2017 – The Year of Voice Search
Voice Search on the Rise
2017 is shaping up to be the year of voice search. According to a recent study, close to half of teenagers and adults in the United States use voice search every day, and that number will only rise as time goes on and technology improves. During a recent keynote speech, Google representatives noted that 20-25% of mobile queries are now made via voice search. Another study released about a year ago offered more supporting evidence for this trend. It showed that 40% of smartphone users had just started using voice search in the last six months. This sends a pretty clear message to SEOs – optimizing for voice search should be on your list of priorities if you’re interested in staying on top of the competition this year.
Who’s In The Game?
While voice search on mobile phones is really starting to take off, it isn’t brand new. All of the major players in the digital sector have teased out features for their respective digital assistants on desktop and mobile for the past several years. Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana, and Google has Assistant. However, when Amazon introduced the Echo in 2015 (and later it’s pint-sized sister product, the Amazon Dot), they really shook things up. Many people’s homes are getting connected in new ways, and more people are making use of voice search than they were previously with just a mobile device. Google’s launch of the Google Home will make for some stiff competition for Amazon, and being integrated with the Google search platform directly means it will have a massive advantage over the other products in this category. Having a voice search function on your phone was certainly useful, but not nearly as immediate and satisfying as being able to speak aloud from anywhere in a room and have a digital assistant tell you about traffic, weather, news, play some music, or tell you how to get a stain out of your favorite shirt.
Forming the Question
People write differently than they speak. To further that notion, over the years people adapted to how search engines worked by writing their questions in different ways. Just think about it – when searching for a pizza joint in your town, would you load up Google and type out “Where is the best pizza in Richmond, VA?” – or would you simply type “pizza richmond va”? Google’s made several updates to their search algorithm in the past several years that have improved things greatly from a user experience perspective. The Google search platform is able to understand context, meaning, and intent from longer search queries. Results are even better when it knows who, when, where, and with what device a search query is coming from. This means you can now search by typing out complete sentences, and perhaps more importantly, by asking questions in the same way using voice search. Why is this important? Since Google’s algorithms have made great strides in understanding what people are asking, it means your website’s content needs to reflect that. It needs to do more than just match up with keywords and phrases – it needs to answer people’s questions.
Optimizing for Voice
So – what can you do to try to tap into these new features and have your product or service come up when people search using their voice? Besides having great content and all the typical SEO best practices in place, the answer is pretty simple, but not necessarily easy to pull off. Make sure you’re creating content that answers your audience’s questions. If successfully pulled off, your content may be displayed as a featured snippet in Google – essentially a rank zero search result and a Holy Grail of sorts for SEO. Featured snippets are designed to give clear and concise answers to a user’s questions. So when creating your content, think about the types of questions your audience will be asking when they’re looking for a service, product, or information. Design your content around these types of queries and you’ll have a head start on your competition. This isn’t restricted to written content – featured snippets can display text, lists, charts, tables, images and make use of Google’s Knowledge Graph. Google is all about improving their user’s experience, so do your best to do this as well and create your content accordingly.