The whole concept of internet marketing revolves around “search” – about getting found during a search, about optimising our websites so that they are search-friendly and about evolving with the changing trends in the way people search for topics over the internet. Whether you design your website exquisitely or craft your content elaborately, in the end, it’s all about your pages getting found when someone types in those specific keywords around which you had optimised your content. It’s all about your content being relevant to the person looking for something that is of interest to him.
Voice search and the younger generation of internet users
We are so dependent on Google that it’s now inconceivable to think of a world without it. But when I look at the way my 6-year old kid using voice-activated Google Assistant for searching his favourite cartoon movies on my mobile, I cannot help wondering if indeed it is the future of how people will use the search function on mobile and other devices. I belong to that orthodox, old-school where I would rather type my queries directly in the search bar than using the voice search which anyway seems to throw up a lot of irrelevant web pages and content. But for my 6-year old, it’s all about pressing the home button long on my mobile device which activates the Google Assistant for him and without him having to bring out the Google app from its designated folder. So neat, and so convenient for him. And strangely, I have noticed that his searches are mostly accurate to the dot! Google finds his articulation of words better than mine and provides him with content relevant to his search despite his using very short sentences, and unique combination of words that only he and Google seem to understand.
The advantage of a voice search
People are now more tech-savvy and it is seen that they prefer convenience over anything. The biggest advantage of a voice search is the increased convenience and the hassle-free operation for the users. For old people and people with limited mobility, voice-enabled devices are a boon. With Google’s featured snippet (the snippet that appears right above the search results), when a user asks a particular question, the answer is spoken back to him. This means he gets the exact answer to his question without him having to read it on the device screen. Isn’t this great? Moreover, when we speak, we can bring up to 150 words in a minute but with typing, we can barely put 40 words in the same time. In case of a voice search, the search intent of the user is more clear and certain, and this allows the search engine provide the most exact results. The answer to a voice search query is more relevant to the user’s needs. This is not the case with a text-based query where the result sometimes throws up several unrelated pages.
Ways in which voice search impacts SEO
While there is not much difference in the fundamental search algorithm between a traditional and a voice search, the query types seem to be different in a voice search. Voice search seems to make the keywords take a backseat because users tend to speak in a conversational way. The queries are unique and very specific, and being the conversational type, the prediction of the user’s intent is more easy and accurate. I have also noted that the queries in a voice search are mostly question types. Some voice commands take you directly to websites, which in a way is the same as typing in the address bar and not the search bar. Since we humans tend to speak to a comparatively lower standard than when we write, the search data is likely to be more granular than ever before. The impact of voice search on SEO would be:
- It makes long tail keywords more important than ever. With written queries, we are likely to make our searches as short as possible. Text-based searches tend to use a specific convention: broad keyword search term + one or more clarifying search terms. However, with a voice search, people use natural, conversational language, even if it means using more words. In a voice search, the queries are more direct and are mostly questions starting with words like what, where, how, when, etc. Hence, the focus will be more on the long tail keywords.
- The content becomes more conversational. With voice, users employ a conversational tone when asking questions. Hence, it makes sense to optimise the content using a conversational language. This means the content needs to be written the way people talk. It’s all about humanising the content rather than making it keyword-focused.
- It increases the importance of local relevance for many businesses. Voice searches are relevant to local businesses and mostly use a place or a “nearby” or “near me” reference. If your business includes local interest, it makes sense to use all the local signals to let the search engines more familiar with your business. That is why it’s necessary that your Google My Business page is up to date and that your website is listed in the local business directories.
- It makes optimisation for mobile devices important. Since most searches are made from mobile devices, and hence it is important that your website is optimised for smartphones and tablets. Websites need to be a responsive design for mobile, the videos need to be formatted to fit mobile screens, the page load times need to be faster. You might even need to do away intrusive pop-ads or drop-down navigation types. The focus will be on user experience.
- The use of attractive snippets become more relevant. For a voice search, the featured snippet that gets actually read out during a search is very important. And the reason is obvious. This calls for more attention to writing the snippets with more focus on its readability. After all, featured snippet means free advertising and authority for the website. Thus, your aim will be to get found in the featured snippets of search pages.
- Question phrases are more common in voice search. As said earlier, with voice search, there is an increased usage of question phrases. In these phrases are included conversational words like “who”, “what”, “how”, “where”, “when”, etc. This is the reason including frequently-asked questions (FAQs) will be helpful for providing the perfect match for voice queries.
Is voice search overhyped?
Among the many who are the first-generation mobile users, there are those who belong to the old school that favours typing texts instead of using the voice search. After all, many of our mobile experiences are private and giving a voice command in public places for a simple search is a complete no-no for some people. There are many query types that will never be spoken aloud, and so it’s not as if the text-based search would be completely overhauled very soon by the more trendy voice search. In fact, some people talk of voice search as a white elephant, a fad that will only fade in time. Many feel that the way it is being talked as a game-changer is a mere over-exaggeration. The argument is that even though a voice search normally employs more words in a query, Google, and other search engines will still be looking for keywords and will be using the same database as that of the traditional text-based search.
The writing on the wall – voice search is here to stay
Voice search is something that is very difficult to ignore right now for the digital marketers. People are increasingly using voice search for reasons more than a fad and to actually perform things – research subjects, keeping oneself updated with news and other happenings, to better organise their lives, to plan trips, to listen to music, to look for reviews, etc. With marked improvements in voice recognition technology, those annoying misinterpretations during a voice search will become a thing of the past soon.
Today we are on the cusp of a new revolution taking place in the way people make searches on the internet. There is absolutely no doubt that voice search has arrived and is here to stay. With more and more people using smartphones, the use of voice as the primary mode of search will increase only. This ‘trendy’ practice of voice engagement is going to present many challenges and at the same time new opportunities for online marketers. Does this mean the end of the traditional search application? No, not really. Voice-enabled technology is not going to entirely replace the traditional search systems but for the internet marketers, it only makes sense to exploit this growing trend. Every year, the number of voice searches are only increasing and among the new users are those who belonged to the so-called orthodox, old-school who preferred text search over voice search. Users are also becoming more sophisticated in how they use the voice search mode. Voice search is a revolutionary change taking place in the digital space. It makes sense to be prepared for these massive change that’s going to change the way we make searches on the internet. Are you ready?
So, what do you think of this new development? Is it really a game-changer or is it merely a fad? Please do leave your comments below about what you think of the need to realign our SEO efforts to accommodate the voice search trends.