Voice search – using a search engine by speaking as opposed to typing – is positioned to change search engine optimization (SEO) in big ways. While the difference between voice search and traditional search is simply a matter of how search terms, or queries, are put into a search engine, the consequences of this are huge. Businesses will have to adapt to these changes to continue competing for organic traffic or get left in the dust of technological advances.
Already, 1 in 5 searches on Android devices are voice searches – in 2015, voice searches were at “statistical zero.” Voice search is quickly gaining popularity on mobile devices, marking a shift in the way we interact with our devices and the way businesses will have to find potential customers online.
Voice search may have a seemingly outsized impact on SEO, but it’s important for businesses to understand the changes it will bring and consider ways to remain competitive online.
Search Queries Will Change and Marketers Will Have to Adapt
Regardless of device, when we use voice search we use different words than if we were typing on a keyboard. Typing is more time consuming, so we type shorter, simpler phrases. For example, if someone is looking for new shoes in a traditional search, they may type “red shoes.”
From a marketer’s standpoint, this is a very vague search. The same person using voice search may be more conversational and say something like, “Where can I buy red high heels on sale near me?”
You can see there’s a wealth of information on user intent there, which I’ll discuss a little later in the post, but the difference in the style of searches is clear. The conversational nature of voice search makes the search terms longer which, from a marketing perspective, are called long-tail keywords.
Voice search will make long-tail keywords much more common than they are now. It’s important to note the long-tail keywords that we type into a search engine aren’t typically conversational like they are in a voice search.
The conversational nature of voice search queries is the result of a larger trend of search engines desiring to be more interactive with their users. When you think about it, Google makes most of their revenue from ads. The problem with that is in today’s world you get bombarded by ads everywhere you go in the digital realm. When you go to Facebook or Twitter, or your favorite news site, or even your favorite game, you’re being shown ads – and you’re spending much more time on these sites than a search engine, where you search for something and then leave once you find it. It makes sense that search engines are altering the way they interact with users, trying to keep them on their site, to maintain ad revenue.
On top of this, one thing we don’t typically think about because Google is so dominant, is that search engines have to compete with one another. They do this by providing the best experience to the end user as they possibly can. When a search engine can provide an immediate response, mimicking a conversation, it’s quicker and easier for an end user, and ultimately a better experience.
You can see this happening today. Featured snippets are the boxes in Google results that provide you an answer without you having to click on a link. Local pack results are when a map with 3 local businesses shows up in your search results. These types of search results are powerful, as they attract the attention of users and are essentially the new 1st position in search engine results pages (SERPs).
On mobile, voice search is 3x more likely to be a local search than text. Voice search, through local searches and conversational queries, is a driving force of the interactive nature of search engines – a phenomenon that’s making the first few positions in SERPs even more important than they’ve ever been before.
Voice search is a subtle difference from the way we’re used to using search engines, but it is part of a much larger change in the way search engines are working. This is providing exciting new capabilities and ease of use for the end user, but it can be a complicated landscape to navigate for marketers trying to keep up with these changes.