Voice search as a concept is not new to us. Technology that could recognize voice existed well before the first cell phone. Last century’s science fiction once imagined voice-activated robotics as being technology for the distant future, but that future is already here. Released as an app in 2010 and integrated into the iPhone 4S in 2011, Apple’s voice assistant Siri heralded in a new era of voice-centered technology. People were able to look up information, play music, phone their mom: all hands-free. The benefits were obvious so the rest of the tech world quickly followed suit, introducing similar assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Assistant.
With people going hands-free to do their searching, the questions naturally raised are: what does this mean for SEO? And how is this different from manual input searches?
The first thing to know is that voice search is not some mystical different way of searching. What the user says is converted into text form which is then entered into the search engine; same as typing. Whether the search query is typed out manually or inputted by voice-to-text does not change the results that the search engine shows.
So what impact will voice search have on SEO? If the search results aren’t changed, what is there to know? To answer these questions, we need to look at:
- Who is using voice search, and how frequently do they use it?
- What devices they are using to carry out their voice searches?
- What it is they are using voice search to find?
- How is this different from a manual-input search?
Who is using voice search and how frequently are they using it?
Voice search is on the rise and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. According to Statista, as of the 1st quarter of 2019, 42% of internet users conducted at least one voice search in the previous month, while Forbes reports that 40% of adults use voice search daily. That is a huge percentage of adults making these searches, the bulk of which is done while the user is driving. Voice technology is also being adopted across generations. Statistics from DialogTech highlight that 65% of 25-49-year-olds speak to voice-enabled devices at least once a day, closely followed by 59% of 18-24-year-olds and 57% of those over 50 years old. It is worth keeping in mind that voice-enabled technology does not automatically equate to using voice-searches, though a boom in the former has seen an increase in the latter.
What devices are people using to carry out their voice searches?
The bulk of voice searches are conducted either through a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or Google Home or through smartphones. This is important because the device used can make a difference not only to what type of search is being conducted, but also what search engine is pulling up the results. Google Home will naturally input search queries to Google search, as does Siri, whereas Amazon’s Alexa uses Bing. Making sure your website is optimized for more than just one search engine can play a critical role here.
What is it that people are using Voice Search to find?
By and large the majority of questions being asked through voice search fall into one of two categories:
1. ‘Snippet’ questions: These are questions that are generally very simple to answer. Instead of pulling up search results, the voice assistant will reply with the answer or show it on screen. This information tends to be drawn from the snippets shown as the first result in searches – questions such as ‘How tall is the Empire State Building?’. Around 40% of all voice-search results are pulled from these snippets. The top three words that feature are how what, and best.
2. ‘Near me’ questions: Taking into account how popular voice search is for people while driving, it comes as no surprise that ‘near me’ crops up frequently as a searched item. Useful for finding a gas station, Italian restaurant, or plastic surgery clinic.
How is this different from a manual-input search?
One key difference between voice search and manual-input search is the phrasing of the question. When typing out a search query users are inclined to narrow in on keywords they think will help them find the most relevant result: normally sticking to 10 words or less. On average, voice searches are 29 words long. When using voice search users ask questions as though they were talking to another person. Many even report that it feels as natural to talk to their voice assistants as they would talk to a friend. You wouldn’t ask your friends a series of keywords, so that’s not what happens with voice-search queries either.
How should you respond to this information?
1. You should be investing in making sure the information on your website is clear, specific, and natural-language friendly. Since Google’s 2019 BERT Update in October your website should already be aiming to answer these questions naturally.
2. Keep in mind: websites that are optimized for searches that include long-tail keywords will benefit from the increase in voice searches. People are more specific in what they search for because they are speaking to their devices to ask the questions.
3. As mentioned earlier, a lot of voice searches involve the word ‘best’, and many are ‘near me’ searches. The statistics speak for themselves. 75% of smart speaker owners search for local businesses daily, with 27% of them visiting the website of the businesses after the search, and many then go on to phone them. Use this to your advantage and make sure your business information is up to date and easy to find. Check out our article on how to get found for “near me” searches.
4. One of the reasons voice search is becoming so popular is that it’s quick-access information because speaking is faster than typing. Search results that load faster are more likely to be prioritized, so make sure your website is responsive and quick to load.Voice search is predicted to grow and your SEO strategy needs to grow with it. Get in touch with us today to talk about your digital marketing needs and how we can elevate the success of your clinic.