example, if you are looking for playground sets for your children, you might type “playsets for kids,” and if you are looking for an Italian restaurant in New Orleans, you might type “Italian restaurants, New Orleans.” On the other hand, voice searches tend to take place in a natural, conversational tone of voice. For example, you might say “what are the best playsets for kids” or “where is the nearest Italian restaurant?” In addition, typed searches tend to be stilted sets of words and phrases. Voice searches, however, are often posed as questions. The natural, interrogative nature of voice search sets it apart from typed searches to such an extent that it will influence the way in which you write your content.

Expectations

Finally, the expectations that users of voice search have tend to differ from those they have when they use typed search. For example, voice search users tend to prefer and to expect fast responses. They want to know where the nearest Italian restaurant is because they are hungry and want to eat now. Because they are often ready to act immediately upon the knowledge they gain from their search, voice searchers wish to have that information immediately. Speed, of course, is important to everyone using the Internet. Yet, this type of urgency takes elements such as page load times to a new level of importance if you wish to capture the attention and business of voice search users.

How to Optimize Your Site for Voice Search

Voice search statistics and the differences between voice search and typed search yield clues as to how best to optimize your website development, design, and content for voice search. Following is a look at how you can create search engine optimization geared toward voice searches.

Intent

The fact that many people use voice search with the intent of acting immediately on the results of that search mean two things for your search engine optimization campaign.

  1. Create a mobile responsive site.
  2. Include local information in your microdata.

Create a mobile responsive site.

Mobile devices are a common tool in voice searches, since people use them to find information quickly. In order to make your site successful in the eyes of these on-the-move searchers, you need to make it beautiful and functional when it appears on the smaller screen of their mobile device. Doing so will both satisfy Google’s requirement that websites be mobile responsive (meaning that your site will perform better in the search results) and will provide users with the immediate, easy-to-use format they require to make quick decisions.

Make sure your location is evident throughout your website.

Thanks to the local nature of voice searches, optimizing your micro data with your local information will make your business easier to find when people conduct voice searches.          Providing this information also makes it easier for Google to determine where your business is located and, therefore, makes it more likely that your website or business will be put forth as an answer to a local voice search. There are a number of methods you can use to optimize your site for local SEO. For example,    make sure you have a clearly defined site map that includes information such as maps and contact information. This site map will make it easier for Google to determine where your business is located. In addition, include your contact information on every page, and mention your location throughout your content. Even getting your location out on social media will help you to stand out as a business that can meet people’s local needs. Overall, a solid local SEO campaign will help you to solidify your performance in voice search results.

Phrasing

The differences in phrasing between voice and typed search mean that you will need to give new thought to how you use keywords throughout your website content. By including keywords and phrases that match the phrasing people use in voice search, you will have more success in earning voice searchers’ attention.

Use natural language in your content.

Perhaps the best thing you can do for your content if you wish to tailor your search engine optimization campaign to voice searches is to use natural language. This is language that is   phrased the same way people speak: In a conversational tone. For example, if you only optimize for phrases like “Italian restaurant, New Orleans,” you are unlikely to nab voice searchers. If, however, you use conversational language such as “we are the best Italian restaurant in New Orleans,”  you are more likely to have your website show up in voice searches. When the language of your content matches your users’ language, you should see a jump in traffic to your site as Google returns your website as a result to their searches more often.

Revamp the way you think about keywords.

Creating content that uses natural language in a conversational tone will force you to change the way you think about keywords. For a long time, websites have had to think about keywords as short words or phrases. More recently, long-tail keywords have become popular as a way to avoid the heavy competition provided by general keywords and as a way to attract qualified traffic to a site. Today, however, long-tail keywords are critical to the success of your search engine optimization campaign if you wish to target voice searches. In addition, there are other elements to consider when creating your content. If you wish to optimize your site for voice searches, you have to go beyond simply filling your content with certain words and phrases. Instead, you need to think about creating high quality content that answers questions voice searchers will ask. This content should also answer those questions in the same natural tone of voice that searchers are using in their queries.

Use questions in your content.

One useful step you can take to create a search engine optimization campaign that targets voice searches is to make wise use of questions. In particular, use the five interrogative words, “who” “what” “when” “where” “why” and “how.” Often, an FAQ page addressing these types of questions can boost your website’s performance in the voice search results. Another way to put questions to good use on your site is to create content based on the questions that people will ask in their voice searches. These posts, FAQ pages, and so forth will receive greater attention from Google and the audiences you want to reach by more closely matching the queries that voice searchers are putting forth.

Expectations

Thanks to the expectations of voice searchers that they will receive immediate answers to their questions, you may want to ensure that your website is primed to load quickly and provide direct answers to the types of questions they are asking. A delay of even a second or two can be enough to send searchers to another site, losing you the traffic and the business you need. As a result, consult a professional web development company for help in identifying any areas of slowness in your site and maximizing the speed with which your site returns the results that busy searchers are looking for.

Don’t forget about typed search.

Despite the rising popularity of voice search, written searches are still going strong. While it may be tempting to throw all of your energy toward optimizing for voice search, a balance between targeting voice searches and typed searches will allow you to reach the broadest range of potential customers. For example, you may use natural language and question-based content for your website. But, you also need to conduct keyword research and use the words and phrases your audiences are typing into their searches. It is best, perhaps, to rank well for both “What is the best Italian restaurant in New Orleans” and “Italian restaurants, New Orleans.” Navigating the world of voice search can mean exciting changes for your website. To help you identify the best changes to make, and to help you to stay abreast of the latest trends in search engine optimization, you may need to hire a web development company and SEO experts. They can help you to optimize your site for voice search, maintain your rankings for written searches, and keep up with all the latest developments in search engine optimization. With their help, you can succeed at the new frontier presented by the rising popularity of voice search.

Ruth Hawk
Writer, WEBii
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