How Voice Search Can Help To Improve Your SEO Strategy
When watching a sci-fi film, the amount of people who talk to robots is staggeringly high. It seems that in the future, everyone will be talking to either physical robots or artificial intelligence software.
Although this kind of interaction used to be relegated to the silver screen, it’s becoming far more commonplace today. With virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa always within reach, consumers are becoming conditioned to the idea of asking a machine for answers rather than typing them on a computer or mobile device.
This adoption of voice-operated technology is changing the game, but nowhere more profoundly than with search engine optimization (SEO). Now, instead of a user typing a query into Google, they may ask Siri or Alexa to conduct the search on their behalf. This shift has some pretty significant ramifications, so brands have to adapt or get left behind.
With that in mind, let’s power up our smart devices and see how leveraging voice search technology can improve your overall SEO strategy.
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What is Voice Search?
Voice search is the process of using speech recognition software to turn a voice command into a search query.
One example of a voice search query could be something along the lines of, “Siri, what is the square root of 64?”
Once a user enters a command vocally, the program digitizes their voice into a text command and uses search engines like Google to find an answer.
Typically, the program will respond in kind, meaning it will use an automated voice system to reply with words rather than search results. However, the user can access these results if necessary.
How Does Voice Search Work?
Speech recognition technology has been around for a while, but it always had a hard time understanding the complexities of spoken language.
For example, homonyms can trip up the software if it doesn’t pay attention to the context of the question.
So, if someone is searching for a website called Reel News, a voice search program may interpret it as Real News and provide incorrect search results.
Thankfully, voice recognition technology has improved a lot over the last decade or so, and software can better understand human speech patterns and context.
While voice search programs still aren’t perfect, they’re far more useful today than in years past. The fundamental way this tech works is like this:
A user asks a question, often preceded by a prompt to trigger the program to start paying attention (i.e., Hey Siri or OK Google).
The program has to filter out background noise, including any other words spoken by someone nearby.
Audio recognition technology translates what the user said into digital text data, using an extensive vocabulary database.
Once the text has been processed, the program then puts it into a search engine (i.e., Google).
Finally, the software either reads a snippet of the top search result or notifies the user of what they found (i.e., I found this answer from the web).
This entire process can take a few seconds, and the program will speak out loud.
Some devices like Alexa can’t show search results since they don’t have a screen, but other voice search software like Siri can pull up results pages in real-time.
These programs use machine learning to adapt to each user and understand the context of each question.
Basically, the more an individual uses the software, the better it gets at determining what’s being asked and the types of answers the user wants.
Stats on Voice Search
Now that voice recognition technology is more reliable, consumers are taking advantage in a big way.
Here are some top stats about the industry to illustrate how dominant voice search has become and how it will shift the landscape in the future.
By 2019, the majority of US adults (58.9 percent) had used voice search before.
Globally, about a third of the population (27 percent) uses voice search technology on mobile devices.
The demographic that has adopted voice search the most skews younger, with an age range of 18 to 34. Seventy-seven percent of individuals in this demographic have used voice search on mobile phones, and 34 percent of them use smart speaker devices like Amazon Alexa.
According to Microsoft, over two-thirds of people (72 percent) have used a voice search assistant like Cortana or Siri in the last six months.
Voice search results typically come faster than traditional search methods, with an average return of 4.6 seconds.
Finally, the average voice search result is only 29 words long.
How Do I Use Google Voice Search?
As the largest search engine in the world, it makes sense that most voice search assistants use the program to answer user questions.
However, you can skip the middleman and use Google voice search directly. This way, your query goes to Google immediately, meaning you can get answers faster and utilize the high-tech software to your advantage.
There are a few ways to utilize Google voice search, depending on the device you’re using. Here’s a breakdown of the steps involved for each option:
Using a Browser
When you open the main page for Google, there’s a small microphone icon to the right of the search box.
Click on it, and it should open the voice search page. You’ll need to enable your computer’s microphone to conduct a search, but you can save these settings for faster use in the future.
Using a Mobile Device
Whether you have an Apple or Android device, you can open your Google app and go to your settings.
