Why Is Voice Search Turning SEO Upside Down?

20.03.2018 - Ania Wójcik

Yes, we’ve all been a part of this voice search obsession. The topic has been featuring as one of the hottest among the tech-related issues for a few years already. We all know Siri, that for many has become a friend available on demand. Working on both Apple desktop and mobile devices it has already been serving for over 5 years. In June of 2015, it was recorded that Siri helped us answer more than 1 billion questions per week. Quite impressive, true, however, this number only refers to the devices for which the voice search feature constitutes an addition to the rest. Virtual assistants, smart home technologies and all the other voice-first devices became a part of the mainstream only in 2017, being produced and sold in numbers no one could have probably imagined before.

Okay, long story short. The recent history certainly proves that this particular search style has become a new key driver in consumer web search behaviour. Every day 3.5 billion requests are made on Google, a third of which are performed by voice. It’s no longer Siri (Apple) only, even though it’s still a definite leader, but also Google Now (Google), Alexa (Amazon) and Cortana (Microsoft). Since the group of virtual assistants has been growing rapidly and intensely, we not only need to determine why, when and where we use them but how these activities affect the digital performance of our businesses. Because they do. Quite significantly.

Digital marketing has always been about generating leads and converting them into customers and it didn’t change after the voice search boom. In order to continue a profitable business, the digital marketing tactics need to be taken into consideration and optimised to the needs of voice search. The point of this article is not to discuss whether SEO still matters but rather how we need to prepare our online businesses for the voice search phenomenon. What should we focus on when optimising our websites for voice search?

1. Be articulate.

How to create content that matters.

seo content blog post think design malta

Yes, it might seem that good, relevant content is the answer to all the problems of this planet. Well, not necessarily, but with regard to SEO it definitely is. There are, however, certain differences between text and voice searches. When we phrase searches orally we tend to behave as if we were talking to another human being, therefore we construct questions. They’re specific, long and (most of the time!) grammatically correct. When we type we use as few words as possible in order to a) save time and b) give a search engine a general idea of what we’re looking forward. Confused? Look at the example below.

Voice search: Siri, where can I find a restaurant that serves wood-fired pizza?
Text search: wood fired pizza restaurant

Good but why does it matter for the SEO purposes? It matters because you should start structuring your content in a way that is clear and directly answers your readers’ questions and matches their queries.

Here’s one hint for you: If you think that the title of this post has been chosen randomly then, please, excuse me saying it but you’re mistaken. The most common searches refer to questions so remember to make a good use of Why’s/Where’s/How’s whenever you decide to update your content. Think big, rather than small, and invest in natural sounding, long-tail keywords that will help navigate readers to your website more easily.

2. Bet on mobile.

Why responsive web design is a must.

seo voice search mobile search blog post think design malta

Along with the growing trend of mobile devices’ use Google understands that the switch to mobile-first indexing is a necessary step. Then, if mobile comes before desktop, does it mean that we should re-think the whole concept of our websites? No, not necessarily. It simply means that we need to make sure that what we see on the screens of our computers will be possible to be viewed on our mobiles too. Responsive web design is a priority, it’s been estimated that 8 in 10 customers would stop engaging with the content that provides poor user experience!

There are a few ideas that will help you optimise your website better:

Take an online test of mobile-friendliness. Yes, it’s as simple as it seems. You use the tool, you let the software do the job for you, you get the results and implement the suggested changes. No, you don’t follow those recommendations blindly. One of the most important features is load time. 40% of all the mobile searchers don’t wait more than 3 seconds before leaving a site. Bearing that in mind make sure you don’t litter your website with oversized pictures that decrease the overall load speed.

3. Think global, act local.

Why location matters for voice search. 

location voice search seo blog post think design malta

Okay, it’s time to get analytical. In 2010 less than 5% of searches were performed on mobile devices. 25% in 2013. 60% in 2016. The conclusions are quite obvious, aren’t they? 

The rapid shift from computing based on PCs to mobile devices has been causing changes in the use of the web. Since already over half of the queries performed in search engines come from mobiles, we need to understand how it affects our search habits. First of all, we’ve become lazy. All right, more intuitional at least. Life has become faster and so have we. Everything we search online we expect to be found in no time. And this is the reason why we turn to the voice search feature. It’s fast and easy. 

Google tells us that consumers tend to look for products or services on their mobiles when they’re in instant need of them. Well, there is no point to base this argument on any particular data. If we think of how we use mobiles ourselves, the conclusion will be the same. Most of the searches refer to local information. In 2015 there were twice as many as in 2014 "near me" searches recorded. Since we are in high demand of accessing local info in a quick manner, we need to start optimising our websites for such searches. Speaking more accurately, the voice searches. SEO practices don’t take any new forms here but definitely, remind you of the importance of the relevant content. When creating your website’s content, remember about incorporating your location keywords. They can direct users to your business and help you rank higher for voice search. Also, make sure you know what queries refer to your business. Being aware of what your readers expect to find will help you optimise your content better! Keep in mind that the use of synonyms and alternate phrases can be really advantageous (here’s the hint: "how do I get to" = "give me directions to").

Time for conclusions. We know that content was, is and will be the king of SEO and regardless of the current trends, we need to focus on it the most. Also, having beautiful websites that work even more beautifully on mobile devices will provide us with better chances of success. And, last but not least, we need to remember that most of our customers are just around the corner and this is our task to make them find us. Brace yourself and get your website ready for the voice search revolution. In case you need some help, you know where to find us!

Why Is Voice Search Turning SEO Upside Down?