I used to be someone who dutifully entered everything into Google’s search box when I needed information. However, I’m using my smartphone more and more to execute voice searches. It turns out I’m not alone.
According to Comsource, 50% of all searches will be by voice by the year 2020. More voice searches means that more users are accessing the web while on the go. The trend going forward is also for businesses to see more mobile traffic and proportionally less desktop traffic.
Many websites are already getting a majority of their traffic from mobile devices. I want to take a look at some trends driving voice search and some ways you can adapt your web properties to make them more accessible for voice searchers.
Websites Should Be Mobile Friendly
Mobile friendly website design is not a luxury anymore. I’ve noticed business will have a plunge in revenue in their marketing campaigns if they’ve not optimized their site for mobile traffic. I always make sure my sites are optimized for mobile before doing anything else.
I also want to make sure that you have the right type of mobile content, including AMP pages, to help keep my website up to date with changing usage patterns.
Voice Search Is Big … And Getting Bigger
Voice search is the next big thing in SEO. Voice has become one of the fastest growing search options across all demographic age groups. Speech recognition provides the foundation for natural language understanding that powers voice search.
Speech recognition actually understands the meaning behind words. All this magically happens in the background of revolutionary speech-understanding technologies like Google Now, Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s Siri.
Voice search is on mobile, and it’s also on the desktop with the rising popularity of Cortana. These cool technologies that been skyrocketing in usage in recent years.
- By 2020, it’s estimated that over two hundred billion searches per month will be voice searches.
- Google said that voice search represents 20% of all of their searches in 2016.
- Apple’s Siri responds to over two billion voice queries every week.
- Echo, Amazon’s voice enabled speaker, has become the fastest selling Bluetooth speaker in history. Over one million units sold in the first quarter of 2016 alone.
- It’s competitor, Google Home, has also made strong inroads into homes. Google Home is driven by a closed API (as opposed to Amazon’s open API). The nice thing about having an open API is that anybody can get data into Amazon’s platforms.
A good trend to watch to see how much voice search is growing is to keep an eye on its usage in the home. Alexa and Google Home encourage people to perform voice searches when they’re at home.
Cortana and Apple’s Siri assistant are also getting people used to dictating searches on both their smartphones and desktop computers.
Why Do People Use Voice Search?
The appeal of voice search is undeniable. I like it because it’s hands-free and the results are immediate. Many smart televisions even come with a voice-search enabled remote.
Instead of scrolling through menus, I just have to push the voice search button and dictate what I’m looking for. It also seems like other digital content providers are starting to offer their own voice search options.
The digital cable television provider Xfinity has integrated voice search into their remote controls. It won’t be long until voice search has ubiquitous input possibilities throughout the home.
What’s interesting about voice search is that voice isn’t just looked at by consumers as an inferior way of searching for information. People aren’t wishing that they were back at their desktop computers to search, and they’re not using voice search to deal with down moments when they have extra time to kill.
They use voice search when they drive to a restaurant or as they’re walking to a store. Those searches take on new contexts because they need information that will help them with a particular engagement they’re about to have.
It turns out that voice search is getting used in the most central aspects of daily life.
Voice Search Is Interactive
Voice search will be offered through applications that are already beginning to leverage artificial intelligence to help make decisions for people. Imagine a scenario where I drop my car off at work and see that my windshield wipers are starting to go bad.
I start leaving a memo to my personal assistant (be it Amazon Alexa or Apple’s Siri) and say something like “my wipers are going out and perhaps I should look to replace them.” After dictating that to my digital assistant, I promptly forget about it and go about my daily work activities.
This is when the artificial intelligence starts to kick in. It’s acting with data and talking my car. It’s looking at weather reports to predict when there’s a storm coming.
If I’m plugged into Amazon’s ecosystem, then it’s ready to make a purchase for me. I’ve just ordered a pair of compatible windshield wipers ahead of the coming storm.
It knows that I was talking about fixing a part of my car. It made a calculation that I probably needed to take that action because there was a storm coming.
In the future, that could potentially be delivered by Amazon out to me via a drone. The A.I. in the voice memo I entered earlier could potentially offer me a local store nearby that will source the part for you.
The good thing about interfacing with a local store is that I can pick it up on the way home.
Ranking for Voice Tip #1: Use Logical Schema Markup
Make sure your website uses structured data. Write your content in a way that’s semantic and contextual. This means that the old days of keyword stuffing are over. Someone is not going to necessarily do a voice search for “plumber Hackensack.”
Home assistants like Alexa and Google Home will hear phrases like “how do I unclog a kitchen sink?” If I execute that search, my location is provided to the search engine. The search engines will also easily parse that I’m asking a plumbing question.
Location data is becoming critical to properly returning relevant voice search results. If there is a plumber close to my location, then Google will return someone who is close to me that it knows is a plumber.
That’s where semantically marked up plumbing content can help local plumbers rank for a local voice search. If a plumber doesn’t have their name, address and phone number on their landing pages (and they don’t use Schema markup to advertise that they are a plumber), then Google will probably not think that the person is a plumber.
Proximity-specific voice searches ignore them if they don’t clearly markup their occupation and location details.
Ranking for Voice Tip #2: Use Consistent NAP Details For Local SEO
Voice search leverages proximity to geo-target a user. That means local SEO and voice SEO go hand in hand. I always make sure that our clients are using consistent naming conventions when publishing their contact details out to local aggregators. That means that you stay consistent with the basic NAP stuff: name, address and phone number should all be consistent across a business’s listings.
A business can’t get these details wrong when they’re trying to get voice search traffic. Businesses are relying on those voice commands that people are entering into their phones to point interested people to their businesses.
You’re going to want to double check if the search engines are delivering your content with the right NAP details. If you get those details wrong, then you’re going to lose that user.
Many of these companies throughout the local SEO ecosystem are pulling data from each other. They need to validate it, but it is a very complex process. There are hundreds of sites, and each one places a particular business listing within one of the hundreds of different categories.
There’s more than just local online directories. There are navigation systems like Uber; there’s also search engines as well as very specific mobile applications for local niche audiences (like where to find the closest clothing resale shop).
All of these collation services pull in what a business is putting out there on the web. That’s why it’s important to triple-check information for consistency before sending it out.
Local SEO should form one of the pillars of optimizing for voice search. Promotion involves looking at local content marketing opportunities. Stores should look for local advocates and influencers. They can help start talking about their experiences with your brand.
Getting links back to your site and even brand mentions of your local business are still going to be important for local SEO. Backlinks still help websites rank, and good things happen when local people are talking about your brand.