What is Voice Search?
The future of search is an ultimate mobile assistant that helps you with your daily life so you can focus on the things that matter.
– Behshad Behzadi (Google’s Director of Conversational Search)
Voice search means a user being able to speak into a microphone on a smartphone or device and generate search results just by speaking. Voice search was initially used to answer quick questions but now can perform complex searches, open apps, complete tasks Apple’s “SIRI” function has been around for a number of years but as the algorithms advance and the error rate for returns begins to plummet, voice search is on the rise, and fast.
A prime example is Microsoft launching their Windows 10 operating system in November 2015. In the first three months after launching, 33% of search queries came from Windows 10’s search function “Cortana”.
Cortana from Microsoft, Echo from Amazon and Siri from Apple have all been dubbed Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPAs). All the tech giants have their own IPA, and as this segment matures and the technology advances, the possibility of entire queries or transactions occurring purely within the IPA is very real. Integrating IPA’s into your long-term business plan would be a smart decision before being left behind, as IPA’s could even end up bypassing websites altogether once the speed and UX of searches, purchases and analysis on IPA’s supersede how we operate today. Basic voice search is only the beginning of the interface that could drastically change how users interact with your company.
Google conducted their own study on the current status of voice search prevalence with adults versus teenagers in the US (55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search more than once a day) and there were some interesting results based on four vital questions:
What are we using voice search for?
43% Call Someone
38% Ask for Directions
31% Help with homework
30% Play a song
20% Find out movie times
13% Check the time
40% Ask for directions
39% Dictate texts
31% Call someone
11% Check the time
11% Play a song
9% Find out movie times
Asking for directions is prevalent for all ages, as is using voice search to call contacts and play music.
When do we use voice search?
In the Bathroom
While Watching TV
Why do we use voice search?
It’s the future
Makes me more efficient
What you wish voice search could do?
45% of Teens and 36% of Adults wished that voice search could be used as a pizza delivery tool
34% of Teens and 33% of Adults wished that voice search could be used to find the remote
34% of Teens and 44% of Adults wished that voice search could be used to find their keys
The current SEO techniques are based on text search. When people are entering a search query they’re not using natural language. For example; if someone wanted to know who the Prime Minister of Australia was, they would write something akin to “Prime Minister Australia”. However if they were using voice search they would ask the question “Who is the Prime Minister of Australia?”
How does voice search differ from text search?
Voice search will be very different from the current SEO techniques because this use of natural language affects the way keywords are used. Here are four significant points of difference between voice and text search, and what you can do about them!
Stronger intent (understanding the buying cycle)
This is maybe the most important area that voice search can be capitalized on. A regular text search for a range of different intentions might be “apple laptops Melbourne”.
Asking a question in a conversational way immediately signals intent. Depending on whether the question is what/who > how > when > where; signals what stage of the buying cycle they are on, and how ready to act the user is. Having this information and targeting these keywords has impact on bid strategies and creative.
As a result of this, figuring out your highest value question phrases and bidding higher on those phrases. For example “Where can I get an Apple Laptop?” compared to “What is an Apple laptop” shows the user is ready to buy compared to just in the research stage.
Query length for text searches is far shorter than what you’d expect using natural language. Around 1-3 words are used and users try to use the most relevant words to get the desired outcome in a direct manner.
Users Natural language is more prevalent, so a search such as “Barcelona travel”, might be “What are the best Barcelona holiday packages?”
Text Search usually targets 1-2 word keywords, but for the rise of voice search it could be worth testing out more natural and voice-friendly keywords such as “Best Barcelona holiday packages” instead of “Barcelona travel”.
As mentioned earlier, “Prime Minister Australia” would be used in text search, without using question marks or “who” or “what”.
Voice search to find the answer “Who is the Prime Minister of Australia?” you would just ask the question naturally like you would in a conversation.
Adding question keyword phrases to your keyword list as a test, depending on your industry and the nature of searches surrounding your service. For example for the Barcelona package example, they sample phrase could be “What’s the best Barcelona holiday package?”. You could also use negative keyword question phrases such as “What’s the best restaurant in Barcelona?” or “What’s the time in Barcelona?”.
Impact on direction searches
Voice search is rapidly increasing, especially when trying to find directions. Mobile voice search is three times more likely to be directions based than text search.
Almost a third of smartphone searches relate to finding directions to a location.
Voice search needs to be considered and prioritized for local businesses, and keywords need to be used with natural language, and in certain cases, language that would be used by locals. Bidding strategies on keyword question phrases such as “Where is XYZ Pty Ltd” can be altered to recognize the different stage of the buying cycle they’re at.
What does the rise of voice search mean for SEO in the future?
In order to adapt to the proliferation of voice search, what actions should SEO firms take?
Using long-tailed keywords
Long-tailed keywords are more specific keyword phrases which would be used to hone in on users that are closer to purchasing your product. This means describing your product or services as detailed as possible, and outlining the benefits in line with your users search patterns and buying cycle. These work well with voice search because users speak in natural language and more likely to be descriptive than text search.
Optimising keywords to natural speech patterns
Making your content more conversational and more natural will help your returns with voice search. Even putting in some slang or lingo could help with SEO rankings, and could rank for keywords your competitors aren’t going for by trying to remain too formal.
Integrate more question/answer content on your page
FAQ’s aren’t anything new, but integrating more question and answer areas into your website may help rank for natural language queries via voice search. Instead of just having an FAQ page, perhaps include a few question and answers on location pages or product pages for example. Not only would this better rank for conversational voice search queries, it would also help improve the user experience.
Look out for natural language queries in your sites’ analytics
The data isn’t available just yet to show what users are getting to your website directly through voice search. But filtering through your search traffic reports on Google Analytics, you can look for natural language queries, which can assist with developing different keywords, or keyword question phrases after getting an idea how people search for your business or industry.
Consider how people naturally ask questions
Seems obvious, but putting yourself in the shoes of the user and wondering what questions and phrases they might use with natural language, may be able to help inform your SEO strategy going forward.
In a future where Intelligent Personal Assistant’s will continue to advance and the error rate for voice recognition technology continues to plummet, implementing a plan for Voice Search into your SEO strategy must be considered. Basic keyword insertion won’t bode well for the natural language that will dominate voice search in years to come.