As we move towards a world with artificial intelligence (AI), voice search is more common than ever. You just say what you want to know, and a voice assistant will give you the relevant information. More people prefer saying their query out loud instead of typing it into a web browser.
As new assistants pop up, they are changing how people get information. Search engines are changing their information-gathering techniques. That means the standard search engine optimization (SEO) practices won’t work as well.
Usually, the change would be bad news. But you have us. We’re going to take a look at how voice search is changing SEO. Plus, we’ll add a few tips so you can step up your SEO and digital marketing game.
When Did Voice Search Become So Popular?
Siri may have gone public in 2011, but voice technology has existed since the 2000s. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems were designed to let customers access company data via voice commands.
Of course, the system was nowhere near as sophisticated as Google Assistant or Siri. These smartphone assistants have AI components and can convert your voice into text to search for the desired results. They let you access search results, maps, marketplaces, contacts, and more.
Voice search assistants first appeared as home devices with Amazon’s Echo and Alexa. Google launched a smart speaker like Alexa called Google Home. These voice assistants can perform voice searches, perform basic tasks, and control other smart devices in your home.
Statistics from Think with Google show that 27% of the global population uses smartphone voice search. UpCity’s survey revealed that 50% of Americans use voice search daily. Most queries are for checking the weather or finding a business near them.
Voice searches are most common among people aged eighteen to thirty-four. 77% of this group uses voice commands on their smartphone. Alternatively, 37 and 38% use voice searches on their computers and tablets.
According to a survey by PwC, 71% of people would rather use voice searches over text searches. The survey shows that most users are satisfied with their voice search results.
Popular Voice Assistants
There are many voice assistants on the market. Every day, a company releases a new voice assistant. These can be personal digital assistants or smart speakers. If we start counting the voice assistants used by enterprises, that number goes further up.
We can’t count every one of these assistants, so here are the major players:
Google Assistant is among the most popular assistants on the globe. At the moment, Google is the major search engine in the world. That makes Google Assistant an indispensable tool for digital marketers.
Users can use Google Assistant on their Android devices or smart speakers. You can activate the assistant with a simple ‘Hey Google.’ Currently, over 550 million people use the assistant.
Amazon’s Alexa is a pretty popular voice assistant, especially in households. Amazon first released Alexa in 2014. According to data from 2020, Alexa has been connected to over 100 million devices. Alexa has around 200 million users.
Apple released Siri in 2011. To date, it has over 660 million users. Siri understands natural language and answers queries based on context and user intent. You can activate the assistant by saying, ‘Hey Siri.’
Samsung matched Siri and Google Assistant by releasing Bixby in 2017. Bixby might be younger but has better integration with the system apps. Users can use it to open social media apps and answer messages there. According to Samsung, the software will have over 200 million users in 2022. Bixby’s activation command is ‘Hi Bixby.’
Microsoft developed Cortana for its Windows phones in 2014. Later, it integrated it into the Windows operating system as well. Cortana doesn’t do Google searches. Instead, it uses Bing as the primary search engine. You can activate it with ‘Hey, Cortana.’
In 2018, Microsoft said that over 150 million people were using Cortana. However, they haven’t released any stats since then. Chances are the number has declined significantly because even Microsoft doesn’t do anything for Cortana anymore.
Difference Between Typed and Voice Searches
The search mechanisms are different based on the input medium. For example, a Google voice search isn’t going to be like a normal Google search. You must change your SEO strategy to keep up with the search engines. For that, you need to know what has changed.
Usually, when people type in their search query, they use a few words. The average is three words for mobile searchers and six for searchers on the desktop. It was the same for a voice query, but things are different now.
The users usually talk to their voice assistant like they’d talk to another person. Fortunately, voice search technology has advanced enough for natural language processing. So users won’t say ‘San Francisco weather.’ They’re more likely to say, How’s the weather in San Francisco? A voice search query is going to be longer than seven words.
When people speak in their natural tone, they’re more likely to be casual. Most queries will have a question-like pattern. They start with words like what, how, when, and where. The voice assistant will discern the user’s intent from their questions and provide relevant search results.
How Does Voice Search Prioritize Search Results?
Given that the input method is different, it makes sense that voice search works differently when prioritizing search results.
A lot of the time, the voice assistant won’t just display all the web pages. They’ll try to choose a relevant answer. These are usually the featured snippets. Featured snippets are credible but easy-to-understand answers to a query.
They don’t contain fluff and mostly answer ‘how to’ or ‘what’ questions. Voice search software prefers content that sounds conversational yet authoritative.
Mobiles have the highest ratio of voice search usage. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, search engines won’t use it to retrieve information. It’s just one of those things that enhances the legitimacy of a website. If your website is responsive on every device, it’ll rank for voice and text searches.
Most users use voice search to look for businesses or other things near them. So your ranking in the search results is dependent on your location. Voice assistants rely on services like Google Maps to provide accurate results for local searches. Businesses that list their complete information are far more likely to get attention.
To make your website rank at the top, you need to make Google believe you’re credible. For that, you’ll need meticulous backlinking with other credible websites. You’ll also need to update your content regularly. You can even repost your old content.
How to Improve SEO For Voice Search Results
Now that you know how voice search works, you need tips for voice search optimization. Here are a few voice SEO tips to help you along:
Utilize the Google My Business listings. Complete all your information with contact details, a physical location, and high-quality pictures of your place. Many voice search users look for places near them by saying stuff like, ‘What are the restaurants near me?’. Once your place is listed, voice search will display it among the other businesses in the area.
You’ll have to change the way you’re using your keywords. Expand your keyword research to include long-tail keywords. These keywords should be conversational. Usual queries start with words like what, how, etc., so add a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section to cover them.
Try to minimize fluff in your content. Make the answer short and informative. If you’re aiming for a featured snippet, try limiting the snippet to twenty-nine words. At the same time, make the content conversational. Organize the article in a question-and-answer format.
Targeting Voice Search Queries
You have a better chance of reaching the final search results if your content is more niche. You won’t have as many competitors in that area, so it’s easier to rank. Research the topic thoroughly to target the stuff others may have missed or that people are actively searching for.
Building Internal Linking Structure
Backlinking is as important for voice search SEO as regular SEO. Backlinking your content to more authentic websites gives your site some credibility. You must also structure your content so search engines can index your web pages.
Make the Website Mobile-Friendly
Your website must be mobile-friendly. Decrease the loading time to three to four seconds at most. You have to resize everything so that it’s easier to use on mobiles. Just make sure your website is accessible on all devices. If you fail to do this, you’ll lose out on a lot of traffic.
Why Do I Need to Optimize for Voice Search?
As more people adapt to voice search, you must change your SEO strategy to accommodate these users. Failure to do so can decrease traffic and overall sales for your company.
Voice search doesn’t really display web pages as search results most of the time. That means you can’t rely on luck for a user to wander to your site. Optimizing for voice search gives your content a better chance of being seen.
Better Access to Your Audience
As voice recognition and search technology improve, more people will continue shifting to voice searches. Voice search optimization gives you access to these people. Plus, it translates to a better user experience and gives you an edge over others in the market.
Embrace the Change: Voice Search Optimization is The Future of SEO
A report from Statista predicts that digital voice assistant units will increase to 8.4 billion by 2024. Undoubtedly, people will keep shifting to voice search as voice recognition technology improves.
The voice assistants will become better at recognizing queries and understanding the context behind those queries. You can hire SEO experts to optimize your website to adapt to the changing market.
The key is to keep analyzing what works for your website. You can use Google Analytics for that. Depending on the results, you can keep changing your strategy to stay on top of the market.