Forbes might have characterized Alexa and Siri as dumb and dumber thanks to their slew of snarky and often incorrect responses, but that hasn’t hampered the popularity of voice assistants in any way. If anything, the voice-based search continues to experience a massive surge. One of the primary functions of voice-activated personal assistants is to answer questions posed by users. More and more users are getting hooked to voice-activated devices leading to never seen before usage statistics. Currently, 41% of adults and 55% of teens use voice search on a daily basis. A world without voice assistants will soon be hard to live in, as 65% of Google Home or Amazon Echo owners have said they “can’t imagine going back” to the dark age of keyboard-based searches.
At present, close to 1 billion voice searches are conducted every month. From our smartphones and speakers to our cars and smart home devices, it comes as no surprise indeed that voice search has arrived and is here to stay. Love it or hate it, you definitely can’t ignore voice search. A whopping 97% of the population consists of active mobile users, out of which 40% use a voice search function at least once every day! Voice assistants are increasingly becoming people’s go-to buddies for all sorts of emergencies — right from setting alarms and controlling homes to tracking down family and friends.
By 2020, there will be 200 billion voice search queries per month. An area this voice-based search will deeply impact is SEO. The technology is poised to remain at the forefront of future SEO trends, as it gets faster and smarter, aiming to eventually replace keyboard searches. As a digital marketing agency, our team of Strategists and Analysts keep a close eye on Google SEO trends to understand the capricious nature of consumer behaviour with regard to search queries so that we can improve our services. So, how exactly has the pioneering technology of voice search impacted how, when and what people search for online and this, in turn, impacted what we know about SEO?
“Alexa, Why is Voice Search So Popular?”
We may not be as smart as Alexa, but we’ll try to share some valuable insights into how and why voice search has become so popular. For those late to the party, voice search is a speech recognition technology that allows users to search by saying terms aloud rather than typing them into a search field. While it may seem like a brand-new concept, it has been around since the 1990s. Some examples of early voice search software include programs such as speech-to-text and voice dialling. Today, voice recognition can be seen almost everywhere with the leading industry players being Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa, all of whom utilize voice search capabilities.
Why is voice search becoming so popular? Google did some research and found that the primary reason why people prefer voice search is simply that it makes their life easier, gets things done faster, and empowers them to get all the answers and information they need instantly. 41% of people feel that a voice-activated speaker is like talking to a friend or another person. Karina Portuondo, a lead creative writer for Google Assistant’s personality team says “People already treat AI assistants like humans. People anthropomorphize computers and develop a bond with them.” For example, a lot of people even ask Google Assistant questions like Do you want to be my friend? and Will you marry me? Voice search offers an exciting new and more human relationship with technology, from managing tasks, getting answers, keeping in touch and finding entertainment.
The Winner Takes it All: Voice Search Optimization
All right, voice assistants are fantastic, but why should your organization care about the massive surge in voice search? A survey by PwC found that 71% of respondents would rather use their voice assistant to search for something rather than physically typing in their queries. Voice search optimization is a huge source of potential traffic that not all organizations are aware of. One of the major appeal factors of digital assistants and voice searches is the fact that they lend an air of simplicity as compared to conventional search methods.
Companies must understand that voice searches matter and failing to adapt their digital strategies to incorporate conversational keyword phrases will make them obsolete and lose out on a huge chunk of the market share — there are nearly 1.5 billion assistant devices today and by 2023, 8 billion digital voice assistants are expected to be in use!
Voice search is a game of hit or miss. Imagine asking your virtual assistant a question. How does it respond? A simple keyboard-based search would display various search results: for example, a list of ten websites, three local businesses and a bunch of ads. So, how is a voice search different? Well, you get one result, one answer, from just one data source. Unlike traditional SEO, being ranked at the second or third position for a voice-based search isn’t going to drive much organic traffic to your website, if at all any. In this manner, voice search is going to make SEO much more competitive, as companies fight tooth and nail to ensure they show up first. By 2020, voice search will account for 50% of all online searches, so the level of competition will be as fierce as ever. Just imagine, half of all those voice searches potentially displaying only a single result! This is particularly important for local organizations. Why? Well, due to the fact that:
- 58% of consumers use voice search to find local business information
- 46% of voice search users look for local businesses daily
- 27% visit local business websites after conducting voice searches
Simple search queries will change over time, as 70% of Google Assistant searches are longer and conversational in ‘natural language’ simply because people speak much faster than they type. What can help your organization is the newly coined term voice engine optimization (VEO) for voice-based search engine optimization. VEO entails optimizing content, location, and brand information to increase the likelihood of powering voice search results. If you’re thinking that it’s too early to think about voice search, think again. The need for voice search optimization is now and a killer voice strategy combined with foundational SEO elements is the new recipe for successful SEO.
