How Voice Search Is Changing the SEO Landscape and What You Can Do to Prepare for It

If you can call yourself tech-savvy, then you’ve at least used your phone to search for something online. And it’s either you had typed the keywords in Google’s search bar or used voice search. While the former is the known, conventional way of doing things, the latter is out to take the lead – sooner or later.

An article on Oberlo, for instance, states that by the end of 2021, around 122.7 million internet users in the US will be using voice search. Imagine that?

As a digital marketer or business owner, you’ll need to know how voice search can influence the way online marketing strategies are built and how this impacts search engine optimization. In South East Asia, voice search grew by 120% during the 2020 quarantines according to the 2020 e-Conomy report by Google and Temasek.  To stay ahead of the competition, capitalize early on in optimizing for voice search, because it’s already changing the SEO game.

Working at a digital marketing firm or SEO agency warrants awareness of market trends, and before you can optimize a business or website for voice search, you’ll need to ensure that there already exists some foundation of an online presence.

Before diving into its influence on SEO, let’s discuss the essentials of voice search by looking into the: What, Why, When, Where, Who, and How.

  • What is voice search? Voice search, at its core, enables a user to vocalize a search query. IBM’s Watson speech recognition initiated the production of voice technology devices in the 2000s, which Google and Apple followed up later on by launching Voice Search and Siri, respectively.
  • Why is voice search important? It’s different from a browser search, and alongside the rise of mobile phone users, the popularity of voice search increases as well. Moz writes about how nearly 50% of consumers have been using it for general queries online.
  • When is voice search used? It’s important to consider that not all businesses can completely rely on voice search, as it will still depend if it’s suitable for their marketing. To begin with, voice searchability isn’t going to replace text search – it serves to augment. A local business, for example, can benefit from optimizing for voice search by creating content that targets the usual queries for available goods or services nearby.
  • Where is voice search critical? For narrower user intents with long-tail keywords, voice search offers the potential for greater searchability. With clearer and more defined search queries, users are not using voice search to browse. More often than not, these audiences are closer to the bottom of the sales funnel.
  • Who is using voice search? Mobile users are the primary users of voice search. In fact, 20% of all mobile searches are done via voice-enabled search technology.
  • How important is voice search? As a digital marketer or business owner, the opportunity to capitalize on voice searchability is growing, simply because it’s easier and more convenient than typing in the search bar for specific needs. From seeking out directions to quick fixes, and moments of curiosity – voice search helps make your life easier.

How is Voice Search Changing SEO?

Given the growing trends and increasing adoption rate in the use of mobile searches, the impact that voice-enabled technology on SEO is certain. This means that businesses relying on digital marketing solutions are either going to experience prosperity or difficulty, which is why knowing the influence of voice search is essential. For SEO analysts, digital marketers, and business owners, voice search can help you survive the competition, reach your marketing goals, and grow revenue.

Here are the different ways voice search is changing the game:

  • It dictates user language and defines search context.
  • It empowers long-tail keywords that serve to find a specific answer.
  • It rewards websites through higher results in the SERP.
  • It helps local businesses by making them more accessible.
  • It helps e-commerce flourish the same way local businesses can benefit from its prevalence.

Language and Context

For voice technology to be functionally effective, it has to have the capacity to understand language. This need for comprehension encourages users to speak in such a way that their voice-enabled tech device or platform can understand their query. As opposed to a browser search, wherein a user types a fragment of two to three keywords, a voice search dictates that a user conforms to certain syntax and grammar constructions. This is why a voice search is usually done through phrases or sentences with at least one complete thought.

Jeff Bullas writes about how 70% of voice searches often have a conversational tone to them. For example, a typical browser search for informational content on digital marketing will probably read something like, “digital marketing meaning,” but a voice search enables a user to ask (with less effort), “What is digital marketing?” And this is another pertinent aspect of its impact on SEO – the context of user intent and keywords.

