As consumers, we’re switching towards a hands-free digital world. Most mobile devices now being released to the market are equipped with the latest Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, allowing us to make searches with voice rather than typing them in.
But, voice searches are undertaken differently to their text-based counterparts. When making a voice command, instead of using specific keywords, we use natural language, like we would when speaking to a friend or family. Because of this, SEO as we know it is changing.
This article is going to address the current adoption and potential growth of voice search, as well as how it’s going to affect SEO, the problems and opportunities this presents, and of course, some tips on adapting your business for voice search.
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The current adoption and growth of voice search
Nearly 27% of 2,000 people surveyed use voice search at least once a week, and approximately 22% of these use it every single day – a number expected to grow as AI continues to improve and new devices reach the market every year.
Google trends – Voice Search Interest over time
Voice search is an easier, quicker way to search for things while at home, on-the-go, cooking, or commuting from one place to another. It is, therefore, no wonder that people are adopting this form of search more and more. To top it off, voice search is no longer limited to smartphones.
Now, there are speakers and even computers that can take and perfectly understand voice commands, as well as provide concise and accurate answers. With this, text-based commands may become fewer while voice search takes over.
But, what does this mean for SEO?
How voice search affects SEO
While the growth of voice search does not mean that text-based commands will disappear completely, it does mean that digital marketing needs to adapt to this new consumer trend. SEO as we know it will change, and here’s how:
Length of queries
The length of queries when spoken are completely different to text-based ones. Text-based searches are normally approximately 2 to 3 words long, while voice-activated ones can sometimes be longer than 10 words. With that in mind, natural language keywords may be the next big thing.
Aside from being longer, voice search queries are more often than not in the form of a question. A search that would normally be typed would look like: “voice search and SEO”. On the other hand, a voice-activated one may sound more like this: “how will voice search affect SEO?”. As a result, it’s important to look at keywords in question form as part of your content strategy.
Queries with clear intent
As voice searches often come in the form of a question, they reveal the level of intent the user has. As a marketer, it’s important to identify these high-value questions and optimize content accordingly. Using natural language in these circumstances is more important than ever as the more your keywords match with consumer searches, the higher you’ll rank.
The problems and opportunities voice search presents
As with any disruptor that enters the marketing world, it comes with its own set of unique opportunities and problems.
Let’s start with the problems:
Issues you may encounter
Because voice search queries are often questions, it’s important that your content answers these accurately. That said, you must find out which are the more specific and complex questions that do not simply require a “yes” or “no” answer.
By using keywords in the form of questions that only require a one-word answer, you’ll lose out on traffic to your website as the machine redirecting consumers will simply answer the question itself. Simply put, you need to give answers to the questions that machines cannot generate themselves.
Opportunities to capitalize on
With Google getting more intelligent, it’s now capable of interpreting a huge variety of voice searches, meaning you need to cover all your bases. Voice search is now able to take spelling instructions, therefore you must triple check that all your content, more specifically keywords and branding, are spelled correctly.
In addition to the above, voice search can now interpret queries based on context, so painting a bigger picture when creating your content is more important than ever. Make sure you incorporate natural language and question keywords with slightly broader contextual ones that can also rank on search engines.
Lastly, location is at the forefront of voice search SEO. With voice search now able to offer results based on geolocation, your online business listings need to be up-to-date and match perfectly. The slightest difference between each listing could lead to a lower search engine ranking.
The future of SEO in relation to voice search
Voice search is here to stay. In fact, it’s likely going to not only grow but improve. Machine learning and AI technology are advancing at an exponential rate, and that means we need to optimize our SEO strategies for voice search today. The real question is “how?”
Google trends – Machine Learning Interest over time
Well, content has never been more important. While you may be thinking “I already create great content”, it now needs to be written in a more conversational tone in order to answer specific customer questions. In addition to the above, people typing a query into a search engine and people undertaking a voice-activated command are often looking for different things.
With text-based commands, the user is most likely happy to undergo further research into his or her query. With voice searches, the user is looking for an answer quickly. Your content needs to continue appealing to both types of searchers.
Tips for adapting a business for voice search
So we’ve gone into some of the opportunities and problems that are likely to come with the proliferation of voice search. We’ve also had a glimpse of what the future has in store for SEO. Now, let’s check out how you can adapt your business to this growing trend:
1. Even more focus on long tail keywords
Despite companies of all kinds optimizing their content with long tail keywords, it’s now more important than ever to do so. When you do your keyword research you need to put more focus on long tail keywords that are in the form of conversational questions and queries.
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You need to find out what specific wording your audience is using to find companies like yours, in your area. You also need to focus on queries that solve a specific problem your customer may be facing. You must be able to answer complex questions that a machine cannot.
2. Capitalize on schema markup
Learning about schema markup will help you give context to your existing content. The search engine will be able to better understand what your website is about, thus giving you a higher ranking than other companies in your industry. With only 0.3% of websites using schema markup today, you’ll be capitalizing on a huge source of SEO.
3. Publish matching company data
Directions to your store or offices, opening hours, company name, and every other little detail of your business must be up-to-date and match on every single platform you are listed on. This is the type of information mobile and voice search users are often looking for, and if it’s wrong, Google could lower your ranking.
4. Be mobile-friendly
Last but not least, be mobile friendly. If your website is slow, doesn’t load, or isn’t optimized for mobile users, it’s likely consumers landing on your website will leave straight away. You must optimize your online platform for Mac, Windows, and Android, as well as across smartphones, tablets, and computers.
Use voice search like your customers do
Voice search is on the rise, there is no doubt about that. As marketers, it would be foolish for us to turn a blind eye to it. In order to best understand where voice search is going, you must start using it yourself.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and optimize your content accordingly. The future of SEO is natural language processing, so get involved in the conversation to stay ahead of your competitors.
Guest author: Markerle Davis is Marketing Director at Soap Media. a Premier Google Partner since 2005. Based in Manchester with over 12 years experience as a digital entrepreneur, he is passionate about helping businesses generate more revenue online through innovative approaches to UX, digital marketing, and automation. Read more from @soapmedia on Twitter.