The rise of voice-assisted search technology has changed how users perform online searches. Google recently reported 27 percent of the global online population is on mobile. As the use of voice-assisted search technology continues to increase, you can no longer ignore it when optimizing your website for search traffic.
Most internet-enabled devices support voice search from desktop and laptop computers to smartphones, tablets, and even smart wearables. It allows users to perform online searches by speaking their search query into their device’s microphone. The app, typically a virtual assistant, will then return a snippet in the form of audio from one of the top-ranked organic listings.
Some of the most popular virtual assistants used for voice search include:
• Google Assistant
• Apple Siri
• Amazon Alexa
• Microsoft Cortona
• Samsung Bixby
Why Voice Search Is Poised to Increase
While 65 percent of 25-49-year-olds speak to their voice-enabled devices at least once per day, analysts predict voice search will become even more commonplace in the years to come. Many users prefer to speak their search queries because it’s easier and more convenient than typing them.
Another reason voice search is poised to increase is because of smart speakers. According to Statista, over one in three U.S. households have a smart speaker. Whether it’s an Amazon Echo, Google Home or an Apple HomePod, all smart speakers support voice search. Smart speakers are powered by virtual assistants that use speech-to-text algorithms to process spoken search queries into text. As a result, millions of Americans can access and use voice search from the comfort of their home.
The increased accessibility of smartphones is also fueling voice search. Americans’ share that own smartphones is now 81%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011. Like smart speakers, all modern smartphones support voice search. Android smartphones feature Google Assistant, whereas iOS smartphones feature Siri.
What Voice Search Means for Your SEO Strategy
It’s a common misconception among webmasters that voice search optimization requires the same approach as traditional SEO. After all, virtual assistant apps typically choose one of the top-ranked organic listings for responses to users’ search queries. When a user speaks a search query into their device’s microphone, the virtual assistant will select an organic listing near the top of the results.
However, optimizing your website for voice search requires a different approach than traditional SEO because the syntax is different. If a user has to type a search query, they will probably use the fewest number of words possible. On the other hand, when performing a voice search query, users will create longer queries since they speak them. Typed search queries may consist of just one to four words, whereas voice search queries often contain dozens of words. A study conducted by Google that the average length of voice search queries performed on its Home and Home Mini smart speakers was a little over 29 words.
Not only are they longer than typed search queries, voice search queries are structured differently as well. Voice search queries are processed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered virtual assistants, so most users will structure them as questions. For example, a user who’s trying to find a nearby pizza restaurant may ask his or her virtual assistant, “What’s the nearest pizzeria?” In comparison, a user may type “pizzeria near me” when performing a traditional typed search query.
How to Optimize Your Website for Voice Search
To optimize your website for voice search, you must target long-tail keywords as questions. You can still optimize your site to rank for short-tail keywords, but voice search optimization revolves around long-tail, question-based keywords.
Start by identifying some of the most frequently asked questions by your website’s audience. If your website supports visitor comments, you can look through some of the comments for ideas. Visitors will often ask questions in the comments section,
Alternatively, you can use Google’s autocomplete feature for inspiration on which question-based keywords to target. When you type a search query into Google but don’t hit enter or click the search button, Google will return a list of suggested keywords. Known as autocomplete, it can help you identify relevant question-based keywords for your SEO strategy. Just search for an interrogative word, such as “what,” “how” or “why,” followed by one of your website’s primary keywords. Assuming you don’t hit enter or click the search button, Google will provide suggestions that could prove useful when optimizing your website for voice search.
Be sure to include images on the web pages that you optimize for voice search. While many voice searches are performed on devices that lack a display unit, such as a smart speaker, adding images to your website’s content will increase its chances of ranking high in the search results. And if a page ranks high, virtual assistants may select it for relevant voice search queries.
With the rise of voice search, the SEO game has changed. You must play the long-tail keyword game.