Voice search: How to prepare for the future of SEO

Girl using a smart phone voice recognition

If you’ve bought a new phone sometime in the last five years or so, you’re probably extremely familiar with voice searches, and they may even be an inescapable part of your daily routine.

What started with Siri on iPhones in late 2011 soon featured something similar on Google’s Android phones. But instead of falling out of favor in the half-decade since, like often happens with tech trends, voice commands and voice searches have only grown in popularity.

In 2017, mobile phones are still an important component of voice search, but now many more devices have the capability. For example, Siri can be used on iPads and Mac desktop computers, as can Microsoft’s Cortana on Windows 10. But the most important development in voice searching in recent times has likely been the popularity of Amazon’s Echo with its Alexa personal assistant.

The prevalence of smartphones, personal assistants and tablets means that the vast majority of business owners and potential customers in the marketplace have one or more devices that have voice-search capability and are probably never far from a smartphone at any time all day. There are important implications of this increase in voice searching to be aware of for your company or association’s search engine optimization (SEO).

Voice searching queries and traditional search engine lookups are usually worded differently and can mean different things – and get different results – altogether.

As a test of this, when I woke up, I put “weather Dallas” in a traditional Google search, and was told the traditional information that it would be a high of 91 and a low of 73. When I asked the Google Assistant on my Android phone, “How’s the weather in Dallas?” I was given most of the same information by voice, but with an “It looks like a pleasant day” at the beginning.

The queries mostly gave the same results, but because of the more conversational nature of most voice searches, like this one, a more conversational “reply” was in the result.

In the case of your organization, the type of voice searches you’ll want to direct to your site probably won’t be as basic as the weather. However, you will still want to remember the conversational aspect of voice searching, and account for longer phrases, more words and the order of those words for your SEO.

SEO marketers refer to these longer searches as long-tail keywords. Entrepreneur and marketer AJ Agrawal wrote in Forbes about long-tail keywords, “These tend to be longer and involve very specific keyword phrases that are used by people closer to the point of purchasing something. Because of this, you should have keywords that describe your product features and benefits as detailed as possible and involve proper phrases or sentences.”

In this case, if you have a bare-bones site with only a basic description of what your business does, it could be time to put some more effort and money into your content, including articles and blogs that help target the keywords and phrases you want to hit in your SEO.

If you’re reading this, chances are you know how important mobile optimization and responsive design are for your site, and this becomes all the more important when considering the inherently mobile and convenient nature of most voice searches. Even as of August 2016, 60 percent of searches were on mobile, a number that has surely only gone up in the last 14 months. Your SEO keywords and content can be top-notch, but without fully optimized mobile content, search engines will penalize you in a big way.

Voice searching is no longer the new kid on the block for SEO, and it’s going nowhere. Your site and content needs to keep up with it and how it differs from traditional search if you want to reach more potential customers.

Ross Lancaster

Ross Lancaster

Senior Content Editor, MultiBriefs

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