It is time to talk about voice search.
There have been some pretty alarming articles out there over the past year about how voice search is ringing the death knell for SEO as we know it. They claim that organic traffic as a whole will plummet and disappear and the reliability of SEO will be kaput.
I have never been much of a reactionary. In fact, I am more of the optimistic sort. So when I started hearing the panic mounting on the topic, I decided to start really looking into it myself. Surely, it can't be that bad for SEO.
Well, I would say it is not anywhere close to bringing about the death of the strategies we already know. If anything, they are giving us further opportunities to optimize and improve our tactics to meet new demands.
That is the nature of technology, especially on the Internet. It evolves over time and becomes something new and exciting. We should be looking forward to the future of voice, not fearing it.
Here are some interesting stats to consider:
- One in every six Americans now has a smart speaker of some type.
- An incredible 40% of adult users are utilizing voice search at least one time per day.
- There has been a 128.8% year over year increase in the use of voice activated assistants.
- Consumers are now using voice assistants for holiday shopping, with one in four reporting it a part of their shopping experience.
And the most amazing of all:
It is projected that by 2020, at least half of ALL SEARCHES will be voice searches. Wow!
Getting Ready For The Voice Revolution
Maybe the headline there was a little dramatic. But looking at the stats, it is hard to deny the impact voice is going to have on the search game going forward. How do we get ready and make sure we are taking advantage of the changes?
The first step is to realize that this technology has everything to do with a wave we have already been riding for years: mobile search. If you think back to ten years ago, the need to optimize for both mobile search and accessibility was on everyone's minds.
Now we are in the same place, only with an extension of the same concept. Mobile search is huge, just as we always knew it would. Now search through voice is a feature to once again draw our focus.
Let's start there. Our websites (and content in general) needs to be fully optimized for mobile-friendly use. That includes:
- Having clearly defined topic parameters
- Using a dynamic (adaptive / responsive) website
- Keeping plenty of well researched, flowing long-tail keywords and phrases in your content
Maybe you've done all of this. Maybe you think some of it is unnecessary. The best way to know is to check that your website is actually mobile friendly and Google has a tool for that (of course).
Optimise for Questions
This is going to help you a lot when it comes to establishing your keyword strategy going forward. Think of how you would do a voice search. Would you just search a random keyword, for example, “chocolate pie”? Probably not.
What you would do instead is ask Google Assistant/Siri/Whatever, “How do I make chocolate pie from scratch?” Or maybe a simpler phrase like, “easy chocolate pie recipe.”
Approaching it from this angle, we can see how easy optimizing for voice really is. We know how we speak and how we are going to interact with a voice search ourselves.
As far as stats go, most people are using natural questions when searching using voice:
It is a natural way of communicating for us because we automatically give the device some level of sentience when using an assistant, AI or voice feature. Why? Because when we speak we use a different part of the brain than when we write.
Really Push Those SERPs
It is going to be obvious by this point that I have become obsessed with featured snippets. I am only becoming more so with voice search reaching its peak. Those unique results are primed for voice search because most of them answer questions. And we already covered how questions are going to be one of the more common formats for searches through these mobile and speaker assistants.
I am personally of the opinion that the best way to optimise for featured snippets is through answering questions. The People Also Ask feature is a big part of why I feel this way. It is an ever-expanding collection of questions with drop down menus where the searcher can find information quickly. Unlike the featured snippet on the top of the page (which are limited by space and only has room for maybe one or two), PAA's can keep going and going and going!
I am going to once again suggest to everyone that they start using structured markup.
Google has a special schema-based project for voice search allowing publishers to record their content in voice and the search engine will read it in response to the voice query.
The project is called Speakable and at this point only Google News publishers are eligible to use it. Their content guidelines are actually very interesting whether you are using speakable or not, as they give us a glimpse into what Google considers voice-friendly:
- Content indicated by speakable structured data should have concise headlines and/or summaries that provide users with comprehensible and useful information.
- If you include the top of the story in speakable structured data, we suggest that you rewrite the top of the story to break up information into individual sentences so that it reads more clearly for TTS.
- For optimal audio user experiences, we recommend around 20-30 seconds of content per section of speakable structured data, or roughly two to three sentences.
SEO Is Vital For Voice Search
SEO is not being killed off by voice search. If anything, it is thriving because one cannot exist without the other. We need to optimise to include voice alongside other strategies that bring us brand permanence.
That doesn't mean voice won't seriously impact SEO. We can see above that it very much will. It will just be in largely good ways. We are the ones who need to once again adapt in order to thrive in our new search environment.
Do you have any tips for optimising for voice search? Let us know in the comments!