10-MINUTE READ · By Tina Arnoldi.
Voice search is the new mobile. More than a passing trend, it’s a technology that businesses need to pay attention to as the use of it continues to grow. People use voice search everywhere – whether at home where no one can hear them or in a public setting while out with friends. This change in consumer behavior has implications for how businesses present themselves online.
What We Know About Voice Search
In the US, almost half of adults use voice-controlled digital assistants. Assistants are used to find an answer to a specific question whereas the searches we conduct on our desktop may include surfing out of boredom – not necessarily with a clear goal.
With voice search frequently happening on mobile devices, people want answers on the fly, whether it is how to access their bank information, self diagnose on a health site (even though or doctors prefer we don’t!), or find a hotel with a pool. Google Trends shows the increase in queries for voice-related commands.
It’s obvious why voice searches happen on mobile. Speaking is clearly easier than typing on a small screen, especially for long tail searches. When we use our voices, we speak with our everyday language to ask complete questions rather than the phrases we use when typing. Optimizing for mobile is important not only for mobile-first indexing, but also so voice searchers have a good experience. On-the-go searchers especially expect a fast loading speed for websites and clear answers in their search results.
What this Means for Search
Voice search is not only changing consumer behavior, it also changes search engine behavior.
Although we cannot report on voice search queries in AdWords or Search Console yet, we can make assumptions based on the queries we see in both products. Search queries with longer tail, natural language keywords are probably from a voice search. Assuming those queries are conducted with voice searches, we can respond by building content around the answers to these questions using a conversational approach since this is how people naturally talk.
Look at featured snippets on Google. Those are presented as single, factual answers to questions people ask. The answer provides additional detail if the searcher clicks on it but the goal is to provide the answer in that box.If you search by voice, you’ll discover that featured snippets are often read aloud by voice assistants in response to your informational queries.
You’ll also notice this featured snippet is the top result, known as “Position 0”. If the snippet answers the question, searchers may not bother scrolling through additional search results. Although there may be paid ads above this snippet, this is the top ranking for organic searches.
The goal of the snippet is to help searchers solve problems or discover answers and you want to be the one that helps them do that. Although there is no magic formula for guaranteeing “Position 0”, you can aim for it when you write content with questions in mind, focusing on who, what, when, where, why and how questions.
Your content still needs to vary for these who, what, when, where, why and how questions since each of those words can indicate a different intent. If I ask who sells women’s bikes, I am likely in the beginning stages of buying a bike. I want to learn more about who sells them. If I ask where is the nearest bike store, I am probably closer to buying.
SeoClarity conducted research on keywords used in voice search and came up with the below, which also indicates questions were used in search queries. It further reinforces the need to create content that answers questions people ask with voice search.
But What Are The Questions?
I have already mentioned mining your AdWords and Search Console data for those longer queries that are likely initiated by voice search. There are a few other tactics to help you discover the questions worth answering.
People also ask
You will see this towards the top of of a search results page below the featured snippet. Note what comes up when you search some of your primary keywords in the form of a question.
Take a look at Quora which exists to share knowledge. As you start typing, you see a list of possible topics and their corresponding FAQs.
Enter a keyword phrase with a question mark and comb through the results. This is another source for learning the questions people ask so you can develop relevant content.
Similar to the tactics mentioned above, enter a term on answerthepublic.com and receive a number of questions back that start with words like can and how. The below screenshot is full of questions people may ask about voice search.
Read what people write online in product reviews to determine what question it answers. If a review says “The shoes I ordered ran small”, a question that might answer is “Are these shoes true to size?”
People talk differently than how they type so we need to rethink how we present our messaging and stay current with what’s trending with voice search. Fortunately, since this is a new-ish space, there is still time to get ahead of competitors. Prepare now by creating content for your organic and paid channels, using the above guidelines.
This is also the time to focus on structured data since that drives the results in the Google cards that provide direct answers to search query questions. (If you want to geek out even more on voice search, read Google’s Evaluation of Search Speech guidelines where it rates the usefulness of voice responses.)
Hopefully the above will convince you that you need to prepare your content for an increase in voice search since ComScore predicts that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. Will you be ready?
About Tina Arnoldi
Tina Arnoldi is Analytics and AdWords Qualified and one of the few people in the United States recognized as a Google Developer Expert(GDE) for marketing. Her agency, 360 Internet Strategy, is also a Google Partner. You can learn more about her on LinkedIn