A look into the future of search
Google voice search is a growing phenomenon that looks poised to mix things up for website owners, SEO experts and digital marketers alike.
Although not completely mainstream yet, voice search is coming into its own this year and staying ahead of the curve is going to help you capitalise on new search marketing opportunities that are sure to arise.
To help you do this we’ve got a little more info on voice search and how you can expect it to change the way you do business in the near future.
What is voice search?
Google’s voice search is a service that allows users to search Google using just their voice – no typing or keyboard required. Remember Siri (Apple’s voice assistant)? This is a similar vibe, except it’s geared for Google search.
While voice search is not new to Google (the idea was originally announces in 2011), it’s really starting to reach a fever pitch this year. Google have done a lot of work on the system and the voice and word recognition is much sharper.
Today, Google’s speech recognition error rate is only 8%, (down from 25% last year), which means no more speaking into your phone like it’s partially deaf and brain damaged.
Why do we care about voice search?
Voice search is gaining traction and, mostly, we care because it’s going to change the way people search.
If people are searching differently then anybody with a website is going to be affected. It’ll present new challenges, new opportunities and new ways to get found on Google.
Voice search is gaining ground.
Earlier this year, Google’s Director of Conversational Search, Behshad Behzadi presented a keynote in which he said that Google has seen the ratio of voice search growing much faster than text search.
The graph below shows the results of a voice search survey done by MindMeld last year.
The rise of voice search is going to have an effect on how customers search for products or services and how they browse the net, which makes it very relevant for digital marketers. It’s time to start getting familiar with it.
How voice search differs from text searches:
Okay, so now for the interesting bit. Voice search changes the way people interact with their device and the way they browse the net.
Although it’s still pretty early, there have been tests and studies conducted which help us get a better understanding of what we’ll be dealing with in the near future.
Here’s what we know so far:
- Voice searchers use longer queries
If you don’t use voice search yet you might find this surprising, but thanks to the sophistication of new speech recognition software, people are more conversational with voice search than they are with text.
For example, people search for things like: ‘Who plays hooker for the Queensland Reds?’ when speaking, but just ‘Reds hooker’ when using a keyboard.
Microsoft did a study of their own voice search software, Cortana, and confirmed that voice searches tend to be longer through the tail.
If you’re only targeting 2 – 3 word keyword phrases you might want to try adding some longer, voice-friendly phrases to the mix.
‘Sydney Car Dealer’ becomes ‘What’s the best car dealer in Sydney?’
‘Used Cars Sydney’ becomes ‘Where can I buy used cars in Sydney?’
‘Buy a car Sydney’ becomes ‘Cars for sale in my area’
Our recommendation is to do your due diligence with keyword research and don’t neglect those long tails.
- People primarily use voice search on mobile
The challenge of typing on a small screen, combined with the fact that you’re likely to be on the move when using your mobile make voice search more popular on mobile than desktop.
Virtual assistants like Siri were also born on mobile devices (and we’re used to talking into our phones), so it makes sense we’re more comfortable voice searching on a mobile device.
- If you get a lot of traffic from mobile, be sure to keep an extra sharp eye on developments in voice search
- As your mobile traffic grows you can expect voice search to follow, make sure you’ve optimised for it
- Voice search means more question words
People are particularly prone to using voice search to ask questions, which means including words such as who, what, when, where, how and why.
Below is a graph showing research found by Microsoft’s study of Cortana:
- Optimise your copy for question searches
- Include question words in your keyword phrases
- Identify your highest value keyword phrases, optimize for them and adjust bids for these terms, for example:
- Voice search means more natural language
People using voice search tend to use more natural language than they would if they were typing the search.
This means they include more filler words such as ‘the, an, a, I, me, is, to’ and write out longer searches. In local search we are also seeing more ‘near me/ near here’ instead of named area searches – for example – ‘Thai food take aways near me’ instead of ‘Thai food take aways Sydney’.
The use of natural language is exciting for marketers because it reveals intent more clearly and marketers are able to get a better sense of the search than we can from the 2 or 3 word keyboard searches.
- Include filler words (the, an, a, I, is, to) and question words as they are used frequently in natural language
- Make sure you’re addresses are up to date and your business is marked in Google maps
- Consider tailoring your ads for the searches which show greater intent
- Voice search impacts 3rd-party listings
Owing to the likelihood of voice searches being question phrases, voice search will turn up more featured snippet answers in the SERPs.
This makes it more important to optimise your content for these snippets. Find out how to do it here.
As voice search grows SEOs, digital marketers and website owners will need to keep abreast of the changes in the way people search.
Looking at the information gathered so far, it looks are though you’ll have to do your due diligence when it comes to keyword research, local optimisation, question phrases, natural language and optimising for the snippet box, but this list is bound to grow as we learn more.
Keep a close eye on developments as voice search is poised to give the digital industry a major shake up.
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