Get it While It’s Hot: Voice Search is the Next Big Thing

There was a time not too long ago when talking and giving commands to a computer was the stuff of futuristic Sci-Fi movies. But as the rapid development of voice search has taken over, we’ve become totally comfortable and more inclined than ever to speak out loud to our computer friends, like Siri and Alexa.

In a speech given at SMX West back in March, Google Zurich’s Principal Engineer, Behshad Behzadi, said that voice search is currently the fastest growing type of search. If you consider trends and reports of user behavior, that’s not all that hard to believe:

  • 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search on a daily basis.
  • Shifts in user behavior have taken strides to become increasingly hands-free.
  • Google says 20% of queries on its mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches.

Voice searches are primarily conducted on mobile devices, and mobile searches have been taking over desktop searches, so all of this makes sense.  But what does the rising popularity of voice search mean for your online marketing strategy? How will this affect SEO? What are the bigger implications regarding online user behavior?

Like any ‘new’ online development, voice search has sparked a lot of questions and conversations about the role it will play in the future of search. To help familiarize yourself with these voice search happenings, here’s what you need to know.

Natural language is here to stay.

When people use voice search, they’re mostly likely to use natural language. Because voice search is done by speaking out loud, users are going to speak in a conversational manner, asking complete questions and using complete phrases. Rather than just saying “pizza restaurants San Diego” like they would if they were typing, users would more likely say, “find pizza restaurants near me.” And rather than saying “weekend forecast,” people are more likely to say what they actually want to know, like, “will it be warm enough to wear shorts this weekend?”

Voice search technology has deliberately encouraged the use of natural language because they want using it to be just that: natural. Easy. As simple and efficient as asking someone a quick question. By personalizing this technology by naming them (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, etc.), they take on something of an identity. By having to say “Hey Google” to make a command or search, users are already starting off with the same conversational greeting they’d use naturally when speaking to a friend.  This leads me to my next point:

Long tail keywords and phrases are more important than ever.

The prevalence of natural language in voice search means short tail keywords won’t be as relevant for queries. In fact, the prevalence of natural language in voice search more likely than not means that we’ll see a lot of future development around conversational search queries.

While it’s unlikely that short tail keywords will ever leave the picture completely, the conversational nature that search is shifting towards requires some adaptation in how we bridge the gap between what people are searching for and what online marketers are trying to rank for. Marketers will need to spend more time investigating the specific questions their target is most likely to ask when searching things relevant to their businesses.

Local optimization is a must.

Many users conduct voice searches when they’re in need of immediate information. For example, let’s say you’re out running errands and need to know where you can buy something specific. You’d most likely be driving and would do a quick voice search to quickly get directions or find what you’re looking for.

For that reason, businesses absolutely have to account for local optimization in their strategy. Ensuring your business information is updated with current information (address, hours, contact info, etc.) and is easy to find in local listings will help you with local optimization as much as it will for voice optimization. That’s because…

Mobile optimization goes hand-in-hand with voice search optimization.

This directly relates to mobile users. Well over 50% of consumers who conducted a mobile search ended up in a store and making a purchase within one day. Since voice search is a primarily mobile feature, it’s safe to assume that it’s often used for mobile purposes. For quite some time now we’ve said that marketers can’t and shouldn’t avoid mobile optimization if they expect to have an overall successful online strategy. Similarly, marketers must start considering how voice search will affect their business and industry as a whole, and how they can prepare their optimization strategy for that.

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