Voicing an Opinion: Buckle Up SEO, Voice Search is Here to Stay
“Voice search is not a fad. It has comfortably crossed the threshold of early adopters,” says Neil Patel. We agree. At GO MO Group, we believe in taking proactive measures to prepare for the upcoming changes in SEO and stay ahead of the competition. Since 2017, we’ve been investing our resources in studying the latest SEO trends, doing in-depth research and formulating effective digital strategies for our clients. Our team of Strategists, Analysts, and marketers understand the importance of targeting voice searchers, with more businesses gearing up for the voice revolution and the increased consumer adoption of voice assistants.
Chaitanya Kore, one of our top Digital Strategists has been doing research and development for over two years and specializes in monitoring and tracking upcoming trends that can potentially impact our strategies. For the last 1 year, he has specialized in voice search trends, researching analytical tools and focusing on voice search optimization in order to devise strategies that can drive traffic, conversion and user engagement for our clients’ websites.
“Voice search will be a revolution for digital marketers, but the impact of the voice search will depend on the industry. While at this point, there is no way to know whether voice commands will dominate search queries, what’s clear is that voice commands are poised to have a huge impact on search marketing. Due to its prolific use, even search engines like Google are now placing a higher emphasis on voice search optimization. The main point of SEO is to rank websites so that users can find the best results for their search query as quickly as possible. As an SEO agency, all the steps we take to optimize for voice search are beneficial to our client’s SEM efforts overall, so the decision to focus on voice optimization is an easy one to make,” says Kore.
So how do our SEO strategies capitalize on the voice search trend? Chaitanya elaborates, “It can be easy to get caught up in key tasks such as pinpointing long-tail keywords, common questions, and semantically-related keywords that are relevant to product and service offerings. While these are certainly critical to rank on voice searches, they cannot be prioritized over key SEO components such as page loading speed, website security, mobile friendliness, indexability, AMP, and structured data.” He continues: “When optimizing content for voice search, ask yourself the following questions:
- Satisfaction: Does my content meet user needs?
- Formulation: Is the content grammatically correct?
- Elocution: Is the pronunciation correct?
- Length: Is the fragment from the answer relevant?”
In his research, Kore found four key areas that an organization or online marketers should focus on in order to optimize a website for voice search:
- Keyword Strategy
- Local SEO Optimization
- Featured Snippets
Below we’re going to elaborate on these voice search strategies to ensure that your website stays on top of Google SERPs:
The Rise of Long-Tail Keywords
There’s a big difference in the way people speak and type. Naturally, voice search queries are longer and more conversational than text search queries with ‘natural language’. While typing in a search query on Google, a user looking to purchase a home assistant might type “home voice assistants.” However, with voice search, they may ask, “What is the best home voice assistant?” We recommend that marketers get in a room for a few brainstorming sessions in order to understand what kind of questions people might ask related to targeted keywords. Opt for long-tail, localized keywords instead of avoiding them and try formatting content in the form of FAQs. For this, Google search’s “People Also Ask” feature can be used to get more question ideas.
We recommend creating a keyword strategy that consists of conversational and long-tail keywords, as they will be most used when a potential customer conducts a search via voice. Traditionally, you may have ignored these keywords because of their length and low search volume, but this is no longer the case.
