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Last updated: July 6, 2021
The world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an ever-changing one. No matter if you run a small location-based landscaping business or have a franchise of restaurants all around the country, any change in the way clients search for services online affects you. Because if they change the way they look for you, you need to change how you speak them.
Speak is the keyword here.
So, we will be looking at voice search and how it has evolved in recent times, so you can get the insights into adapting your strategy to meet these new changes.
Why Should You Care About Voice Search in the First Place
Why is voice search even a thing, you might ask?
Just look around you. Everyone is always in a hurry to get somewhere. So in our hectic, often too busy lifestyles, we find ourselves looking for ways to do certain things faster, easier, and with less effort altogether. One of those things is online searches.
We can’t escape asking Google about local plumbers and grocery stores, as well as tips on how to run our businesses better, but there is one thing we can do. Ask our questions without even typing them. It’s like asking Siri about the weather.
What percentage of your clients would prefer using voice search over taking the time to type down a question?
If they change, you change.
At least that’s what successful businesses do, and that’s why voice search matters in 2021 and beyond.
How Voice Search Came to Be
If you own an iPhone, you are well familiar with Siri, and you have most probably heard about Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and other similar voice assistants.
In fact, voice recognition software started way before the age of voice assistants. It has been around since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until the likes of Siri came into play that it really gained popularity.
Google first launched its Voice Search feature in 2010. The system was slow to catch on because it required users to first call a telephone number, say their search query, and then wait for results to show on their mobile device.
Then came 2011 when Apple introduced Siri for their iPhone 4s, making it the first digital virtual assistant. A year later, Google launched Google Now, and Amazon and Microsoft quickly caught up with Alexa and Cortana. In 2016, Google released Google Assistant, and a couple of years after that, Samsung’s Bixby and IBM’s Watson also reached the market.
In the present day, virtual assistants are everywhere – from laptops and mobile phones to watches and home devices. Most people have used a virtual assistant at least once, and some aren’t even aware of it.
Voice Search in 2021
The industry is booming, there is no second opinion on that. In fact, according to eMarketer, voice commerce sales reached a massive $2.1 billion in 2019 alone. Juniper Research estimates that by 2023, there will be an astounding 8 billion digital voice assistants already in use on the market.
Amazon’s Alexa still dominates the market for voice-enabled devices, but it is Google that holds more than 90% of the search engine market. Back in 2013, Google released the Hummingbird update, which introduced a change in how the algorithm processed natural language versus keywords. The update took into consideration context and user intent, which is an integral part of how the algorithm works today.
With search engines and voice recognition software growing increasingly smarter toward voice search queries, websites need to quickly adapt and optimize their content accordingly.
In case you still have your reservations if voice search is the future of online searches, here are some statistics you may have missed:
- According to Location World, around 2 out of every 5 adults use voice search at least once every day (41%). And they use it for more than finding information alone. They use it for shopping, too.
- Recent data from Amazon shows that people use Alexa for shopping in 2018 three times more than they did in 2017.
- 55% of households are expected to have a voice assistant device by 2022.
- By 2021, smart speaker sales will surpass tablet sales.
Start Optimizing for Voice Search Today
Are you convinced voice search is and will continue to be a hot topic in digital marketing? Good. Now, it’s time to see how you can start adapting your voice search SEO strategy today.
#1 Use Natural Language
Spoken queries aren’t the same as typed ones.
Let’s look at a possible situation, so you can understand the difference yourself.
Let’s say you’re looking for a nice cocktail place in your area to celebrate your birthday. If you go on Google or another search engine, your written query might be something along the lines of “best bars near me.” Now, if you’re using a voice assistant on your mobile phone, your query might sound more like this: “what are the best bars in my area?”
As you can see, spoken queries tend to be longer and more conversational. So, instead of optimizing your content for keywords, you need to focus on enriching your content with conversational keywords and phrases that are used more in conversation rather than spoken word. Optimizing for semantic search is key to having a successful voice search optimization strategy. Targeting long-tail keywords is not only great for voice search but also an efficient strategy for traditional SEO as well.
#2 Include Question Phrases In Your Content
When we type in our queries on Google, we usually try to be as succinct as possible. It’s not about writing a novel out of your request, but saying as much as you can with as little as possible.
For example, if you’re looking for a pink bridesmaid dress under $50, you will type something like: “pink bridesmaid dress on sale.” But, a spoken query will sound more like: “Where can I find a pink bridesmaid dress under 50 dollars?”
So, when you’re creating your content, think about these types of questions users will potentially have about your product or service. Include these questions in your headers and subtitles, as well as the individual paragraphs. Don’t overdo it, of course. Balance is key. Look at those questions like longtail keywords and use them strategically and wisely.
If you’re wondering how to come up with such questions, there are many tools that are free to use (or have freemium options), such as Answer the Public and Also Asked.
If we take the example from #1 about bars, here is what people are already asking Google when they want to find a bar in their area:
A question about pink bridesmaid dresses, using Also Asked, will show results like these:
Use these free tools when preparing or editing your existing content. Doing that can only benefit you. Use the questions in the results and don’t be afraid to use alterations to avoid repetition. Search engines have gotten increasingly savvy at understanding semantics.
#3 Try to Get a Featured Snippet
You’ve surely seen featured snippets before, but you just didn’t know that was what they were called. These are the pieces of content that take up position zero, a.k.a., the space before any organic search results. According to Search Engine Watch, if your content is selected for a particular query, it is likely that voice assistants are going to use it to respond to spoken queries as well.
So, the burning question of the day: how to make sure your content makes it to the Featured Snippet section? The simple answer is: make sure your content is original, answers the particular question of the query, and is of high quality. If you’re looking for a more thorough answer, you can check this guide by Ahrefs. The most important aspect to consider, however, is the type of snippet you want to rank for as this will help you structure the page and content better.
#4 Work to Improve Your Local SEO
A study made in 2018 by BrightLocal found that over 58% of people use voice search to find local businesses. It also established that users are more likely to use voice search to look for additional information on companies they are already familiar with. This comes as no surprise since most people who go for voice search are already planning to go somewhere or do something. They aren’t in the initial stages of researching a topic or a business.
The phrase “near me” is super popular in voice search, and since search engine bots look into business listings to find verified information, you need to make sure your Google My Business profile is thoroughly filled out and has the latest details of your company.
#5 Keep Your NAP Consistent Everywhere
For location-based results, each voice assistant pulls NAP information from different, sometimes overlapping sources. Keep that in mind and be sure to have your NAP consistent everywhere.
For example, Apple’s Siri pulls local recommendations from the NAP profiles on Trip Advisor, Apple Maps, Yelp, and Bing, while Android devices and Google Assistant pull that information from Google My Business. As you can see, most voice assistants rely on their «owner’s» tools and metrics to deliver information, and the best you can do is have a uniform NAP everywhere.
The Bottom Line
Working on improving your voice search SEO game is not something you can do “when you get the time.” Optimizing for voice search on Google and other search engines is a necessity for virtually any business if it is to remain competitive.
Since many are still slow to see the importance of optimizing their content for spoken queries, you will have an added edge as soon as you take our advice and start improving your SEO strategy. Strategic planning, understanding user intent, and quality content are the three must-have ingredients if you want to master voice search in 2021 and beyond.
Refer back to this blog as we will be updating it with new trends and tips while we continue to see new changes in how voice search evolves.