Until fairly recently, most internet users typed out their questions and queries into the little bar provided by search engines, whether they were using a desktop, phone or tablet. Since text was the vehicle that most customers were using to reach businesses, it provided us with some reliable strategies for search engine optimization.
Now, times are changing. Maybe you’ve heard the statistic that by 2020, half of all searches will be done through voice. In 2018, 58% of consumers using voice search to discover information about a local business in the last year, and 76% of smartphone voice users conduct local searches at least once a week. Looking at these numbers, 50% of searches being voice by 2020 almost seems too conservative of an estimate.
This leaves many businesses looking for the cause of this shift is happening, and the simplest answer is technology. As technology advances, so does the accuracy and ease of using voice enabled devices. It’s this device saturation that’s spurring the surge in voice usage that we’re seeing today.
Voice is great, but it does bring some significant changes in how we need to approach search engine marketing. Let’s look a little further into how voice search is changing the future of SEO and how businesses can adapt.
The Connection Between Voice Search and SEO
We know SEO as the practice of optimizing your website based on strategies, including keywords, that make it easier for search engines to recognize your site and content as relevant to a user’s search query. The goal is to rank as high as possible in search results for your targeted audience.
The basic definition of search SEO hasn’t changed, but the increase of voice search is shifting how we approach it. Say a consumer is at home on their desktop planning a trip to New York City. They’ve heard there are some great bistros in the Big Apple, so they type in something along the lines of “best bistro restaurant NYC”. The results will be based on that particular set of keywords.
Now, say they were just browsing when they did that search and didn’t make any decisions about where to go. Once they’re actually in NYC, they’re in a cab and they’re starving. Instead of typing, they speak into their phone and say, “I’m looking for a bistro in New York City with the best appetizers.”
Not only was the length of that query longer, but the keyword structure was completely different, and it was done from a mobile device; factors that will definitely influence what appears in the SERPs. If the bistros that showed up during the first text search aren’t optimized for voice, there’s a good chance those restaurants will miss out on this customer, even though they’re actually in the city, as opposed to when they were hundreds of miles away.
Preparing for Voice Search Starts with Recognizing How Voice Users are Different
Before we start adapting SEM for voice search, we first need to ask what makes a voice user different from one that searches using text. As illustrated above, often they’re the very same person, except their motives are different.
For example, voice searches are often local. Mobile voice searches are 3 times more likely to be location based than text searches. When a customer is out and about, they’re more likely to use voice because it’s convenient and safe, especially if they’re in a vehicle or are in a new area where they want to stay focused on their surroundings.
This means that marketers need to really start looking at how to best optimize local SEO for the voice user. By the way, we’re speaking directly to the small, local businesses that are most reliant on local traffic.
Something that goes hand in hand with local traffic is mobile usage. When a customer is in your neighborhood and doing a search, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be coming from a mobile device. For local businesses, this means putting a greater focus on mobile optimization moving forward.
Finally, voice search is different because it’s users are more conversational. Text has brought us to the point where we’ve become accustomed to broken language and abbreviations to shorten the work of delivering a message. Voice is different. It takes very little effort to talk into a speaker, so search is becoming more conversational and true to natural language patterns.
How to Start Adapting Your Approach to Search Engine Optimization
Now we can take everything we’ve talked about above and apply it to adapt SEO for voice search. We’re only beginning to see the impact of voice on SEO, so our strategies will change over time as voice search matures. Today, the focus is on starting to make the changes that will help your business thrive in a voice search culture.
Here are 3 easy strategies to get you started:
- Focus on mobile optimization. This includes investing in mobile responsive design and paying attention to mobile user experience factors, such as load times and optimizing tools like Google My Business.
- Research long-tail keywords. The high performing keywords you come to depend on for SEO and PPC might not pack the same level of performance with voice searches. Start by adopting relevant long-tail keywords into your strategy.
- Optimize pages where voice search is a natural fit. Some of your pages contain content that works seamlessly with voice search. For example, your FAQ page. You can rework the content on this page to present questions in the exact same way that voice users are asking them.
This is an exciting time in digital marketing; technology is changing the landscape of SEO and this is great for both customers and businesses. Voice search is just one element of this, and now is the time to start adapting your strategy. We offer the specialized local SEO services that can help you become more visible to voice search users. Contact Knowmad today to learn more about what we can do for you.