Intent-ionally Searching for Information
To optimize for voice search, you need to understand the user’s intent. Do they really want to buy something or are they simply looking for information? User intent tells us the reason why a person typed their query into a search engine in the first place. Sometimes the intent is obvious and clearly expressed in the query with words such as “buy,” “price,” “how to,” “what is,” etc. At other times, the intent may or may not be clearly expressed. If you’re building a content strategy for on-page and off-page voice search optimization, you might want to consider starting with mapping questions on the various points of your customer journey, to ensure that voice search is available at any stage the customer needs.
For example, let’s assume that a user is looking to buy voice-activated smart speakers for their home. Here are some of the questions they might ask depending on whether they have made up their mind to purchase a home voice assistant or are doing research:
- Awareness: “Which is the best home voice assistant?”
- Interest: “Can Google Home make a phone call?”
- Evaluation: “Who’s the smartest of them all: Google, Siri or Alexa?”
- Desire: “How much does Google Home cost?”
- Customer service: “Why isn’t Google Home responding?”
- Loyalty: “Which products work best with Google Home?”
Did you know, the average query length for text is 3.2 words? On the contrary, the average query length for voice is 4.2 words. While such long-tail queries are less competitive, they have higher user intent, which means that they’re more likely to convert even though they have fewer searches. While optimizing for longer key phrases, organizations are more likely to target an extremely niche segment of the market with incredibly strong intent. Why? It’s like shooting fish in a barrel: potential customers will land on your website simply because their queries were relevant to your content.
Thus, organizations need to optimize their on-page content for voice search considering every possible question a customer might ask. Once again, we’ll emphasize opting for long-tail keywords in your keyword strategy that may have lower search volume, but high user intent.
Serving Locally-Sourced SEO
Besides keywords and user intent, another variable to consider is local SEO. Optimizing your content for local search results for Google My Business (GMB) and location pages is key. 58% of potential customers actively use voice search to find local businesses near them. For the best results, combine voice search and local SEO with keywords that include geographic indicators. This is because most people use voice search when they’re driving or walking somewhere, and will most likely use the phrase “near me.”
Here are our suggestions for you to claim and optimize your local business listing:
- Set up a Google My Business (GMB) account with your name, email or address and phone number so that every user can find your business
- Update and optimize your local listing as per Google’s guidelines
- Use the phrase “near me” in title tags, meta descriptions, internal links, and anchor text
- Use location pages or create a location specific “About Us” page using conversational long-tail keywords and FAQs
- Optimize your local business schema markup or structured data for recommended properties such as business hours, address, departments, reviews, ratings, etc in the site’s source code
Ask and You Shall Receive Answers: Featured Snippets
Ever wonder how answers to queries are read out by a smart speaker or device to the user. These answers usually come from Google’s Answer Box also referred to as “featured snippets” or position zero in the search results right at the top of the Google’s SERPs. Due to SERP features like these, the number of organic links has dropped by 37%. It’s necessary to optimize your content so that it’s most likely to appear in the featured snippets and gain a competitive edge when it comes to voice search optimization as 40.7% of voice search results were from featured snippets. The key to appearing in the Answer Box is to ask: “have I provided the best answer to the question?”
Featured snippets tend to work well for searches that include: FAQs, how-to guides, calculations and conversions, health (particularly symptoms of illness), question-based queries, requirements, and processes. Content is more likely to be displayed in the featured snippets for the following reasons:
- Solid SEO and organic rankings
- Optimization for long-tail, conversational and question-based keywords
- Short, easy-to-read and understand paragraphs
Chaitanya recommends the creation of fresh, regularly updated content that is organized to answer specific questions in a concise manner (40-55 words) or in a question and answer format. A sure shot way to drive conversions is by creating high-quality, compelling content (the 9th-grade reading level at most) about your products and services, that will answer any existing questions on your Google My Business’ Questions and Answers section.
Watch Neil Patel’s SEO tips for voice search optimization:
Now that we’ve gone over the key voice search optimization strategies, let’s take a look at some statistics about how people are using voice-activated devices and the market leaders in smartphones and smart speakers.
The Loudest Voices: Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant & Siri
While the rapid consumer adoption of smart speakers has catapulted voice assistants into the consciousness of users, they still have plenty of ground to cover. There are nearly twice as many monthly active users of voice search technology on smartphones. This is largely due to the fact that in the US, smartphone adoption is about four times higher than that of smart speakers. While smart speakers are growing in popularity, their market penetration is still less than that of smartphones which stands at 88.5%.
