In the past, the only way we could search was to type a question or phrase into a search engine such as Google. Today that’s all changed. Through the advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI), we can now search using only our voice. Whether we want to find information, products or services we can do so by talking to Siri in our smartphones or similar devices such as;
- Amazon Echo
- Google Home
- Microsoft Cortana
- Google Assistant
Changes in the way we search, mean changes for SEO. As digital marketers, we need to keep up to date with every aspect of the digital world to stay ahead of the competition. Throughout this post, we are going to take a look at how voice search is changing SEO and what you need to do to make sure your content is optimised for voice search in the future.
How is Voice Search Changing the Way We Search?
To understand how voice search is changing SEO, we need to understand how it is changing the way we search.
A large percentage of the world’s population owns a smartphone. According to Pew Research Centre, 77% of Americans own a smartphone which most likely gives them access to voice search. Taking this even further, 46% of adults use voice search on a daily basis! All we have to do is reach into our pocket, ask our phone a question and a certain AI such as Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant, will get to work conducting the search for us. This is fundamentally the reason behind the changes in the way we search! Let’s take a closer look at how voice search, in particular, is changing the way we search.
The Nature of Voice Search
As voice search is becoming more and more popular, the language we use to search is changing. When searching through desktop using Google or other search engines, we may use non-sentence search terms. For example, ‘Italian restaurant London’. However, when we use voice search we speak to the device in full sentences. For example, we may say to Siri or Alexa, ‘Where is the best Italian restaurant in London?’
Can you see how these search terms differ? Later in this post, we will delve deeper and tell you exactly what you need to do in order to optimise your pages for voice search.
To answer the question ‘how is voice search changing the way we search?’ we need to talk about location and I’ll tell you why. 1/3 of every single search conducted on a smartphone is related to location, this means a lot of voice searches are too. Within this section, we need to consider two different types of location searches…
‘Near Me’ Searches – Here we are referring to searches that people do when they are looking to find a certain type of business nearby. For example, a searcher could conduct the voice search ‘fast food restaurants near me’. This is a search term related to the physical location of the searcher. If you own a fast food restaurant ‘near’ the searcher, then your business may be shown to the user in the search results. As long as you are easily discoverable of course. More on your discoverability later. For now, let’s take a look at the second location search type…
Directions – Voice searches asking for directions to a specific location are also on the up. ‘Give me directions to McDonald’s’ for example. Excuse the fast food references… Can you tell it’s nearly lunchtime? Anyway, stay focused. You need to bear in mind the fact that people are using voice search to find directions to specific places. This way you can make sure you can be easily found if someone is searching for your business. Especially if you have a physical shop that customers have to visit to purchase your products and services.
Both of these situations are referred to as ‘micro-moments’ by Google. Which is basically when a user turns to a device (usually a smartphone) to act on a need to; learn, do or discover something. If you can get your business in front of your target audience during these ‘micro-moments’ you are much more likely to gain a sale as they are actively looking for what you have to offer. Now, let’s take a look into the future…
The Rise of The Smart Speaker
I’m sure you’re aware of smart speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s home smart speaker. They are continually growing in popularity, with 39 million of these devices being owned in the U.S alone.
However, these devices generally don’t have screens. Therefore, you are only given a verbal response when you ask a smart speaker a question, not a list of clickable links like you are when you use voice search on a smartphone. Furthermore, smart speakers don’t give credit to where they have found the answer to your query either. For these reasons, they don’t hold many benefits for say, a web developer or content creator, as you don’t actually gain traffic through to a website. Despite this, it’s important to be aware of the searches conducted using smart speakers, as it’s only a matter of time before they become more advanced and are an important device to consider when it comes to voice SEO.
So, we’ve covered how voice search has changed the way we search. Now you need to know what to do in order to optimise your content for voice search!
How to Optimise Your Content for Voice Search
When you perform a search on Google with your voice, it is very possible that Google will only return one result. The robot answering you back after the search has been performed might say something like “Here is what I found about this on wikipedia.org”. Only one search result from the hundreds and thousands receives the privilege of being a featured result. To make this result your page, you would need to appear at or very close to the top of page 1 on Google. This makes being at the top of Google more important than ever before. So, let’s take a look at how you can optimise your content for voice search.
Answer Voice Search Questions
To appear at the top of Google you need to provide an answer to the searchers’ query. To do this, you need to put yourself into the searchers’ shoes and think about exactly what they would say to their smartphone when using voice search. They are usually in the form of full-sentences containing question words such as; ‘what, where, when, why and how’. Consider these types of questions and provide an answer to them to be in with a chance of appearing in there results.
We would be doing this answer to questions section an injustice if we didn’t mention Google’s RankBrain. I 100% guarantee that you have seen a result of this AI algorithm, perhaps without even being aware of the term RankBrain. Basically, RankBrain helps provide more relevant search results for users by ‘learning’ about topics by crawling relevant content on the internet. Below is Google’s answer box where results to certain questions and related questions are provided as a result of RankBrain.
The trick is to both the simplicity and the structure of your content. If you have a question as a subheading for example, then provide a clear answer to that question in the paragraph that follows. Now, I know it’s not always possible to answer the question immediately, often topics need some introduction. However, it is good practice to answer the question as soon as possible. This way, when Google is crawling the millions of search results it can easily recognise that your page is providing an answer to the user’s question.
Google My Business
Google My Business is exactly what you need to have to make sure that your business is found by location-related searches. Earlier, we highlighted how popular location searches are on mobile and that they make up a whopping 1/3 of all mobile searches! Google My Business is basically like Google’s business registration service. Registering your business on this platform is crucial to ensuring that you will be easily discoverable. Whether that be for ‘near me’ searches of just for directions to your business.
In case you’re curious, here is what a Google My Business listing looks like on Google search.
It’s also important to mention that you need to categorise your business correctly on Google My Business. You can choose from a number of business types and this is how Google will identify which searches to show your listing for. For example, let’s say you set your business category as ‘Bakery’. When someone in your area uses voice search to find “best bakery near me” your business is more likely to be shown to the searcher. Which is why this step is so important.
If you haven’t already, set up your Google My Business account now!
So, How is Voice Search Changing SEO?
It’s changing the way in which we need to write our content in order to be found. Our blogs posts and pages need to be speaking to website visitors not just telling them things. Which is why, in our opinion, voice search is changing SEO for the better.
Our advice to you would be to think about what your prospective customer’s micro-moments would look like. Remember, only the clearest and most helpful pages will be used to answer questions. So, if you have a question in a blog post, make sure you provide a clear and concise answer. And if you haven’t already, get set up on Google My Business Today!
We hope you enjoyed reading our post. If you did, keep an eye on this space for upcoming posts to keep you ahead of your competition