What is voice search?
Related terms: voice recognition, speech recognition, speaker recognition, and voice-activated assistants
In today’s information-driven world, most people turn to an online search engine, like Google, to quickly find answers to questions or perform basic research. It usually works by typing a search term or phrase into Google and viewing the search results. But there is another, sometimes more convenient, way to get results from a search engine, and it’s called voice search. Voice search uses the power of speech recognition to search the web. Instead of typing a query, you can now use your voice input to quickly and easily get results from a search engine.
Many large companies have made major investments in voice search technology, resulting in products called “intelligent assistants.” Consider products such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google’s Assistant. Google Voice Search, or Search by Voice, is a Google product that allows users to use Google Search by speaking on a mobile phone, computer, or smart home device.
How many people are searching via voice search?
One in six adults in the U.S. now owns a voice-activated smart speaker, which translates to about 40 million decision-making adults in the U.S. alone. A study by Verto Analytics in 2017 showed that 71 million people in the U.S. used their smartphone voice-activated assistants for search, which totaled nearly one billion hours each month. A survey revealed that most users of a voice-activated assistant said that they would not go on in life without one.
52% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say they keep their device in a common room, such as a family room, living room, etc.
In the Google app, 20% of searches are now by voice.
Based on studies [source?], the rate of smart speaker adoption by consumers is outpacing that of smartphones. By 2020, at least 50% of all searches are expected to be done through images or speech!
User intent and the context of a voice search
“Humans can speak 150 words per minute vs. type 40 words per minute.” – Katherine Watier
Users today tend to shorten their phrases when typing. As a result, when searching Google from a browser, you may search for a plumber by typing “plumbers near me,” but through voice search you would be more likely to search for a plumber by saying “Find top rated plumbing companies near me.” Although similar, these render different results on organic listings and the “Google My Business” map listings. The shorthand search results literally show the closest plumbing companies near you regardless of rating. The longer, natural language search results show a different list of plumbing companies near you, and they all have five-star ratings.
“Mobile voice-related searches are 3 times more likely to be local-based than text.” Source: Search Engine Watch
How do you optimize your website for voice search?
If you have already been using search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, you should be in good shape, but there are tactics you can use to improve your results with voice searches. If you are not using SEO best practices, you need to start making major changes to your website and its content.
Longer long-tail keywords
As mentioned above, users searching via voice will use much longer keyword phrases with three to five more keywords than by text. This means you need to start thinking about and doing your research on longer long-tail keywords. Essentially, this boils down to identifying specific phrases your target market may use in a search. For example, if you sell high-end sofas, you may use a long-tail keyword of “velvet tufted chesterfield sofa” as part of your SEO efforts instead of a simple keyword of “sofa.”
When users search by text, they tend to leave out trigger words like “the,” “top,” “best,” and “how.” Start including these words within your long-tail keywords to capitalize on voice searches that are more likely to use these terms.
Gain Placement on Google Featured Snippets
When a user performs a Google search, they might see a search result in a special featured snippet block at the top of the search results page. Google programmatically detects pages that quickly serve up the best answer to the user’s question, and displays a top result as a featured snippet in the search results. For example, if a user enters the search term “Top mobile app development companies in Virginia,” a Google Featured Snippet would look like this:
This is not something that is easy to achieve, but multiple studies confirm that the majority of featured snippets are triggered by long-tail keywords.
Start taking advantage of voice search now
There is no doubt that voice search is becoming more popular, so the time to get your website on board is now. Google is even considering adding voice query data to the Google Search Console. This would allow you to gather more data and analytics related to your business and industry.
Consult with your digital marketing team to make sure you are taking full advantage of this growing market, and start incorporating SEO strategies that will increase your chances of showing up in voice search results. By staying up-to-date with the latest and best SEO practices, you can help your prospects find you online, which raises your chance of converting them to lifelong customers.
As part of your research, you may want to take a look at some of these great resources: