Voice technology has expanded the search landscape — here’s how to keep your company in the loop.

Here you’ll find:

  • Data on the growth of voice search
  • User feedback on voice-activated devices
  • The challenges of voice search optimization
  • How to optimize your site for voice search

Everywhere we look, we have smartphones and speakers, apps with hands-free talk-to-text, and voice-activated vehicle “infotainment” systems. Even our TVs can accept voice commands!

The popularity of voice search continues to increase at staggering rates (just ask Siri). So it’s no surprise that the variety of device options is growing constantly too. 

What does all this mean for the search landscape? Keep reading to find out.

woman sitting with voice search speaker

Since voice searches are often full, natural sentences, optimization requires conversational long-tail keywords. (Image via Rawpixel)

The state of voice search

Many smart speaker users say the convenience of these devices has improved their lives. They use them to listen to music, get weather forecasts and news updates, and ask about general topics or fun questions. 

For further proof that smart speakers and voice searches are on the rise, check out the data below.

Smart speakers

According to Strategy Analytics:

  • 67% of people prefer voice to touchscreens
  • 91% use them to listen to music or the radio
  • 40 million Americans own smart speakers
  • One-fourth of surveyed people without one plan to purchase one
  • 55% of 2022 households are predicted to contain a smart speaker

​Voice search

According to Review42:

  • Voice search accounted for half of all 2020 searches and 20% of mobile searches
  • Over half the population uses voice search for local business information
  • Voice searches are three times as likely on mobile
  • 31% of mobile users do at least one weekly voice search via their smartphone

​​How does voice search affect SEO?

We don’t speak the way we type. For example, I’ve never asked someone, “Chris Rock age?” Yet I may have typed something in a similar style into a search bar. 

When people type a search query, they usually just include the highlights, so traditional search engine optimization (SEO) often uses short keywords to optimize content for them. 

Since voice searches are often full, naturally worded sentences, optimization often requires more conversational, long-tail keywords. Furthermore, traditional search provides a whole page of results. Voice search delivers one answer: the first. This makes the top spot more important than ever.

smart speaker on desk

Digital assistant popularity and likely smartphone ownership appear to have a reverse correlation to age. (Image via Unsplash)

How to optimize for voice search

There are a handful of things you can do to make your site more voice-search friendly. Just like traditional SEO best practices, voice search optimization requires that you understand search intent, how the algorithm works, and the most effective ways to phrase your content.

Pro tip: Adding schema markup to your site can help Google understand your content well enough to rank and display it properly.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Know how your audience uses voice search

For starters, it’s helpful to think about which segments of your target audience are most likely to leverage this type of technology. Data shows that digital assistant popularity and likely smartphone ownership appear to have a reverse correlation to age. 

While sometimes, even fragmented searches have obvious intent, like “pizza delivery East Atlanta,” it can also be ambiguous for complete questions, like “What does a carpenter make?” This could be about what a carpenter builds or what they earn. With this in mind, it’s wise to use keywords with clear search intent so that the right people are more likely to find your content. 

​Once you understand what information searchers want, think about possible follow-up questions. If someone searches for your store’s business hours, they might then ask for directions. There are some important things you can do with all that information. For example, if your audience is mostly people searching on mobile, then remember… 

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Mobile voice searches are local searches

Many voice search users leverage these devices to ask questions on the go. In fact, 82% of consumers who shop via mobile use their smartphones for local searches, and 30%-50% of all mobile searches have local intent. 

Because of these devices, it’s now possible for consumers to ask questions about a problem, find a solution, research their options, and make a final decision, completing their entire buyer’s journey via voice search, no matter where they are. (As long as there’s WiFi, of course.)

Pro tip: When you optimize for questions with local keywords like “near me” or “closest,” make sure to keep local and mobile SEO best practices in mind

​​​​​Create content with voice search in mind

Some searchers — especially voice searchers — will want to ask a simple, direct question and get a quick answer. Others will want to dive deeper into the topic to learn more. The best way to optimize for these scenarios? Ensure that your content offers both.

It’s wise to use those natural-sounding long-tail keywords most likely to be used for voice search as your title. From there, offer a concise and direct answer to the supposed query to satisfy voice search users who want a straightforward response. 

From there, you can go into more detail or provide additional context. The deep-divers will thank you. Not only that, but Google loves this structure and may, in turn, reward you with a higher rank. (Talk about win-win.)

Pro tip: You can also experiment with the frequently asked questions (FAQ) format by making the question the same natural, long-tail keyword a voice searcher would use.

The takeaway

It’s clear that including voice search in your optimization strategy is an easy way to potentially boost your brand’s visibility. 

Since this is a trend we’ve seen continue to rise in recent years, keeping this type of searching in mind is a great way to ensure your SEO strategy is thorough and that you’re remaining competitive with others in your industry.

This article has been updated and was originally published in February 2021.

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