What is Voice Search and Why is it Important?

What is Voice Search ?

Voice search is the newest way to scour the internet. It utilizes speech recognition technology that allows users to search using speech versus typing. With the continued growth of smart phones users and other web enabled mobile devices with digital personal assistants (think Cortana, Siri, Alexa), voice search is becoming increasingly more important to consider and optimize for. Gone are the days of searching by a precise topic using a few relevant keywords. Welcome to today where we are asking our devices specific questions and using natural speech to search.

Think about this: If you wanted to find out who the CEO of HomeAway is, what would you search for if you were:

  • On your computer and typed in your search phrase?
    • Many would answer with a short search phrase, like ‘HomeAway CEO’
  • Talking into your phone using a digital personal assistant?
    • Many will likely have used natural language and asked, ‘Who is the CEO of HomeAway?’

We are unconsciously altering our search behavior everyday depending on what device we are in front of. So, shouldn’t we be altering how we optimize our content so we can be found easier? Yes! But first, let’s gain a better understanding of who’s using voice, what they are searching for, how it affects you and how to incorporate it into your SEO strategy.

Who’s Using Voice Search & What For?

Everyone! According to a variety of sources, voice search is on the rise amongst all age groups using smart phones. Users are becoming increasingly more comfortable using these new technologies not only on the go in their vehicles but also at home with devices like Amazon’s Echo Dot and Google’s Home. This rise in use is also due in part to Google’s speech recognition error rate being lower than ever at 8% – down from about 25% a few years prior. As of 2014, voice search was primarily being used for calling someone, asking for directions, dictating text and for help with homework amongst teens and adults. Now only a few years later, we are asking our devices much more complex and diverse questions.

  • “Google voice search queries in 2016 are up 35x over 2008” According to Google trends via Search Engine Watch
  • “Over half of U.S. teens and 41% of U.S. adults use voice search on a daily basis, with its use continuing to grow every day.” According to Northstar Research and Forbes
  • “60% of people using voice search have started in the last year” According to MindMeld

Voice Search Impacts

The true impact of voice search on SEO is still developing. It is obvious that optimizing for voice search is very different compared to traditional type search. Technology is progressing to understand user intent as well as context of the search therefore more complex natural language and speech are becoming more easily understood by search engines. One of the main differences in voice search as compared to traditional keywords searches are the phrases and keywords/terms, they tend to be longer than type search but they are also more complete sentences and questions.

How does this affect you? The developments in voice search means that companies and SEO Experts alike need to be open toward trying new optimization tactics, for example, by focusing more on what the customers intent is when searching. This may require a shift from targeting 2-3 words keyword phrases to more long-tail keyword phrases, with websites designed to answer searchers questions rather than just targeting specific keywords. The concern is not on specific words anymore, but instead on the users intent, and on answering with depth the various questions users have.

Where to Start Optimizing for Voice Search

As with all keyword research, first compile data for what you are already ranking for. Using tools like Google Search Console, Google Analytics, free SERP (Search Engine Results Page) Rank Checkers and website’s like AnswerThePublic.com you can gain a wide variety of insight.

Once your data is collected analyze it by identifying all keyword phrases:

  • That are longer than 3 words
  • That start with a question word (who/what/when/where/why/how)
  • That contain local markers (town/city/neighborhood names, landmarks)

You’ve narrowed your terms, now determine which of those convey the strongest intent and lend most directly to your content/location/service.

If I performed a search for ‘vacation rental’, you would have no idea whether I wanted to buy one, rent one, where I want to travel to, etc. We can draw some conclusions based on this keyword phrase but really, we have no idea if the searcher wants to buy or is simply doing research. However, when searched in question form, such as ‘where are the best vacation rentals’, this keyword phrase/question can reveal the degree of intent.

Therefore, keyword phrases asking ‘what’ or ‘who’ typically answer questions with quick and easy answers whereas ‘when’ and ‘where’ phrases are more complex and may require a searcher to take additional action after the search is performed.

Mobile devices and local search go together like peanut butter and jelly. When you are on the go and looking for a coffee shop, parking, things to do, etc., your search will produce results in the closest vicinity. Including a variety of local phrases and terms on your website especially your mobile version is imperative. Therefore, local businesses need to refine their strategy and ask themselves these questions:

  • Are there landmarks that should be used as a point of reference, like, “old town”, arenas/stadiums?
  • Are there local places of interest that matter to your company?
  • How is your area described in natural speak? Specific neighborhood?

Implementing Change

Before you completely 180 your SEO strategy, the true impact of voice search on SEO is still developing as is the technology that understands and translates it. Continue to optimize for 2-3 word keyword phrases on a per page basis, incorporating synonyms and similar phrases in the content. In addition to that, integrate voice search phrases and questions into various pages throughout your website, especially on mobile specific pages. Above all, anticipate and answer the questions users are seeking, and provide the information users need, at a depth and level beyond what you have previously done. Monitor these pages moving forward. Have they gained more desktop traffic, more mobile traffic? Has the organic rank for the term/phrase you optimized for changed? Look for any data that is indicating that the changes you made are working or not. Be patient, SEO takes time.

Have a million other things to do and need some help incorporating voice search tactics into your SEO strategy? Contact Blizzard Internet Marketing today to find out more about what we can offer you to help you succeed on the web!