Is voice the future of search and SEO?

May 3, 2019 by
Is voice the future of search and SEO?

It was predicted by Comscore last year that around 50% of web searches will be made by voice by 2020, which is certainly an optimistic assumption, given that only 13% of US households actually owned a smart speaker such as an Amazon Echo Dot in 2017.

Still, with more devices switching on to the possibilities of voice search – most modern smartphones are shipped with the functionality as standard – and the technology becoming more sophisticated as more data is collected and more advances are made, could we reach a point in the near future where our fingers become surplus to requirements?

Right Here, Right Now

Currently, voice search is still seen as something of a novelty used to show off a new piece of tech to curious friends. When it comes to taking voice search to the next step, it’s all about transforming these nifty but ultimately gimmicky voice assistants into genuinely useful and helpful digital agents. So, should you be investing in voice search?

Ultimately, speaking is faster than typing and time is everything in such a busy world. So, if your brand is able to utilise technology that is available to everyone and delivers results in seconds, it will always stand out. So yes, you should certainly be investing in voice search, particularly if you use SEO.

Voice Search and SEO

For many marketers, the most pressing question regarding a greater adoption of AI and voice search is – how it will affect SEO marketing practices? The main hurdle, of course, is the language we use. When we search for something using the written word we have been programmed to use keywords, which are easy to build an SEO campaign around. Voice search, however, is less formal and more colloquial – using the kind of natural language that doesn’t necessarily translate well to traditional SEO strategies.

SEOSo, what does voice search mean for SEO? Of course, text-based searching is never going to disappear completely, but as voice search becomes more popular and more powerful, marketers are going to need to start adapting their strategies to fit this new trend.

Longer Queries – Our natural queries when written are quite different when spoken. Indeed, an average text search will be only a few words, whereas a voice search will typically be at least 10 words long and will be nowhere near as specific. As such, we could be looking at a future in which traditional keywords evolve into more natural spoken phrases.

Natural Language – As people are less formal with their spoken tongue, it’s vital that marketers optimise content around natural language. Keep your content conversational so it meets the new Q&A paradigm.

Question the First – Most voice searches naturally tend to be phrased as questions. This means that, whilst we might have been trained to search for something by simply typing in a few words, when we’re searching for it with our voices, we naturally ask a question. As such, modern SEO marketers should start looking towards questions as keywords if they hope to capitalise on the voice search boom. They need to start figuring out the questions their audience is asking and adapt their long-tail keywords accordingly.

Issues and Opportunities – Of course, with more complicated questions come more complicated answers. By using ‘question keywords’ that only need a binary “yes” or “no” answer you’ll be losing a lot of traffic because the question will be answered by an algorithm to make sure you are providing answers that cannot be generated by a machine. Also, voice search is now able to interpret questions based on context, so consider this when formulating your strategy.

Ultimately, voice search should just be seen as another string to the SEO marketer bow. It might change the tactics and the techniques and it might mean putting a little extra effort into your keyword research, but now is definitely the right time to start investing before your competitors catch on and you’re left in the dust answering questions that nobody is asking.