In 2014 ComScore famously stated that half of all search will be voice by 2020. Five years on and there are no recent updates on the current voice search usage. In 2016 Google revealed that 20% of searches were voice activated. Although voice search has increased significantly, with the rise of voice owned devices, it is unlikely the 50% prediction will be reached in the next year. So do you need to think about voice search SEO?

Let’s look at the voice search market

Voice search is mainly run on the following search assistants:

Google Assistant = Google Search Results
Apple Siri = Google Search Results
Amazon Alexa = Bing Search Results

With global smart speakers sales topping 100 million in 2018. And 72% of people who own a smart device speaker using the device daily. Voice search is here to stay.

Google’s Search Algorithm

In 2013, Google launched a major algorithmic update — the Google Hummingbird. It started considering the user intent and contextual meaning of queries. A shift from keyword focus to natural language processing.

This update was later followed by Google’s RankBrain in 2015. An update which focused on providing the most accurate result. These two algorithmic updates allowed for Google to better understand all types of search queries. And focuses on the semantics and the wider contextual relevance of the user’s query.

In this voice activated search on Google. We asked ‘How old is Ed Sheeran?

We then asked ‘When is his next tour?’

Google automatically remembered we were talking about Ed Sheeran and provided us with a result relevant to our last query.

“For businesses to get the most out of voice search they need to strive to be as assistive as possible. This means considering not only what questions consumers will be asking, but also how, when and where they are asking them.” Alessandra Alari, head of search at Google UK.

How does voice search affect SEO?

In essence, there are no hard and fast rules on how to optimise for voice search. In theory, if you follow the advice for SEO your website will be optimised for voice search. However, there are some additional points to consider.

Are people likely to use voice to find you?

Voice search is likely to be more popular with certain sectors. According to eMarketer consumers are more likely to use smart speakers to place items in their basket and use a traditional screen to complete the transaction. Logically smart speakers are used for playing music or podcasts, listening to the news, asking for weather and traffic and asking general questions. However, industries such as taxis, takeaways or local services are likely to be most used on voice search. For example, find me an emergency plumber in Manchester is a more likely voice search term than a local builder, which will usually result in more research. So consider your services and the consumer’s position in the buying cycle for your product, to analyse if voice search will have an impact.

Rich Result

Google focuses on a ‘rich result’. One which provides the user with the most relevant result to the search query. So what constitutes a ‘rich result’?

Longer tail queries

The way we use voice assistants to search is very different from traditional written search queries. Voice search demands are more likely to be natural conversational phrases, rather than a few keywords. User’s are more likely to use longer tail queries, driven by natural language. Therefore it is important to optimise your website to appear under longer tail natural phrases.
In order to find long tail keywords relevant to you use Google Keyword tools, Google search suggestions and answer the public. These will provide information on keywords which are searched on Goolge and ideas of questions users may ask.

Users are more likely to ask questions

Voice search queries are often specific questions such as, “can you find a good local Thai restaurant in Manchester?” the text equivalent query a user would likely type would be (Thai restaurant Manchester), you can clearly see how we are likely to search differently. With this in mind we would recommend creating blog posts containing relevant voice search queries.

Local based searches

Local based results are popular in voice assistants. In order to ensure you’ll show up in these localised searches, it is important to claim and optimise your local business listing in GoogleMyBusiness. This includes ensuring all your details are correct and that you’re utilising the optimal business category and appropriate photos.

SEO specific voice search techniques

According to backlinko there are a number of specific variables which can impact voice search results:
Pagespeed – The average voice search result page loads in 4.6 seconds (52% faster than the average page).
Secure website – 70.4% of Google Home result pages are secured with HTTPS.
Social Media engagement – The average voice search result has 1,199 Facebook shares and 44 Tweets.

Final Thoughts on Voice Search

Although voice search is on the rise, the increase is slower than originally thought. Unsubstantiated studies now believe voice could hit 30% of results by 2020. As technology moves on it is inevitable that voice will become a major part of our lives, however the treatment by Google so far is relatively consistent with standard SEO. Hopefully this blog has been useful in understanding voice search. To find more about our SEO services – get in touch.