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Marketing
How Voice Search Is Changing The SEO Game

June 2019

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When was the last time you talked to your phone?

If you’re like most people in the developed world, it was probably today. Siri today is far from the disposable novelty most people thought it was; now, talking to your phone or your home speaker is as natural as breathing.

That has huge repercussions for search. ComScore estimates that by 2020, fifty percent of all searches will come via voice. Even more impressive (depending on who you ask), voice shopping is predicted to rise to $40 billion by 2022, with an estimated fifty-five percent rise in smart speakers in homes. It’s obvious at this point where the market is heading.

If you want to stay ahead of the competition, now is the time to be focusing on voice search. You need to know the who, what, when, where, why and how of voice, and have the vision to capitalize on it.

Key Question #1: Who?

Who exactly is using voice search? At the moment, it’s mostly mobile users.

Voice search is integral to mobile search. Twenty percent of all mobile search queries are voice, and that number’s going to keep rising. Smart speakers don’t yet have the penetration of smartphones, so for now, you’re usually dealing with people on the go.

In the future, though, this isn’t going to necessarily be the case. We’ve already seen how significantly smart speaker penetration is supposed to rise. That’s going to mean more people using voice search for things they used to do through their computer.

For the moment voice search leans towards mobile. You can’t forget about the home user, though, especially if you’re keeping an eye towards the future.

Key Questions #2 and #3: What and When?

What are people doing with voice search? And when are they using it?

That voice search is most likely to be someone looking for local results — more than three times as likely. Google Voice Search statistics show that Google in particular is used mostly for local information. Those include movie times, “near me” searches, directions and other obviously mobile queries.

These queries have high intent, contain more conversational words and tend to be longer. Typed searches are usually two to three words, while voice searches are usually five to seven.

There’s an immediacy to voice search that isn’t always there with text search; with high intent, very local queries and a clearer focus on what’s wanted, voice is narrower and more clearly defined. They’re not looking to browse your website. They want to call you, or find your business, or see what’s available in the area.

That can be an opportunity.

Even more than text search, voice search is a chance to grab people’s attention immediately with high intent. The hard part is making sure you show up when people are looking.

Key Question #4: Why?

Why use voice search instead of text search?

Noted entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has been talking about voice search for a few years now, mainly because of one characteristic: lack of friction. In an interview with Paul Cutsinger at CES 2018, Vaynerchuk noted that “Alexa and voice is the future of a frictionless world.”

That’s one of the biggest factors that drives voice search — it’s just plain easier. The high number of searches for directions are tied in to that; if you don’t have to use your hands to search while driving, your phone suddenly becomes a much more powerful tool.

Second screening is also a significant driver of voice search, especially for teens. Almost sixty percent will search via voice while watching TV or doing other leisure activities.

One thing to keep an eye on moving forward is voice search’s grasp of context, with Google undoubtedly leading the pack on this front. With the Hummingbird update, Google became far more adept at figuring out intent in sequential searches. It’s still not perfect, but as voice search becomes more of a focus, voice search will become more popular for rapid follow-up questions.

Key Question #5: How?

At this point, it’s clear how important voice search is.

We know why people are using it, what they’re looking for, and the way they want to get there. Now we come to the million-dollar question: How do I capitalize on this?

There are some very easy tips you can do to make sure you’re voice-optimized going forward:

• Make more specific, smaller content. Voice search is much more likely than regular search to pull from a feature (particularly on Google). If you can get your content in a featured box on the page, you’re ahead of the game. Tagged micro-data can allow you to grab attention that would otherwise never come to your website. Expect less people to actually go to the content itself in the future, with more of them accessing it through voice search.

• Use question-based and long-tail queries to optimize your content. Most of your voice search queries will fall in this bucket, rather than the shorter, more general keywords that might get you better results on desktop. Voice search optimization is basically the same for these as it is for regular SEO, with the caveat that you’ll probably need to make them longer than you would for desktop.

• Organize, organize, organize. Neil Patel recommends using specific markup language and submitting a sitemap to Google — this will help with traditional SEO as well.

• Claim your My Business page. Google’s My Business is one of the biggest keys to voice search. Making sure you have the right category, the right phone number, high-quality photos and an up-to-date listing could be the difference between showing up immediately on voice search or not showing up at all.

• When you write long-form content, answer a common voice-search question. This may take some doing, but doing some keyword research on very long tail keywords, especially those that take the form of a question, can make your content pop up on voice search where it wouldn’t otherwise. This, again, will also help you with your regular SEO.

• Be mobile-friendly. Your site should be mobile-friendly already, with low load times and an adaptive design; this will be even more key moving forward, as more search goes mobile.

In general, if you’re doing good work on your SEO already, voice search isn’t going to change much of what you’re doing. It just requires some tweaking to make it more specific to the way people use voice. Figure out what people are searching for, then constantly keep refreshing that list.

Consistency is key in any SEO strategy, and that goes for voice as well as text.

No matter what your business, you can use the power of voice search to drive high-intent traffic to your content. Voice search is getting more important by the day, and today is the time to start optimizing for it.

Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.


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