OK Google - What's the best way to...
Siri - Where do I find...
Alexa - Order me new...
Voice search is here. Are you ready for it?
Google is continually refining its search algorithm to serve users the highest quality content possible, and the user experience is constantly becoming more natural. We've really seen three main phases of search input evolve over the years, too.
First, the only option available in the Internet's infancy was typing on a desktop computer.
Secondly, years later, the mobile revolution began and people weren't tethered to their homes or offices anymore.
Today, the latest trend is voice search. Early voice recognition technology wasn't refined or sophisticated, and frequently failed to capture the speaker's words. But now the technology has been refined to such a degree that it is commonplace, especially among a diverse line of mass-market consumer goods.
Voice search tools like Siri, Cortana, the “OK Google..” feature, Amazon Alexa and other similar features are sold as stand-alone devices or incorporated into our smartphones.
Almost anyone with a mobile device has voice search features, which accounts for a staggering portion of the population. According to PewResearch.org, almost 77% of Americans possessed smartphones as of 2016, a figure which is expected to have risen. As a greater percentage of the population acquires smartphones and voice technologies continue to be easily accessible, voice search frequency is expected to rise dramatically in the near future.
As such, optimizing your marketing strategy and website for voice search has now reached Mission Critical.
Expected Growth of Voice Search
A new technology trend is always revolutionizing the old way of doing things. Previously, we all saw mobile search traffic and Google overtake traditional desktop searches. This change had a massive impact on how people used Google, and led to more local searches for businesses and information related to the user's immediate vicinity.
The next transition is the rise in voice search. Believe it or not, Google projects that as many as 75% of households in the US will have smart speakers by 2020.
Currently, approximately 20% of mobile queries are voice searches, and a variety of sources estimate that by 2020 anywhere between 30% to 50% of mobile queries will be voice searches. Note that these figures only account for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, and exclude smart speaker products.
To put it bluntly, voice searches are incredibly popular and look like they're going to grow significantly in the long term. So let's take a closer look at how you can make your site more voice-search friendly.
Add Textual Microdata to Your Site
To be fair, we still don't know the full capabilities and weighted metrics of the Google algorithm because it is closed source code. Having said that, we do have a fairly clear understanding of how the algorithm operates due to Google update announcements, Google webmaster guidelines, real world testing and other factors.
And one thing we do know is that Google is highly adept at combing through textual content and data to evaluate and rank a page's quality. As such, you need to make sure your site is loaded with microdata (operating hours, phone number and contact information, menus, pricing, promotional data, address, etc.) in a textual format as opposed to an image.
Putting it in text format optimizes it for Google's web bots, and makes it a lot easier to find.
However, one key influencer of the availability of these types of microdata is having a sitemap.
You do have a sitemap, don't you?
Remember that the percentage of mobile Google queries via voice search are continuing to rise. Naturally, because so many mobile users activate voice features, it only makes sense to make your site mobile friendly. In my honest opinion, all actively maintained websites should have been catering to mobile users for the last four or five years at the very least – perhaps even longer.
And now that rumors about the possibility AMP's (Acellerated Mobile Pages) will become a ranking signal are cropping up, it's even more important to optimize your site. After all, what good would the results of a voice search be if the search results weren't formatted for a mobile device?
Craft Long Tail Keywords for Voice Search
There's still a lot of debate over the future of keywords. They're certainly not as heavily weighted as they once were, and many professionals engaging in content marketing forgo keywords completely (including us), especially when distributing content through social media channels. But it's still a good idea to brainstorm some longtail keywords that align with prior keyword research.
The idea here is to repackage old keywords into a voice search format.
For instance, on a mobile phone I might type out the following query: auto repair st louis.
Human beings generally keep mobile searches short, because most of us hate impatiently typing out long queries.
However, if I submitted the same query with voice search, I would say something more colloquial, such as, “Where is the nearest auto repair shop?”
The real difficulty with these types of keywords is trying to make them sound organic. But it is possible to insert a little blurb near your address, location, or map page with something along the lines of, “Were you wondering, 'Where is the nearest auto repair shop?' Use the map tool to find our nearest location.”
Voice Search is No Fad
Often people conflate the definitions of 'trend' and 'fad.' Fads come and go, but trends can grow for decades. In fact, the definition of trend is: n. the general direction in which something tends to move.
And right now, it's clear that things are moving in the direction of increased voice searches.
The only question is...will you be ready?