A Brief History of Voice Search
As far back as 2011 Google launched its voice search and Apple introduced Siri. This was followed in 2014 by Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazons personal assistant, Alexa. Google then introduced Google Assistant in 2016, followed by Google Home.
Initial figures showed Amazon Alexa to be the market leader, though Google Home is forecast to take the lead during 2020.
The introduction of these devices has led to a huge increase in queries on Google’s mobile app and Android devices being made with voice. Some of these stats can be viewed in a post from Search Engine Land from the back end of 2019.
All the leading tech research organisations are predicting the use of voice search to continue to expand. Earlier this year, Juniper Research predicted that 3.25 billion voice assistants were in use – a figure they forecast to reach eight billion by 2023.
The effects of voice on SEO
Voice is clearly changing our approach to technology and how we use the internet, but what impact is it having on search engine optimisation?
Natural Language and keyword phrases
Traditionally when searching using a keyboard or similar device a typical search would be “Plumbers Derby”. When a search is spoken however, the phrase will usually be longer and done in a more naturally spoken way. E.g. “Find me a plumber in Derby”. The latter is essentially a longtail search, i.e. it uses more words in the search phrase than a typical 2, 3 or 4 word search.
A Questioning Tone
Based on the above assertion that voice searches use a more natural language they frequently include a question with words such as “which”, “when”, “who”, “where”, and “how”. When working on your website content therefore you need to ensure it uses phrases which essentially answer the questions asked. Google will then often provide the required information via featured search snippets.
Google’s RankBrain, which was introduced a few years ago now, is an artificial intelligence system designed to recognise words and phrases which are associated them with similar words and phrases. I.e. you don’t have to put in the exact words or phrase to get the outcome you require from your search. Along with this Google now uses its BERT technology to understand what phrases mean without looking at specific keywords.
Although the phrase “near me” is already in use in written search it is used far more often in voice search. Hence your content definitely needs to cater for this being added to voice search phrases. E.g. “Find me a florist near Derby”
Steps to adapt your website content to cater for voice search
With voice technology impacting SEO in various ways, here are a few recommended steps to ensure your website adapts and hence responds to voice searches.
- Content should use long tail keyword searches (see above) that reflect popular queries used in voice search, linking into natural language.
- Google Voice prioritises websites with a fast load time, so you should ensure images are fully optimised, files are compressed, response time is reduced, and the site is fully responsive.
- Featured snippets are summary answers from web pages that are usually shown in position zero (this is the very top of the search results page above the Google Ads). To optimise content for this, include identifiable extracts to be featured and make content easier for Google to read by using Header tags and bullet points.
- Ensure your content contains local information to meet the increased search volume for local businesses with voice – Ensure you have a fully optimised Google My Business listing
Voice search is here and will only increase in its frequency of use. Can you afford not to adapt your website to respond to these searches, it’s definitely a way to get ahead of your competitors who do not optimise, that said it’s an easy way for you competitors to get ahead of you if you don’t make the changes in the not too distant future.