Under the voice setting, click “Hey Google” and enable voice match. Now, you can simply say Hey Google when using the app, or you can click on the microphone when conducting a search.
Using a Google Home Device
These devices are built exclusively to receive voice commands, so you should just be able to say “Hey Google” when you’re within earshot. Once you do that, the device should turn on listening mode, and then you can provide a search query.
As you might expect, there can be some confusion or chaos if you’re using multiple Google-enabled devices at once.
For example, if you have a Google Home device and ask a question into your computer or smartphone, you may receive the answer from your Home, not your phone.
So, be aware of your surroundings when using the voice search setting.
What are the Benefits and Downsides of Voice Search?
With so many people taking advantage of voice assistants, it’s clear to see that there are some tangible benefits to the technology.
However, as with everything, there are also some setbacks, even as voice search becomes more intuitive and easier to control. Here are some pros and cons of this system:
Pro: More Convenient – Most people use virtual assistants because it’s much easier to ask a question verbally than it is to type the text into a search bar. Also, for those times when your hands are occupied (i.e., while cooking), you can still surf the web or find out important information.
Con: Misunderstandings – Although voice technology has come a long way, it’s virtually impossible to understand all the various intricacies of human language. Plus, as new words and phrases enter the modern lexicon, voice assistants will need new programming to keep up. For now, most requests can get inputted correctly, but you may have to ask the same question multiple times to get it right.
Pro: Better Accessibility – Those with vision impairments or other health problems can utilize virtual assistants for tons of services and features. For example, it’s easier to set a timer, check the time, or make (and receive) a phone call. Overall, voice search and command settings have opened up a new world of possibilities for those with special accessibility needs.
Con: Limited Search Results – Since you’re relying on a program to conduct a search on your behalf, it may not always find the right information. Also, since it’s only reading off the top result, you don’t have the option to browse through to find what you need. Typically, this problem occurs more with complex questions.
Pro: Smart Syncing – Virtual assistants like Alexa or Siri can pair with other internet-connected devices to create a smart network within your home. Everything from your doorbell to your heating and cooling system can be controlled via voice commands, bringing us one step closer to the utopian future that pop culture has always promised.
How Does Voice Search Affect Your SEO Strategy?
As a company, you know that SEO marketing is essential for driving traffic to your website.
Since users are asking a question verbally, they’re more likely to use filler words and complete sentences.
So, instead of typing something like “best Italian food near me,” someone may ask, “Hey Google, what’s a good Italian restaurant nearby?”
Now, longtail and conversational keywords are more important because they can help you reach the top of the search results.
You should still focus on typed keywords with lots of traffic, but keep in mind how the results change when you add the extra words.
More Focus on Snippets and Fast Answers
Google Snippets are becoming more prevalent as the search engine strives to bring speed and efficiency to the search process.
A snippet is a small block of text that pops up on the search result page, often separated from its hyperlink. The purpose of these snippets is to allow a user to get an answer without having to leave Google and visit another site.
Since voice assistants are looking to provide quick and simple answers, snippets will only become more valuable in the future.
Overall, you can’t afford to take long-winded approaches to article content anymore. Get to the point and make it snappy.
More Stress on Reaching the Top Spot
When conducting a voice search, the program won’t give you an answer from the third or fourth search result. Instead, it will read whatever the first result is, even if it’s not entirely related to your query.
We’ve always known that the top search results get the lion’s share of web traffic. However, when users are conducting voice searches, almost all of the traffic goes to the first position.
Also, keep in mind that Google prefers to list Ads customers before organic search results.
So, it’s often worth the extra money to invest in Google Ads, so you can be in the top spot without spending tons of time and energy on getting there.
More Room for Error
Until voice recognition technology becomes perfect, it will always have significant limitations when trying to understand the context of a query.
So, when optimizing for voice searches, you have to consider how assistants like Siri may misinterpret what the user said or why they asked a specific question.
In some cases, you may be able to provide the correct answer, even if the assistant was technically looking for something else.
By understanding user intent better, you can create more valuable content that will show up in voice search results faster.
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