Voice Search, Big Going Bigger!

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Voice search is growing at a breakneck speed for three main reasons:

It’s fast.

The answer is read back.

You don’t have to type.

Not surprisingly, back in the mid-2000’s, when customers were first introduced to virtual personal assistants like Cortana and Siri for voice searches, they were skeptical.

While this ‘voice-activated technology’ has made things easier for lay users, it has thrown up new challenges for marketers, who are confronted with the morass of tailoring their strategies (especially SEO) for voice search.

Let’s us begin with Google

Here is how it began

What Is Google Voice Search?

Google Voice Search is a function that allows users to search the Web using Google through spoken voice commands rather than typing.

Google Voice Search can be used on both desktop and mobile searches. In some instances, users must say a “wake” phrase to tell Google to begin analyzing what the user says, which is “OK, Google.” This can be done either via a hands-free voice command on certain mobile devices and operating systems or by tapping or clicking on the microphone icon to the right of the main Google search field:

Other than how users activate and use voice search commands, there’s very little difference between a spoken voice search and a regular typed search query. Even “near me” searches (more on this shortly) on a desktop will be very similar to results for a similar query conducted by voice search on a mobile device.

Users are taken to a typical search engine results page whether they spoke their query or typed it, with a couple of potential exceptions. Users searching for directions to a place using a mobile device may see a different SERP than a desktop user searching for the same information, for example.

By and large, though, voice search queries often return similar — if not virtually identical — results as typed queries. It’s just a lot easier and more convenient to speak your query rather than type it.

Here are four ways to optimize your site for voice search and today’s shopper:

Use long-tail keywords: Google and other search engines are driven to deliver results to people the way that they ask for them, taking intent and context into consideration. This makes it even more critical for you to include long-tail keywords, which are highly searchable phrases that clearly demonstrate a user’s intent. In fact, Microsoft has found that voice queries tend to be longer than those typed. For example, “President’s Day discount new iPhone 8” is a long-tail keyword that tells you the user is looking to take advantage of President’s Day sales and buy a new iPhone 8. Someone searching for “iPhone 8,” on the other hand, may be looking for other things, such as the latest information about the device, troubleshooting strategies, etc.

Optimize for mobile: Voice search and mobile devices are a natural fit. It’s much simpler to talk into your phone to get a quick answer than it is to type on a tiny screen or stop to tap away when you’re driving or otherwise on the go. Already 20% of mobile queries are done by voice, and that number will continue to grow to a predicted 50% in just a couple of years. And it’s no secret that Google is moving toward mobile-first indexing in 2018, making it even more crucial that your site is mobile friendly. Take action to verify the mobile version of your site, avoid Flash, minimize load time and check to be sure each page on your site is mobile ready.

Use structured data: Make it easier for search engines to scan and understand your site’s content by using structured data. Go to Schema.org for a full listing of standardized formats that serve up your website page’s information and classification in a way that’s easy for Google to digest.

The top rule of SEO stands: Create valuable content that speaks to your readers’ challenges and addresses their pain points. In the Google Search Quality Ratings Guidelines, Google notes that “lack of purpose pages should be rated lowest quality.” To avoid this, integrate popular questions and meaningful answers — from short and sweet to detailed and rich — into your content. Take it one step further and read what you write out loud. If it makes sense, then Google’s voice recognition software will get it, too, especially since it’s now about equivalent to humans’ ability to understand language.

It’s clear that voice search is not all talk; now’s the time to start taking action. Not only will you be rewarded with better results for voice queries, but it’ll give your SEO a boost for today’s “conversation-seeing” algorithms and the users they — and you — are aiming to engage.

User intent is one of the most important fundamentals of search, yet for machines, it can be remarkably difficult to infer what users actually want when conducting certain searches. That’s among the many reasons why the Hummingbird update was so important — it signaled a shift in Google’s ability to determine the intent behind relatively ambiguous searches and provide users with an even better experience, something Google continued with the development of its RankBrain machine learning system.

What Is RankBrain?

RankBrain is the nickname given to the proprietary artificial intelligence (or AI) used by Google to handle search queries. The AI may never be given a formal name, or maybe RankBrain will stick, but for now, it’s the name being used for the artificial intelligence that’s handling 15% of Google’s search volume.

An important distinction to be aware of is that RankBrain is not (currently) a standalone technology at Google — it’s incorporated directly into the existing algorithm that Google uses to rank web pages. However, while there are literally hundreds of ranking signals (and nobody outside Google knows for sure how many there are), RankBrain has quickly become one of the most important. Greg Corrado, a senior research scientist at Google, told the Washington Post that RankBrain is now the third-most-important factor in determining how a search query will be answered on the SERPs.

One of the biggest changes we’ve seen in search in recent years has been the advent of heavily personalized web browsing. Google pioneered this by combining its various disparate services and products into a single, cohesive user profile system that allows Google to provide users with a more unique, granular, and individualized browsing experience (well, that was the plan, anyway).

This has given rise to (yet another) marketing strategy — people-based marketing, a remarkably powerful technique despite its uniquely awful name. People-based marketing is, as its name suggests, a marketing methodology that allows advertisers to target users based on who they are, rather than purely their behavior. As Google learns more about us, we could see a profound shift toward increasingly personalized marketing based on not only our browsing history and shopping preferences but even our voices.

Getting customers to discover you are not going to be an easy task, especially when the numbers are 57.8% (who use voice search on smartphones) and 60% (who use voice search at home), as per a report by Stone Temple.

Truth be told, there is a whole lot of difference between how people communicate verbally compared to how they do with their keyboards. This requires businesses to rethink their content strategy.

Like it or deny it; voice search is already on its way to becoming a necessity for SEO. Be it Google Now for Windows 10, Siri for iPhone, or Amazon’s Alexa — these platforms have transformed the way people look at information.

There is no doubt that voice search has reduced the search time dramatically, making consumers act faster, even accelerating purchase decisions in a much shorter time-frame.

However, businesses that include voice engine optimization in their marketing plan will stand to gain the lion’s share of the market.

https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/research.google.com/en//pubs/archive/36340.pdf

It sure looks like voice search is here to stay. This brings great opportunities for some, while others might be worried about search engines and digital assistants answering every possible question directly. Should you be worried? Well, that probably depends on your content. If you have high-value content, like recipes, you might be ok. Voice assistants won’t be able to read that recipe for you, yet. If your site offers basic calculation and conversion services, for instance, to calculate the number of teaspoons that fit in a cup, then it’s going to be harder for you to survive in a voice search world.

Regular, content-driven sites, need to be able to answer the question voice-driven searchers are looking for. To get your site ready for the slew of voice-activated searches, you need to think carefully about your content; does it answer the questions people have?

Get Found On Voice Search

The future of voice search is not predictable. However, we do know that it is gaining considerable traction and its growth is not slowing anytime soon.

That’s both good and bad for marketers.

It’s good for marketers who understand the power of voice search and start optimizing their content for it.

It’s bad for marketers who ignore the trend and continue creating the same old content.

You need to get back to the drawing board and modify your SEO strategy to incorporate voice optimization.

It is hard work, but voice search optimization makes your content closer to human language. Right now is the perfect time to jump on the voice SEO ship and gain an edge over your competition.

Roger Keyserling

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Voice Search, Big Going Bigger! was originally published in eCom Tips on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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