The SEO landscape is always changing as we know, but there is a new player entering the field with the power to revolutionise the way we find what we need online – voice search.
We’ve all messed around with Siri or Cortana since their introduction a few years ago, asking questions just to see how the technology works and what they can really do. Chances are you’ve also slipped in a few silly questions and got a similarly witty response back!
In all seriousness though, the rate at which these services are growing and learning has been exponential. When these features first came out, they genuinely struggled to understand speech accurately, often mistakenly presenting irrelevant results for a completely different topic which quickly became frustrating for users. Now though, Siri and Cortana have been joined by Alexa and (the strangely nameless) Google Home services.
So Is It Time To Start Taking Voice Search Seriously?
The short answer is absolute. Voice search will account for more than half of all search queries by 2020, so a revolution looks to be on the horizon. This also ties into the fact that the majority of online searches are now completed on mobile devices. People nowadays are always on the go and they need reliable answers as quickly as possible – and it doesn’t come much quicker than speaking to your smartphone.
It’s fair to say the novelty of voice search has slowly dissipated, with the technology transforming into a viable and practical way to search for the information you need when out and about. Searching by voice has grown to be hugely popular when users are already busy doing something else – cooking, driving or watching tv for example. Voice search has steadily built a reputation as a service that is insanely fast, brilliantly convenient and increasingly reliable. So much so that Google has released statistics showing that more than half of teens and 41% of adults use voice search at least once a day – a far cry from the search landscape a few years ago.
How Will This Impact Your SEO Strategy And Organic Search Results?
Well, first and foremost, speech is naturally a lot more conversational in its construction compared to written text – we all talk very differently to how we type. For example, if you were looking for the nearest coffee shop when out and about, chances are you’d type ‘coffee shops near me’, but if you were talking, you’d probably ask ‘where’s the nearest coffee shop?’.
Not only that, voice searches tend to be longer and more specific, averaging 4.2 words per query compared to typed searches averaging just 3.2 words.
As voice search grows in popularity, your focus around conversational search terms should grow too. Short-tail keywords look to be declining in relevancy, which means having an SEO strategy that focuses around the long-tail keywords will give you an advantage. Simply ranking well for ‘coffee shop’ won’t be so valuable in the future; you’ll need to rank for more conversational and specific terms like ‘coffee shop with wifi in bournemouth’ or ‘coffee shops selling chai latte’. Doing this will help you attract traffic from potential customers that are already taking advantage of voice search when searching for information.
The good news here is that the SEO best practises you already apply to your site will generally remain the same – you’ll still want a responsive website that loads quickly and showcases high quality, unique content.
When it comes to content, industry specialists Moz have found that the most used question words in voice search at the moment are ‘who’ and ‘how’, so you may want to consider building these into your content strategy – for example, adapting new blog post titles to ask a question, much like the title of this post.
It’s Make-Or-Break Time – Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly?
We know that voice search is growing primarily because of the popularity of smartphones and the increase in the number of mobile versus desktop searches. With this in mind, Google has already announced plans to launch a mobile-first indexing system that will take into consideration how a site operates when viewed on a mobile device. Got an old website that isn’t responsive to tablet or mobile screen sizes but still performs well on mobile SERPs at the moment? Chances are you’re going to drop out of mobile search results pretty quickly unless you make some changes.
A key part of good SEO is creating an enjoyable user experience – customers want their online life to be easy and straightforward. Sites that take a long time to load and are clunky to use on smaller screens will be outdone by faster, slicker mobile-friendly sites and this will ultimately be reflected in search results, especially when it comes to voice searches.
Unsure about your site? Run it through Google’s mobile-friendly test service to find out if your website will rank on mobile search results.
A final point to mention regarding the impact of voice search on SEO strategy is the importance of localised information. 22% of all voice searches conducted at the moment are looking for local information like contact addresses and opening hours, so it’s crucial that you keep your site up-to-date. Your business information such as name, address, contact details, opening days and hours all need to be accurate as this will help you appear higher on location-specific searches.
The bottom line is that a search revolution is on the horizon, and voice search is certainly here to stay for the foreseeable future. Your SEO strategy needs to stay in touch with the latest trends and pre-empt changes before they take full effect. Try to ensure your SEO campaign is proactive rather than reactive; this will give you the best chance of staying ahead of the competition and make sure the voice of your business is heard.