Apple’s Siri leads the pack of voice assistants on smartphones, while Amazon Alexa leads on smart speakers and Google Assistant is a rising number two in both categories. Currently, there are twice as many monthly active voice assistant users on smartphones as smart speakers.
Watch the video for a glimpse at how users can easily carry out tasks such as making restaurant reservations via voice search on their smartphone:
Google found that 72% of people who own voice-activated devices such as speakers claim that they have become a big part of their routine. Moreover, Forbes claims that 30% of all website searches will be conducted without a screen by 2020. When it comes to the smart speaker market share, surprisingly, Google is playing catch up to Amazon. Amazon stands at 51%, while Google and Apple stand at 21.6% and 9% respectively. Earlier this quarter, Microsoft and Amazon announced a partnership that would allow Alexa and Cortana to talk to each other for tasks such as accessing work calendars, booking meetings, reading work emails, and most importantly, shopping on Amazon.
So, who are the industry players dominating in the field of smart speakers?
- Alexa: The new Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Plus, and Echo Spot
- Google Assistant: Google Home, Mini, and Max
- Siri: Apple HomePod
Amazon Alexa is leading the pack of voice-activated home speakers:
- Amazon Alexa’s skill count surpasses 80,000 worldwide
- Devices with Alexa built-in doubled to 150
- Over 1 million customers have registered to pre-order Echo Auto
- There are now 28,000 devices compatible with Alexa
- Alexa engineers improved the comprehension of user requests by 20%
- Billions of new facts have been added to Alexa’s knowledge base
Here are some intriguing statistics that show how voice search is impacting SEO:
- 76% of smart home speaker users conduct local searches at least once a week
- 53% perform daily searches
- 57% of smart home speaker owners have made purchases using their device
- 24% of smart home speaker owners use their device nearly every day
- 29% use it several times a day
Most smart-speaker owners opting for local voice searches conduct the following types of searches:
- 54% make food and drink reservations.
- 46% inquire about product prices from a local business
- 40% want to find out if a certain product is available at that business
- 35% book a beauty appointment
“Ok Google, Will Voice Be the Future of SEO Trends?”
“Utterances are the new hashtags.” — Albert Creixell, Partnerships Head, Amazon Alexa
By now, it’s quite clear that voice search is the next big frontier for search results. As the number of adopters of this technology continues to increase, it can be expected that voice search will be equivalent to, if not surpass traditional keyboard searches in the near future. So what does this mean for organizations? When it comes to traditional searches, users can easily scroll through the top ten results and then go on to the next page. Obviously, they will not have the patience to sit through and listen to all these results and then want more. They’ll want one answer only, which will have to be the most relevant to their question.
What’s clear to us as an SEO and pull-marketing agency is that the time for organizations to optimize for voice search is now. It’s essential to be ready for future developments as we explore the voice command capabilities of tools like voice assistants on smartphones, smart speakers, and more. Meanwhile, the major players in this space: Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple, are constantly developing new features to promote the use of voice search. Google has plans to add voice query data to Search Console so that companies can have actionable, personalized insights into how users are already reaching websites through voice search.
In order to embrace the upcoming revolution and always stay one step ahead of their competitors, organizations need to start working on their voice search strategy… yesterday. The benefits of implementing a successful VEO strategy will be visible for all to see with businesses and brands being discovered far and wide, sales shooting through the roof, and the ability to offer customers the ultimate user experience. Simply put, we believe that better voice search SEO translates into higher organic traffic, better engagement and more brand visibility for the organization.
We’d like to hear from you! Let us know which topic you’d like to read about next: artificial intelligence is impacting SEO maybe? For now, tell us what voice search optimization techniques do you think are the most effective and which one are you going to try first? We hope you found this post informative and we welcome all feedback and suggestions regarding our blogs. Please get in touch with us if you have anything to say!
Shweta Dabholkar, Sr. Content Writer
An aspiring novelist with several years of writing experience in digital marketing and SEO. BBA in Finance, PGD in International Business and Creative Writing, as well as an MA in English.