The year was 1998, and it didn’t take long for Google to become the answer to all of our prayers. Why wait for your mom to answer the phone in order to find out long it takes to boil an egg when you can just type your question and get an answer in seconds?
However, just when we got used to typing questions into a search bar, change arrived in the form of voice queries - on Siri, Cortana, Alexa or Google.
According to recent reports, about 40% of adults and 50% of teens actively use voice search. By 2020, there could be more than 200 billion daily search queries through voice search. While the numbers are impressive, it’s really no surprise that this form of research has increased in popularity so dramatically. Here’s why:
- It’s easy to use. This makes it very convenient, especially if you’re driving, walking, cooking, cleaning, or simply don’t feel like typing.
- It’s fast. Most of us speak at a rate of about 150 words a minute, more than 3 times faster than we can type (an average of 40 words per minute).
- It’s accurate. Just four years ago, Google’s platform had a word recognition accuracy rate of below 80 percent. Today, that rate is more than 90%. Baidu, the China-based search giant, has even developed speech recognition software that now exceeds a 95% accuracy rate.
So, what does all of this mean to you and your website? Here are five tips to get ready for the future.
Be mobile friendly
Ensuring that your site is mobile friendly is super important because if a user arrives at your website after their mobile voice query, you better be sure that it loads smoothly and quickly. You can test the mobile friendliness of your site using Google’s mobile-friendly test. Of course, if you’ve built your site with a responsive website builder, you can simply republish the site, and the host will ensure that it's optimised for speed on all devices.
Include complete business information
Since many voice queries are conducted on mobile devices, this means people are looking for things while they are on the go. To make sure your website is as accessible as possible to the most relevant people, ensure that your business information is complete and accurate.
This is particularly important when it comes to local search. You want search engines to identify the location of your business, as they’ll be using it to provide the best search results for customers.
Write real content
The words and phrases that a person speaks are different from the keywords that they type. So make sure you write content that reads like a person speaks, rather than how we assume they will write. In other words, don’t try to appease some anonymous algorithmic that may be looking for keywords. Instead, use longer word sequences that a real person might use when speaking. Focus on phrases that a person might say naturally.
For example, while someone might type “weather new york” in a legacy search scenario, they are more likely to say, “Is it going to rain today in New York?” if they are conducting a voice query. Another suggestion for real, relevant website content that can adeptly answer voice search queries is to incorporate Q&As on your website. This is a great way to provide answers to users who are asking questions.
Focus on the long-tail
With people speaking on-the-go into their phones rather than writing their queries, using functions such as Siri, and voice being a faster mode of communication than written content, chances are good that people will be really specific with what they ask.
Rather than typing “cheap dog collar” into a search box, they may say something like: “Where can I find an inexpensive dog collar for my poodle near the Baymont Mall?” When possible, focus on these types of long tail keywords and phrases to anticipate people’s searches and maintain the technology’s value for users.
Think beyond Google
For most of us, the words Google and ‘search engine’ are synonymous, and when we think about searching the web, we imagine people searching on Google. While that’s quite true for now, keep in mind that Google doesn’t have the same monopoly on voice search that it has on regular search. Bing is the default search engine for both Apple Siri and Amazon Echo. That doesn’t mean users can’t change their search engines, but it does mean that users who don’t change the default will be searching with Bing.
Be sure that your voice search technology is optimised for a broad variety of websites and a wider array of audiences, especially as these features grow in popularity and expand to other devices.
“Hey, Siri (Alexa, Google, Cortana). Now what?”
It’s clear that the future of the internet is in voice search. In fact, a recently published study of 39 SEO experts said voice search was the third most predicted trend for 2017. While it’s not going to replace ordinary search quite yet, it is definitely the face of the future - an exciting change which requires all of us to pay attention and tweak our business SEO strategies.
While it would be nice if we could simply say “Hey Siri, how do I prepare myself for Voice Search”, the technology behind voice search isn’t quite able to give us the answers to all our questions. In the future, we will need to use our own intelligence to follow the best practices that will enable us to respond to the future of the internet, both typed and spoken aloud.