The Rise of Voice Search
First, the rapid increase in smartphone users morphed the mobile search world.
Now, they’re asking questions.
Not too long ago, businesses and search engines scrambled to adapt as smartphone users changed their behavior, demanding nimble mobile sites that could intuit their shopping, navigating, and other needs on the go. Smooth mobile interface adjustments and performance quickly became a matter of digital survival.
Now, voice search is flooding the digital conversation. Users have begun demanding on-the-go answers, but they’re asking them out loud—in full sentences. This new era of conversational queries presents unique challenges to optimize sites and search results.
So far, reports on voice searches have been sparse, but there are indications that voice searching is here to stay.
- Just this December, a study by MindMeld showed that the number of voice-based users increased by 40% in the last six months
- This past February, 2016, Gary Illyes of Google echoed this trend in a Virtual Keynote
- In early May, Google’s John Mueller said that Google has been internally discussing how to report voice searches to webmasters, similar to how they’re able to report on desktop versus mobile searches
We know voice searches are rising, but just who is asking all the questions? A Global Web Index study from Q4 of 2015 showed that one in five users were using voice search on their mobile devices.
It appears that the younger the users are, the more apt they are to use voice search. But the results for those above age 35 indicate that these demographics have also begun to appreciate the ease of voice versus thumbs.
So, the results are in: from inquiries about smart refrigerators to wearables to Amazon Echo, there’s a din of user voices of all ages asking questions and expecting answers—accurate, intuitive ones at that. As more users talk out loud to perform functions and get information, search engines and sites sprint to adapt with capabilities that interpret complex sentence structure, decode misspellings, and respond intelligently.
How are we searching?
How are we using voice searches? Most of us use voice search as though we were asking a local friend for guidance. We’re growing ever more comfortable with the idea of the seamless simplicity of voice recognition to accomplish our tasks and find answers. Almost unconsciously, we modify our behavior with our personal assistant devices, talking naturally and conversationally to accomplish our to-dos.
Most often, voice searchers seek help with immediate needs and getting something done. “Where is the closest grocery store?”
How to Prepare, Adapt, and Optimize for Voice Search
For the past several years, we’ve known that search engine algorithms have evolved intoConversation rather than Keyword searches. Our approach will shift to predicting what potential customers might ask, focusing on natural and conversational queries that they might say out loud, such as:
“Show me sample floor plans.”
“What are the lease terms?”
Optimizing for voice search then requires continuous updating to ensure that content matches the intent of searches–especially those engaged with Local Search.
Natural, Easy Answers: Tips for Voice Search Optimization
Keeping the above points in mind, it’s paramount to optimize your user’s experience for voice search. Here are the main ways you can keep your site a part of the conversation:
- Optimize for Mobile Design “Mobile-First.” Most people searching with their voice are on a mobile device. This means going beyond building a responsive site and considering your mobile-user’s intent, which is often different from a desktop-user’s intent. Continually test your site for mobile conversion rate and engagement.
- Optimize for Local Many mobile searches are looking for a local business or service. Make sure your local business info is obvious and easy to access from all devices. Include local reviews such as Google+, Yelp, Bing, Foursquare, and Facebook. Your company data (name, address, phone number, etc.) should use special markup code that communicates to computers what the item is. Your website vendor should use the recommendations below for Structured Data. Write unique content focused on your locale. Engage with your local community and promote that engagement on your website.
Imagine a conversation of frequently asked questions with potential customers rather than stuffing keywords into over-optimized content. Since voice searchers are usually asking a question, you need to answer that question. Conduct keyword research, but don’t write like a robot. Write naturally and use easily understood language your sales or customer service team hears—and uses—everyday. Honestly describe your business services with unique content on every page. If you can, add fresh content to your site every week to stay updated.
- Use Structured Data. Google needs to quickly and easily understand your site content. In addition to your unique content, incorporate structured data—such as Schema markup—throughout every applicable element of your site. Schema utilizes community-developed, common vocabularies that enable search engines to efficiently return basic, vital info to voice searches. Markup your Local Business info (name, address, phone number, hours), Images, Articles (title, author, date), Video, Logo, Organization info, Recipes, Reviews, Events, and much more.