According to Google, on average, one out of every five queries is a voice search. We have now crossed the threshold of early adopters, as more and more people can attest to the convenience of voice search. Mobile users can say goodbye to the days of typing on screen sizes a tad too small for our thumbs. Smartphones and smart home devices with intelligent digital assistants are forming the basis of a rapidly growing network of the Internet Of Things (IoT). Not surprisingly, Siri by Apple, Cortana by Microsoft, Amazon Echo and Google Home devices are slowly but surely finding their way into our home and daily life. With 33 million voice-first devices in circulation, it is not too far-fetching to imagine a future where everything in our home is voice enabled. Why and how is this going to massively impact the way people search for information online?
Voice search behaviour is fundamentally different from traditional text search
The increase in mobile searches and rising popularity of voice-enabled assistants allows us to search differently with natural language. This is a far cry from the regular search experience– we are all used to typing in a string of truncated words and phrases before hitting the “Search” button. For one, people can simply ask a question and expect to get the best answer from the search engine. Not the top 10 results, just the single, best result as determined by Google’s search algorithm! In this new battlefield, there won’t be any search engine results “page”. No matter how you look at it, voice search is a winner takes all situation, where every website tries to secure the top position for themselves. You can use a natural conversational tone to perform queries and get your answers quickly. There are many practical applications for voice search: to order food takeaways, shop online and research purchases. The most popular use of voice search remains for making calls and asking directions. Voice search is essentially a gold mine with endless possibilities.
Voice search is well synergized with local and mobile search
Up to 60% of total online searches are now performed on a mobile device. We also found that 82% of mobile users searched for a local business. More astonishing is that 50% of mobile users who performed a local search will visit a store within 1 day and that 18% of local searches will convert to a sale within 24 hours! Now just picture the same amount of mobile searches performed via voice search. Voice search is especially useful for people who are constantly on the move. For example, a driver or a cyclist would appreciate the convenience provided by voice search. You can’t review the search engine results, you’ll just want the best results right there and then. Combined with the power of local search, users can then get the most relevant results based on their current location, just turn on the integrated GPS and head straight on to your destination. It’s just so amazing that one could do all these seamlessly without ever typing on the phone.
Featured snippets are going to answer a lot of our queries
Featured snippets are commonly referred to as “position zero” or “snippet box” on Google results page. This snippet appears on top of the regular search results and contains a summary of the answer extracted from a webpage, a link to the page, the page title, and URL. When it comes to providing an answer to our voice search queries, the featured snippet will undoubtedly become the preferred result. Not every search query will trigger a featured snippet, however, research has shown that long tail keywords are more likely to trigger it compared to shorter ones. Certain niches such as food recipes will also enjoy a higher likelihood to trigger a featured snippet. There is no guaranteed way to get into a featured snippet but you can increase the chances of doing so by ranking on page one and use structured data markup for your web page. You’ll also want to submit a full sitemap to Google and make sure that none of your structured data pages is blocking visitors or crawlers. Ideally, your website should also be responsively designed and with mobile-friendly UI/UX. Perhaps not surprisingly, at the moment, Wikipedia dominates every other website for the most appearances in the featured snippets thanks to its concise, factual answers and a highly authoritative web domain.
Better understand of search intent and context
If you compare search queries of desktop and voice search, voice search queries have more long-tailed keywords than the average typed search queries. This arises from the conversational nature of a voice search. One often begin a voice search with a question phrase such as “what” or “why”, providing depth of context. This, when combined with the “where” provided by the geography data of the mobile devices, will then allow search engines to paint a complete picture of the users’ search intent, and therefore resulting in a more accurate search result. With this in mind, you’ll want to expand your content with a direct response to these queries. Google loves the depth of information so as a general rule, create a succinct answer to the question and then expand on the same topic further. After that, follow up by providing useful information on related search queries. It is also good to have a more conversational Q&A style of writing to help voice assistants select your content as the answer. You might want to put a little more effort on enhancing your FAQ pages to make sure they are clear and to the point. Experiment with useful images, tables and graphs because they are known to boost your chances of appearing in the featured snippet. Try to use bullet points to break up your content into simple lists or steps and you might just get into position zero of Google search results.
Great advertising potential for voice-based media
Looking at the demographics of US smartphone users who use mobile personal assistants, people of all age groups from 18 to 54 use mobile personal assistants. Not surprisingly, the tech-savvy teenagers between age 18-29 lead the survey with 71% adoption rate. However, the senior citizens that are aged 54 and above exhibits a surprisingly high adoption rate too at 38%. This just goes to show how much advertisement targeting you could potentially capture with voice search. To capitalize on the voice segment, first, you have to be aware of how your customers describe your products and services. Understand what are some of the questions that you repeatedly hear from your customers, be it regarding your features, benefits, pricing, warranty, or others. Creating your content or ads around these key questions will significantly boost your chances of appearing on top of the voice search results.
In conclusion, the inevitable rise of the digital assistants can only mean one thing: We will have to adapt and learn a new way of searching the internet. As we speak, voice search is building up momentum worldwide, and it is in your best interest as a marketer to incorporate voice search optimisation into your organic search strategy. Voice optimisation is a wonderful opportunity to make your content feel closer to human language and gain an upper hand over your competitors.
If you have time, go to my other post to learn about how to optimise for voice search.