May 10, 2017 | SEO

OK Google: Tell Me How Voice Search Is Changing SEO

There are two kinds of interactions most people picture when they imagine speaking with an artificial intelligence: either the weird, stilted, and oddly-digitized Text-To-Speech scripts we all played with on our original 90s desktops, or the eerily on-point diction of HAL doling out even awful news with inflectionless apathy.

How Voice Search Is Changing SEO

The truth, as it turns out, is somewhere in between - and it’s becoming one of the major ways users engage online. That’s all thanks to voice search, and how this explosion of natural, speech-based queries are starting to overtake traditional text-only SEO.

Kids, especially, are replacing their imaginary friends with artificial ones, and there is no “growing out” of the know-it-all Smart Assistants like Alexa, Cortana, and Siri. These fake friends have real answers to life’s questions, and they won’t judge for answering things like “What’s the best chinese food near me?” way past bedtime.

But let’s grow up a bit, because this new wave of consumers isn’t the only group talking to their phones. Over 40 percent of all adults use voice search on a daily basis, and for teens and younger users that rate is even higher. By most estimates, more than half of all searches will be done by voice by 2020, and that means websites need to hurry up and adapt or die.

Voice search is the new frontier, and for most marketers this will mean a dramatic SEO strategy overhaul is likely in the near future. 

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Talk Like A Natural

When a user goes to execute a voice search, they probably aren’t thinking the same way they would if they sat down to type the same inquiry into a search bar. When you type, your brain thinks at a more measured pace - you’re more likely to use sentence fragments, avoid slang, and use direct keywords to reach the most precise results.

Typical typed search inquiries have evolved (or devolved, if you ask the writers around here) into this fragmented, caveman-like language, and this behavior has become second-nature - a writing style linked to that frame of mind.

Voice search, on the other hand, is significantly more casual right off the bat. Users are more likely to rely on full sentences, natural language construction, and even slang terms. In the real world, for instance, people don’t say “highest rated brunch Boston” to someone and expect that person not to look at them like they’re wearing a Yankees hat at Fenway. Voice search is casual, packed with nuances in dialect, and are generally comprised of full sentence questions.

Your voice search SEO needs to take this natural pacing into account and start focusing on long-tail keywords to match the phrases and inquiries your searchers will most realistically use without thinking - and even take it into a whole new realm. Being able to detect and respond to these basic turns of phrase can make your voice search feel seamlessly natural.

Build Your Content With Conversation In Mind

Understanding how you’ll structure your content to best match the rise in voice search takes a thorough understanding of just how people talk when they open their mouths - and, maybe even more importantly for this transitional period, which inquiries they more readily turn to voice search for and which are still stuck in the world of text.

Don’t Waste Your Breath

In general, today’s voice searches tend to be on-the-go, often looking for quick bits of information that can be reliably believed as factual, universally verified, locally-relevant, and instantly retrievable.

Features like Google Snippets that require little user interaction are most likely to gain traction in the voice search world. By including the proper structured data markup and the correct schemas, you allow search engines to more easily search, crawl, and define your site’s content for easier retrieval later on.

Privacy, Please

Let’s not forget that just about everyone and their grandma are currently freaking out about privacy, and having to physically speak out loud in the age of hidden microphones and recordings still has a profound effect on user habits.

Voice searchers tend not to deal with sensitive or personal information, and sites that require such input - especially for shopping - may have a hard time connecting with a voice-based audience.

Audio First - Visuals Not Included

Although it may seem at first as though it goes without saying, voice search typically doesn’t include visuals. That can be a huge deal, especially for advertisers whose products exist in visual-heavy industries, like fashion or art.

The difficulty in describing these highly visual products through a solely audio medium really can’t be understated, and so it’s important to know which products actually make sense for voice search - and to figure out a solution for everything that doesn’t.

Just One Of Those Drastic Industry Shifts

Users - especially younger users - want to do more than just push buttons and tap screens, and the busier we get, the fewer hands we’ll have to spare for typing. Voice search is the natural evolution of interactive, user-friendly tech, and it’s looking like users aren’t all that put off by the idea of having a genuine conversation with their phones and other devices. The trick now is to make those conversations engaging, informative, and intuitive of even more changes ahead.

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Megan O'Keefe

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