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The New Norm: Voice Search Effects on SEO

The Effects of Voice Search on SEO

Voice search is the newest trend and something SEO specialists should keep an eye on. Study after study show the imminent effects it will have on search engine optimization moving forward.

Voice search makes technology for people a lot easier to use. My mom loves using voice search because she doesn’t have to find the space bar and Siri has become her new personal assistant. Regardless of where my mom is and what she needs, she can press a button and ask her phone for directions or to call me at a moments notice- hands free!

The trend of utilizing voice search is increasing momentum with more than 50% of smartphone owners are utilizing voice as of 2015. Today almost 25% of all search queries are performed using voice search.

voice search new norm venus morales pinckney marketing

Wait, what’s voice search?

When you ask Google “what is the first day of summer?” or request Siri’s help on getting red wine out of a silk blouse, you use voice search.

Voice search is using your voice and voice assistant (Siri, Google Home, Cortana, Alexa, etc.) instead of typing what you are looking for. For example, if you are looking for a place to have lunch, but happen to be in your car, a voice search would be used to look up your options.

Below are the top four voice assistants and the devices they are compatible with. As you can see, Siri and Google dominate.

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  • Apple Siri – Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod
  • Google Assistant – Google Home, Pixel phone, Android 6.0+ devices, iOS and Android apps
  • Microsoft Cortana – Windows 10, Windows phone, Xbox One, iOS and Android apps
  • Amazon Alexa – Echo

As of 2020, ComScore has estimates voice search will make up 50 percent of all search. Here are 4 ways online marketers can prepare their business to be included in voice search results:

1. Value the importance of semantic search

Google uses a variety of factors besides keywords to deliver search results based on what Google thinks the person is looking for.

This is called “semantic search”, this is just a fancy way to say Google is getting better at understanding what people are searching for.

Here’s an example of semantic search in action. When you search [Wine Bar Charlotte] from your computer in Charlotte, Google understands that you’re probably looking looking for bar times in the city.

Before semantic search, this would not have made sense on the keywords alone. But, semantic search knows chances are higher that you’re looking for movie times near you.

Because voice search is even more conversational, your content needs to account take that into consideration. Optimizing for a variety of related, long-tail keywords will help you get optimal results.

2. Cater content to customers

Speaking of content, optimized content in the era of voice search, the days of boring-to-read, keyword-stuffed content is OVER.

Write for your customers. Let’s think for a moment how my mom would ask a question to her phone. She isn’t talking like a robot, she is having a conversation. Writing content in a way that people speak will make your content more usable for search.

Listen to how your customers talk about your business via social media and reviews. Don’t use marketing jargon and instead, use normal language that your customers use themselves.

Remember that voice searches on mobile are three times more likely to be local, so be sure to optimize the content on your site.

3. Mobile-first site is a MUST

If your site doesn’t load quickly or looks wonky on mobile, people will leave (also known as bounce). Keep a high bounce rate for too long, and your rankings will decrease. Having a mobile-friendly site is even more important when it comes to voice search.

If my mom is hanging out with our family and wants to find a fun activity for us all to do together, she whips out her phone and asks Siri fun things to do today in Charlotte. Next, her phone populates a few options relevant to her location, her search industry, and whatever other apps she is logged into. If you aren’t optimizing your site for mobile, you won’t be a part of the conversation.

People today are primarily using voice search when they are driving and a close second is when they are multi-tasking.

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Voice searches started on mobile, and more than half use voice search while driving.

When my mom is hanging out with her grandkids, it is much easier to ask Siri a question than to waste her time looking at the screen when she could be focused on her family. The convenience of getting information quickly and accurately with voice search takes the extra steps out of searching for something manually.

4. Directories are even more important for local businesses

An overwhelming (97%) of consumers use search for online reviews of local businesses.

Consumers don’t search for your local business; they search for the “best [type of business].” Directory and review websites rule these searches, so CEOs need to be thinking of them as search engines in their own right.

Having an optimized Google My Business listing is no longer an option if you want to survive voice search, especially on Google devices.

The more complete your listing is (with photos, positive reviews, and owner responses) the more likely you are to show.

Voice search is becoming the norm

All signs indicate that voice search won’t be going away. It’s much easier than typing and everyone is invested in making voice search work, from Google to Microsoft.

The improved accuracy of voice search is in large part why home assistants are catching on. It’s no coincidence that voice search recently reached the human threshold for accuracy at the same time all these home devices exploded in popularity.

Google Machine Learning chart about achieving word accuracy


Voice search is changing the way people navigate

The use of voice search has allowed my mom to find new information quickly, make online purchasing easier than ever, and provide her with more convenient access to local businesses and opportunities.

Due to technology like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant; businesses are having to adjust their approach to SEO and how they are connecting with their ideal customers.

Here are some ways to recap how voice search is influencing SEO:

  1. Semantic search importance.
  2. Content needs to cater to customers.
  3. Mobile-first and site speed is a MUST.
  4. Directories are continuing to be relevant for corporate and local businesses.

These are only a few examples of techniques you can take advantage of to help improve your business being included in voice search results. For a deeper understanding of SEO,  download our SEO Guidebook.