How Voice Search Will Change SEO and Digital Marketing

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How Voice Search Will Change SEO and Digital Marketing

Voice search makes use of voice recognition technology to help users perform searches when talking into a device, like an iPhone or a smart home appliance. Popular virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Google Assistant are known to deliver answers through voice search.

Find out what the rise of voice search means for your business and your SEO strategy.

The Story of Modern Voice Search

Although Siri was first introduced to Apple users in 2011 with the release of iPhone 4S, its
origins date back to 2010 when it was invented as a standalone app by a similarly named
startup that Apple would later acquire for a staggering $150 million to $250 million.

In its earliest incarnation, Siri was a wise-cracking voice assistant with an irreverent attitude and fleshed-out back story. It had the ability to collate information from diverse sources like Yelp, Citysearch, Yahoo! Local, and Rotten Tomatoes, and to deliver an answer that integrated the details it had gathered from its search. It could book tables, purchase tickets, and hail cabs without requiring the user to open a separate app.

Then Apple stepped in, purged its vocabulary of colorful swear words, expanded its linguistic capabilities to include foreign languages, and scaled the app to serve millions of consumers in a global market.

Despite the lukewarm response to iPhone 4S, Siri was well-received, with the Harvard Business Review calling it “as revolutionary as the Mac”, a remarkable feat that combined artificial intelligence and human speech in a way that was compelling.

Less than a decade later, voice search would become the new battlefront for tech giants in their bid to take control of the smartphone market, with similar apps like Alexa, Cortana, and Hey Google entering the fray.

In 2017, Google’s machine learning systems reached a 95% accuracy threshold for voice
recognition in the English language – the same threshold for human accuracy – while Baidu’s speech recognition system reached 97% accuracy in 2016 and is currently aiming for 99% amidst a rapid surge in voice adoption among Chinese users.

The Rise of Voice Search

Today, voice search has become an integral part of daily life for many consumers. According to Strategy Analytics, smart speaker shipments increased by almost 200% globally year-over-year in Q3 2018, with Amazon shipping the most devices, followed by Google and Alibaba.

Shipments would increase 95% from 22.6 million units in Q3 2018 to 38.5 million units in Q4 2018, edging out the total number of shipments for 2017. The year-end tally for 2018 was 86.2 million units.

A February 2018 survey by PwC also found that 65% of users aged 24 to 49 spoke to voice-enabled devices at least once a day.

Moreover, OC&C Strategy Consultants predicts that household adoption of smart speaker devices will grow to 55% in the United States and 48% in the United Kingdom by 2022, more than double the household adoption rate of 13% and 10% respectively in 2017.

Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report found that voice search queries have increased 35-fold since 2008, the year the iPhone and Google Voice Search were launched.

How Voice Search Impacts Your Business

Customers now look for the same information through voice as they would via text. A sizeable chunk of these queries have to do with local information.

The 2016 Internet Trends Report found that 22% of voice queries have to do with local information such as business hours, nearby establishments, and things to do within the immediate vicinity.

Local businesses that rely on foot traffic must make sure that their listings contain accurate information to increase the chances of that information being delivered effectively through voice search.

Moreover, users expect quick, concise, and fact-based answers when conducting voice search – few of them are willing to take a deep dive in order to find information. This means businesses must ensure that their content is conversational but straight to the point in order to match these queries.

Since traffic is essential to gaining customers, and traffic can only be increased by being more visible and trustworthy, you must optimise your content and overall site for voice search queries.

Although voice search has yet to be factored into Google’s algorithm, the rise of voice search and smart speaker adoption means that it will only be a matter of time until the search engine incorporates a voice search element to its rankings, as well as prioritise businesses that have added voice search optimisation into their SEO strategies.

Businesses that neglect to include voice search in their strategies run the risk of losing to competitors who are early adopters of voice search by the time Google includes voice search in its updated algorithm.

The 2018 PwC Consumer Intelligence Series Voice Assistants Survey also found that 80% of consumers who used voice assistant to shop were satisfied with their experience, and as a result of that experience:

  • 39% purchased again from the same retailer
  • 24% spent more money on the retailer
  • 36% developed a more positive opinion of the retailer
  • 39% talked about their positive experience with family and friends

A positive shopping experience also translates into deeper brand loyalty and more trust in your business.

Voice Cearch SEO and Digital Marketing Tips for Your Business

There are several ways to include voice search in your SEO strategy:

  • Use natural language in your content and SEO – Work with an SEO team that knows the difference between voice search language and typed search language. Write content in a natural and conversational tone, and have your team optimise that content for high-value natural language search queries.
  • Roll out an FAQ strategy – Gear your content towards answering questions – Bruce Clay notes that there has been a 61% increase in queries that start with Who, Where, What, and How.

Nearly 10% of all voice search queries begin with the five Ws and one H as opposed to 3.7% of text search queries. 3.6% of voice search queries begin with “How” while 3.5% start with “What”.

  • Pay attention to long-tail keywords – Voice search queries tend to be longer than text-based queries, with average voice search query containing 4.2 words compared with the 3.2-word average for text search queries.

Select and adjust your keywords based on search user intent. Optimising for longer key phrases often means targeting a niche of the market, but intent will be stronger since users will reach your site based on content that is highly relevant to their queries.

  • Use Featured Snippets – Voice search results come from Featured Snippets, also known as Google’s Answer Box and Position Zero. Optimise your content for Featured Snippets in order to benefit from voice search. These snippets work well for searches concerning the following types of content:
    • How-to articles
    • FAQs
    • Question-based queries
    • Conversions and calculations
    • Health symptoms
    • Requirements
    • Processes

Your content is more likely to appear in Featured Snippets if it ranks well organically, directly answers questions, broken up into short and easy-to-digest paragraphs, optimised for long-tail question-based keywords, and contains lists that the search engines can easily read and understand. 

  • Go local – As mentioned previously, 22% of voice search queries are intended to find local information. Use this to your advantage by making use of words and phrases that describe your neighborhood, location, or landmarks. Include “near me” in title tags, meta descriptions, anchor text, and internal links.
  • Get positive reviews – These reviews will help your business get into “Best of” lists that often appear in Featured Snippets.

Work with top SEO talent when optimising for voice search. Contevo stands for “Continuous Evolution” – the need to adapt to changing industry trends and practices in order to keep our clients relevant. Get in touch with us today to include voice search in your digital marketing strategy.

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