Word on the street is that we’re in the middle of a voice search revolution. Forget text-led searches (although perhaps not altogether!), and pay attention at last to the fact that 41% of adults and 55% of teens now use voice search daily. That’s a big deal, and it’s a trend companies need to accommodate if they’re to stand any chance at weathering 2020 and beyond.
The trouble is that, while you’ve been busy trying to perfect keywords for written searches, you may have altogether missed what makes for a decent voice search. Lucky for you, it’s better late than never to get on board with the revolution. Still, with 50% of searches set to be voice-based by the end of this year, you need to start thinking about how you can optimise for voice search as soon as possible.
The principles of voice search
Before we can understand how to start optimising, we first need to consider what exactly voice search is. Luckily, you don’t need to be a genius to work this one out. In layman’s terms, voice searches simply rely on voice, rather than text, and the use of natural language processing (NLP) systems to provide necessary results.
While some users access these capabilities through desktop, the majority of voice queries come from alternative devices with inbuilt NLP capabilities. This is a trend that suits perfectly with current consumer mobile focus and is a benefit Google, Microsoft, and Apple have all been utilising in their smartphone releases for years now.
With home smart devices also now in 15 million homes across Britain alone, additions like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are beginning to overtake even mobile-led voice functions. In fact, as it stands, the top 6 voice devices in use are –
Android Phones And Devices
Why are people using voice search?
A significant amount of consumers are clearly using voice search, but only by understanding their incentives for doing so can we start to optimise voice capabilities that meet their needs. The most obvious reason is, of course, the ease inherent with such searches, which are statistically 3.7xs quicker than their text counterparts.
Convenience and enhanced user experience is also a significant factor, especially considering that mobile devices offer on-the-go search capabilities, integrated neatly within devices that we already use. Rather than seeking out a desktop, consumers now have the option of getting their phones out wherever they are, and searching for everything from local business to desirable information at, quite literally, the click of a button.
Businesses that are already using voice search successfully
In correlation with Amazon Echo, Domino’s released their ‘Dom’ voice search personality back in 2017, and have seen massive success from their efforts. As well as answering a wide range of queries, Dom is on hand to accept orders that have been pre-set in the Domino’s app.
Spotify are also utilising voice search, both to help consumers pick their next listen, and to notify of any local music events, etc. Following in Alexa’s shoes, Spotify’s voice capabilities can even pick playlists from basic user commands.
With a tongue-in-cheek nod to voice technology, Burger King released a unique ad campaign in America that contained the words ‘Ok Google, what is a whopper burger?’ The fifteen-minute ad cause significant ripples when it triggered countless Google Home devices, and showcased perfectly just what a unique voice search approach can achieve.
When voice search doesn’t work
In contrast to the vast numbers of consumers using voice technology right now, studies reveal that just 4% of companies are currently ready for this shift. Starbucks, for instance, have famously failed to get on top with voice capabilities due to neglect in their review response strategies, local social media efforts, and unbranded keyword optimisations. This despite their attempts to release a widespread voice ordering-specific app last year.
Previously non-existent worries over language barriers are also keeping many companies on the ground where voice search is concerned, with 75% of voice users reporting the need to alter their accents for each search. By failing to consider variable and representative datasets during the training stages, companies are quickly finding themselves at risk not only of failing voice systems but also claims of discrimination that are guaranteed to harm, rather than help, voice search efforts.
The most popular voice terms
Voice capabilities rely on conversational, off-the-cuff commands and searches, many of which fall foul to long keywords and filler terms that companies typically avoid. As such, setting up for voice searches also means understanding the terms most popular in this medium. One thing’s sure; your current SEO and keyword knowledge won’t help you here.
In fact, studies consistently show that filler words such as who, what, when, and where are the most common terms used in any search capabilities.
Given the different semantics across each age groups, companies should also be considering the different top terms used by both teens and adults for more comprehensive results. For instance, right now, teens (the primary users of voice search) most commonly use slang terms or short sentences like ‘send me pizza.’ Equally, many teen users report accessing voice functions with background distractions such as television.
By comparison, adults are far more likely to use long-ended keywords and formal language. Filler words are perhaps more relevant for this age group, while contractions and slang terms don’t matter so much. The content searched for also seems to differ, with adults far more likely to use voice search for things such as ‘how can I find my keys?’
How to make your business voice-search friendly
Looking to the voice search examples that have gone before can be a great help in settling on your own search plan, but they don’t exactly lay out a plan of action you can follow. For that, you need to consider a wide range of factors, many of which we’ve already touched upon briefly.
Natural, conversational content that uses the right keywords
A conversational tone is now a must in any piece of content you publish. Otherwise, there’s little chance that your efforts will appeal to the emerging voice generation. Developing your understanding of keywords as they relate to voice capabilities is, therefore, vital, and it’s a goal you can easily achieve by checking your Google analytics. Google’s 2017 update of a natural language queries analysis intelligence tool is perhaps the best way to discover the spoken keywords that are currently leading users to your content and which could continue to do so in the future.
Programs like SEM Rush can also prove invaluable for highlighting keyword growth trends, such as searches for ‘weather’ (around 24,440,000 per month) and ‘maps’ (20,400,000 per month). By implementing these, along with those all-important filler queries, in your meta descriptions and title tags, you stand a much higher chance at reaching the top spots even where voice searches are concerned.
A focus on local SEO
Local SEO can change your business a great deal in every way, especially where voice searches are concerned. Many would even go as far as to say that voice search and local focuses are inexplicably linked. That’s hardly surprising given that searches using a mobile phone are around three times more likely to be location-specific.
The fact is that, when users search as they’re out and about, they’re inevitably more influenced by their surroundings. By incorporating everything from location-based landing pages to Google Map listings, you can both enhance your business from a general perspective and also gain an edge where voice capabilities are concerned.
Working on webpage speed
Slow-loading web pages have been falling out of consumer favour for a while, and never is that more the case than when it comes to voice search. Remember, these are searches often utilised on-the-go by consumers who don’t have the time to mess around. Even more than most, these individuals will turn directly away from a slow page. To make sure that doesn’t happen, check your current page speed on Google’s developer, and then get to work resizing pictures, removing slow-loading ads, etc.
Structure your data
Structuring data using Google’s Schema and other such tools can also help you to provide identification for sections of your site uniquely suited to voice search results. When paired with your understanding of the questions people are asking, this capability alone has the power to incorporate your presence into voice results at last.
We are, quite literally, talking about a new generation right now, and you can’t afford to let that opportunity pass you by. Text-based SEO will, of course, continue to prove relevant and reap results. But, taking the time to consider voice-based efforts can also help you to reach the 50% of your audience set to make the most of this capability in the coming year and beyond. And, that’s guaranteed to lead to the business boost you need to carry on competing in the modern market.