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Written by Sam Yadegar on Feb 19 , 2021

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.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on May 15 , 2020

The way people search is changing. And, to be fair, it’s been evolving since search engines became a thing. (Ask Jeeves, anyone?) 

Here, you’ll find:

  • How online searches are evolving
  • Why natural voice and language trends are growing
  • How marketing teams can optimize for voice search
  • Data-backed predictions about the future of online searching

Over the last few years, virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana have grown in popularity. This meant fewer searches were being typed into search engines and more being conducted by asking virtual assistants questions. 

As a result, the phrasing and structure of searches morphed into a more natural, conversational form, and search engines had to keep up to stay relevant. Technology designed to recognize and understand human speech patterns is developing at a rapid pace. The most optimized marketing teams are pivoting accordingly.

Read on to learn more about how voice search is changing the world of digital marketing — and what you can do to keep your brand ahead of the curve. 

hawksem: voice search blog

65% of people ages 25-49 speak to a voice-enabled device at least once a day. (Image via Unsplash)

Voice search and natural language processing

Smartphones and smart speakers (like Google Home and Amazon Echo) have become thoroughly integrated into our lives. They’ve made it simple to find information quickly and in a way that can be done while we complete other tasks (like cooking or laundry) without having to pick up our phones. 

In fact, 65% of people ages 25-49 speak to a voice-enabled device at least once a day. People love voice search because it’s convenient, easy to use, and delivers the results you need immediately. It’s one way that technology is transforming our lives, and people have generally embraced it. But what happens when we ask Alexa for a cake recipe or Siri to help us install a faucet? How do they take our queries and turn them into the results we need?

Google is working to accommodate natural language trends

In 2019, Google released an updated algorithm called BERT, which strives to better understand the subtle nuances of human speech and the context of words in searches. This can help the search engine better match voice queries with more helpful results.

It’s the job of Google and other search engines to deliver the most helpful results on the first try, so search engines need to not only recognize the individual words in our searches, but also the context surrounding them. This is especially true in terms of voice search, where people often speak to their virtual assistant as if they’re speaking to another human. 

This is where natural language processing, or NLP, comes in. NLP strives to help machines understand human language beyond the simple definitions of words, like how words can change meaning when strung together.

How to optimize your marketing strategy for voice search

SEO is most likely a big part of your digital marketing strategy, so making sure your website is optimized when it comes to voice search will give you an edge. To stay relevant, it’s a good move to focus on your content. It’s likely that you already have a rich resource of informational content on your website, but many marketers are still focusing heavily on keywords. 

Of course, this isn’t to suggest you should ignore keywords. They still serve a purpose and can help search engines determine the meaning of your content. Rather, it’s wise to concentrate on delivering authentic, conversational, easy-to-read content.

Long-tail keywords are crucial here, as is user intent. Think carefully about what words a user might say to their assistant to find your business via a search engine — they might be different from what they might type into a search engine. 

Check out The SEO Content Strategy You Need: A Step-by-Step Guide

Understand how searches will continue to evolve

When users type their queries, they’re more likely to use shorter phrases because it’s faster. On the other hand, when voice searching, keywords and phrases get longer. This is why traditional SEO strategies that focus solely on individual keywords don’t work as well. Instead, use conversational phrases in your content and make sure that the content that you’re offering searchers is hyper-relevant to what they’re looking for. 

One of the biggest challenges that marketers face with voice search is how their results are delivered. If a user isn’t looking at a screen, a virtual assistant will only read a snippet of the top result. When searching on a screen, the top result is important — it’s what the search engine deems most relevant to the user. 

hawksem: voice search blog

It’s predicted that, by the end of 2020, around half of all online searches will be conducted by voice. (Image via Unsplash)

With a search engine results page (SERP), however, the user can choose from a host of other results displayed below the top-ranking results. In voice search, appearing in that top position is imperative. It’s the only information that the user will receive. Vying for that top spot means that competition will get tighter and optimization practices will likely evolve. 

For now, creating knowledgeable web content, social content, and blog posts are key. One good way to structure the content you create is by starting with a question that your users may have, then creating a post to answer it. This is also an effective strategy for integrating long-tail keywords and users’ potential questions into your content. The more relevant context you offer, the more likely a search engine will pair your website with a user’s query. 

The future of voice search 

NLP technology has uses that reach far beyond recognizing the context in voice search. Right now, NLP is booming and is likely to continue growing exponentially. In turn, voice searches will get smarter (Google Assistant gets 93% of questions right already), more efficient, and more useful to searchers. 

Despite this innovation being adopted so widely and so quickly, it’s still early in the life of voice search. After all, Siri was “born” in 2011, so much of this technology is pretty new, in the scheme of marketing. Trends can be watched, but it’s difficult to know exactly how the future will play out. 

It’s predicted that, by the end of 2020, around half of all online searches will be conducted by voice. There’s a big push for search engine technology to keep up with this demand. 

The takeaway

BERT was Google’s biggest update in years, so as a marketer, it’s important to pay attention. We can expect Google and other search engines to continue to implement new NLP technology, and as a result, machines will get better at understanding human language. 

If you want to stay at the forefront of the voice search revolution, work to create helpful, engaging content and keep track of any updates that Google makes to their algorithms.

 

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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