The only thing that stays true about SEO is the fact that its constantly changing. An emerging trend that is continuing to grow in momentum is voice search. Ever since Apple rolled out Siri on the iPhone 4S in October 2011, the way people search the internet has started changing.
According to Google, 20 per cent of searches performed on Android devices now come from voice commands. Voice search is now the fastest growing type of search, with 55 per cent of teenagers, and 41 per cent of adults using voice search each day. Amazon’s Alexa and Windows’ Cortana have also been released to compete with Siri.
How is voice search different to regular search?
The biggest difference between voice search and regular search is how people phrase their search requests. Typing in search commands is time-consuming and impersonal so regular searches look like: “cocktail bar Sydney” or “shoe store Melbourne”. By comparison, robots like Siri have been carefully engineered to respond in a way that replicates natural human interactions.
People using voice search tend to search similar to how they would speak if they were asking a friend for recommendations. For example they might ask, “What’s the best cocktail bar in Sydney?” or “Where is the closest shoe store in Melbourne to me?”
What does this mean for my business?
Voice search won’t drastically change your existing SEO tactics, but it does require some small changes to retain your competitive advantage. Here are four small tweaks that will increase your success in the world of voice search:
1. Keyword optimisation
Voice search means that short-tail keywords are decreasing in importance, while long-tail keywords are becoming increasingly more important. This means the keywords you will want to optimise for will predominantly be questions e.g. “Where is the nearest laundromat?” or “What is the cheapest place to buy camping gear?” Consequently, you will need to research natural language keyword phrases related to your industry so that you can embed these into your site’s content. Some tools that might assist with this process include Answerthepublic.com and Question Samurai.
2. Mobile friendliness
Most voice searches are conducted on mobile devices, so there is little point in adopting any of the strategies listed here if you still don’t have a mobile-friendly site. If you rank highly in voice search, but searchers have a bad mobile experience on your site, you will be unlikely to gain conversions and will have a high bounce rate which long-term will negatively affect your Google rankings. Go mobile first, then come back and implement the remaining strategies listed here.
3. Sitemaps and structured data
You also need to make sure that the search bots can crawl your site and understand your content if you want to rank high in voice search. This means you need to submit your sitemap to Google and Bing, and use plenty of microdata. Voice searches typically feature questions related to a business’ location, phone number, price and so forth. These things are known as microdata. By using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper you can use the right HTML for these important pieces of information, effectively highlighting it and making it easier for Google to find and understand.
4. Google My Business
Voice search means you need to make sure your site and SEO efforts are local-friendly. As well as using structured data to markup your business address and phone number, you should also ensure that you have claimed and optimised your Google My Business page. This will give you a much greater chance of ranking higher when a customer uses voice search to find a business “near me”. Make sure that any online business directories you are listed in also have your correct address and phone number. If you’ve recently moved premises and one listing has your old address and another has your new address, search engines won’t know which one is accurate and will be less likely to reference you in search results.
If you are a small business owners who grew up in an age where technology did not speak to us (and we didn’t speak to it). It is understandable, therefore, to have some reservations about new technology. However it is important not to let your own fears get in the way of making smart business decisions.
It is likely that within a few years, voice search may end up surpassing traditional keyboard searches as users discover that voice search is, in many cases, quicker, easier and more fun than manually entering search terms. Voice searching is hands-free (thus useful when driving and needing directions to find a store) and allows users to multi-task.
If you want further information to get up to speed on understanding how consumers use voice search, read the official user guides on voice search (Apple’s guide to Siri is probably the best as its quite visual and engaging). Even if you aren’t the average smartphone user – don’t let that stop you. Remember, you’re not optimising your website according to your own preferences, but, rather for the preferences of your customer base. So, take some time to enter the world and their mindset of your customers.