Question words, such as the 5Ws and 1H, that are built around core keywords help define user intent. Providing concise and accurate answers to such search queries can help a website get a featured snippet from Google. This is why marketers have to understand the context of a user’s intent behind a voice search, so they can distinguish the need for beefier content and straightforward answers.

Google’s RankBrain and Hummingbird serve to provide users with relevant search results through an understanding of semantics and natural language. This can only emphasize how voice search can influence SEO through the context of content relevancy – Google will rank pages higher when a website can consistently provide value to the user based on their search intent.

Keyword Lengths

Voice search enables a user to combine more words to find what they’re looking for, and this makes search queries via voice much longer than the typical browser search. According to Backlinko, voice searches have an average of 29 words, which then prioritizes the targeting of long-tail keywords. Oftentimes, these search queries place users closer to the conversion stage in the buyer’s journey.

Search Rankings

As mentioned earlier, Google rewards helpful content by ranking them higher on the SERP, and 75% of results for voice searches appear in the top three spots, effectively making their way into featured snippets and rich answer boxes.

The impact of voice-enabled tech on local search is undeniable. In fact, users are thrice more likely in need of something within their vicinity whenever they use voice search. And nearly 60% of these users discover businesses near them through voice search. This just goes to show optimizing for location-based queries like, “Where can I find a pad thai restaurant in Oregon?” can truly help a business reach their target market

E-Commerce

Just as local businesses can benefit from user intent for voice search, e-commerce businesses can also capitalize on its growing popularity. Search Engine Journal details how 72% of users made a voice search through a virtual assistant, while 35% of users did the same through a smart speaker. Online retailers should take this as a sign of greater things to come, and invest in digital assistants, so they can cater to more customers as their online presence expands their reach.

Now that you’re aware of voice search and how it can affect your SEO campaign, here are seven tips to consider should it be applicable to your digital marketing strategy.

  1. Keywords:  Research on voice search keywords by taking your core keyword and plugging it into your keyword research tool. Structure your long-tail keyword on variations closer to natural language, which are more associated with voice search.
  2. Headers and FAQ’s:  Optimize your website content for voice search by providing concise answers to user’s search queries. One way to do this is by formatting your content like an FAQ page. Use the question keywords in headings and provide the answers as the body of the text right below. Google will recognize the content as of value, being direct and succinct.
  3. Schema:  Optimize for featured snippets as well, because more than 40% of voice search results are also found in Google’s featured snippets. You can do this with your content by formatting it as structured data. This involves using bulleted and numbered lists, tables, and schema markup to showcase the value of your content.
  4. Content:  Produce high-quality video content for certain aspects of the business, such as instructional demos or product reviews. Make sure to optimize the meta tags as well. This helps provide value to a search query, particularly, for practical needs like how-to’s.
  5. Google MyBusiness:  Optimize for local voice search opportunities by making it easier for your target market to find you. You can do this by keeping your Google My Business profile up-to-date, so when a potential client makes a voice search for “digital marketing agency near me,” your business is readily visible and accessible.
  6. Authorship and EAT:  Become a subject matter expert in your niche and improve domain authority, because Google considers the quality of its results and wants to provide content from authority sites. You can achieve this by having engaging and value-adding content, high-quality backlinks, organically grown social sharing, and seamless user experience. This helps increase the chances of your content becoming a voice search result.
  7. Core Web Vitals:  Calibrate page experience and improve on speed, because user experience, such as the rate at which your website loads, is also a ranking factor with Core Web Vitals. With the average speed of a voice search result clocking in at 4.6 seconds, it shouldn’t take a page that long to completely load.

With these seven tips, try to create an SEO campaign that includes voice search in the strategy. Ideate, create, and implement accordingly. And after 90 to 180 days, review the results and recalibrate if necessary. Data is key here, so make sure to maximize all the tools at your disposal.

It’s also helpful to note how foresight is critical in SEO. Relative to your business goals, digital marketing is a constantly evolving industry, and the awareness of voice search and its potential to help businesses grow is an opportunity any marketer or agency worth their salt can’t afford to miss.

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