Voice Search and SEO: What to Know for 2019 and Beyond

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2018)

Voice search and SEO – for digital marketers looking to get ahead of the competition in 2019 and beyond, this is the trend to prepare for. Voice search is projected to be responsible for half of all search queries by 2020 – more on that below – and why not? The average human can type roughly 40 words per minute, but they can speak approximately 150 words per minute, per WordStream, allowing for more specific searches with less effort. The time is now to ensure your company, brand, products or services make it to the top of those search results faster than you can say “OK Google.”

Learn more about voice search and SEO, and how you can prepare your website for the voice search revolution.

What is Voice Search?

Simply put, voice search is a speech recognition technology that allows users to search the web via voice command. When your friend says, “Hey Google, tell me how many home runs David Ortiz hit in the 2013 MLB season” – that’s (a very specific) voice search. When you ask Siri for directions to the closest Italian restaurant, that’s voice search. When your mom asks “Alexa, what’s the weather going to be like tomorrow?” that’s – you guessed it – voice search.

Voice search got its start in Google Labs, the place where Google engineers brainstorm new technology and test ideas that may eventually popular products (like Gmail). Google voice search had humble beginnings – you had to call a phone number from your mobile device and then be prompted to say your search keywords – but over time it became integrated with apps like Google maps. Now it’s compatible with dozens of products and apps and has even influenced how Google’s search algorithm handle certain queries. Learn more about the history of voice search here, or watch the video below:

Hands-free and very  convenient, voice search is redefining search and SEO as we know it. You can identify this trend in the flesh, so to speak, just by recognizing the popularity of bestselling voice search-enabled products like Amazon’s Echo line and Google Home. In fact, Google reported in 2016 that 20% of all mobile search queries conducted on the Google app were made by voice search. Experts predict that 30% of all searches will be conducted by voice by 2020.

With these stats in mind, find out what people are using voice search for.

What Are People Using Voice Search For?

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The lure of voice search is easy to understand – it’s a hands-free way to find out the information you need in a matter of seconds. Backlinko explains the three factors behind the quick growth of voice search:

  • It’s faster to search with your voice than typing, as mentioned earlier in this post. The quicker you search, the more quickly you can get results.
  • It’s perfect for mobile search – especially for looking up information while driving (i.e. directions) or dictating a text while stuck in traffic.
  • It’s convenient. It’s a lot easier to ask a question than it is to type one.

The last point is especially clear when looking at the type of queries people use voice search for. Besides the obvious – pulling up directions, calling someone, dictating a text, checking the weather – people are using voice search to look up recipes, ask questions that had previously been reserved for the Google search bar, look up the closest specialty store, and more. It’s just easier to ask out loud instead of type – more natural even – especially with smart speakers connected to digital assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant becoming more prevalent within the home.

Voice Search and SEO: the Future of Digital Marketing

So, what does the voice search revolution mean for the future of digital marketing? First, it’s already making an impact on how digital marketers should optimize sites for SEO – more on that in the next section.

On another note,  WordStream writes that voice search will contribute significantly to the powerful strategy of people-based marketing. This highly personalized method allows advertisers to target people based on who they are, not just based on their behaviors. WordStreem argues that voice search technology employed by search engines like Google will learn commands and keywords through natural language processing. Over time, Google can learn to recognize the unique characteristics of your voice, and the way you speak, your browsing interests, and other personal information – all of which will come in handy to advertisers looking to curtail their strategy.

voice search and SEO people based marketing

Best Practices to Optimize Your Site for Voice Search and SEO

The Digital Examiner reviewed voice search and SEO tips from experts throughout the digital marketing industry. Here, we share some of the most important actions you can take now, as told by Forbes, WordStream, and Backlinko, to prepare your brand’s digital marketing strategy and website for the voice search revolution.

Include Short, Concise Answers in Your Content

Backlinko suggests inserting short, concise statements that can be used to answer voice queries quickly, accurately and succinctly.

Use Schema Metadata

As WordStream explains, schema is the markup language that provides search engines with additional information about the information on a site, essentially allowing site owners to better describe what the data on a website means. This makes it easier for Google to understand your site, boosting visibility in search results – voice or otherwise.

Write Content with Natural Language, at a Ninth Grade Reading Level (or Below)

Voice searches are less robotic and more natural than typed searches – so it would make sense that the returned results mimic this, per Backlinko. It also helps Google find a match to the natural query among the content on your website. Additionally, avoid jargon and fancy language in your content as the average voice search result is written at a ninth grade reading level. Focus on clear, concise language to better optimize your content for voice search results.

Use Long Tail Keywords in Content (and Bid on Them, Too)

Voice searches are typically longer than typed searches, and we often end up using long tail keywords in our natural speech (whether we realize it or not). Embrace the long tail or niche keyword as you develop website content to make it more relevant to voice search queries. Plus, bidding on long tail keywords is often cheaper than shorter queries and have better click-through rates.

Harness the Power of the ‘Near Me’ Search

The “near me” search – i.e. “Find a gas station near me” or “can I buy Chinese food near me” – is a rapidly rising SEO trend, according to a post published by Forbes Agency Council. If your brand has brick-and-mortar locations that sell food, products or services, you absolutely must optimize for the “near me” search with the appropriate keywords and phrases.

Update Your Google My Business Listing

Ensuring your company’s Google My Business listing is accurate and up-to-date will certainly help it meet prospective customers’ relevant “near me” searches, helping to drive more foot traffic to your store. Consider adding high quality images so that your shop stands out among other nearby options presented by Google to the searcher.

Making these optimizations now will help to put your brand’s digital marketing strategy ahead of the competition in the voice search and SEO revolution.