The popularity of voice searches is growing at a rapid rate today. Currently, almost 20% of all searches are executed by voice search. If the predictions by giant research firms are deemed to be accurate, then voice search will dominate nearly half of searches by next year.
Thanks to advancements in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, there is a significant improvement in Google voice search. In 2017, the AI-powered Google Assistant improved its speech recognition now has an understanding of the English language to 95% with a word error percentage as low as 4.9%.
With the Hummingbird algorithm update in 2013, Google targeted its focus on semantic searches. Semantic searches work on improving search accuracy by trying to decode the user intent and context of the search query.
The sole purpose of emphasizing on semantic searches was to improve the user experience by generating more relevant results. With the implementation of Google’s robust search algorithms and natural language processing (NLP), Google Now is more accurate compared to Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, or Amazon’s Alexa (Amazon Echo) virtual assistants.
Studies suggest that the first search result on Google’s SERP gets up to 35% of the clicks. For voice search on mobile, only the top three results are displayed, and for smart speakers, it’s just one. With the fierce level of competition coming up, it wouldn’t be surprising if voice searches show a single search result for any given query in the future. Voice Engine Optimization is focused on optimizing your brand to be the only result in voice search. It’s high time that brands create a robust voice engine optimization (VEO) strategy to stay ahead of the competition.
What is Voice Search?
Voice Search is a speech recognition technology where users can perform searches by saying search terms aloud in the search field instead of typing them. Voice Search is generally built as a software application, however, it can be also built as a service.
Voice Search History
The earliest known voice recognition device was created by IBM in 1962 that could understand words and digits. The device was named “Shoebox” and out of the 16 words it could understand, 10 were numbers. The best part of this device was not only it could understand the speech input, but could also process commands and run exercises such as calculating the sum or multiplication of numbers.
Apple’s Siri had no competitors for quite some time since its inception, but it created a stir in the smartphone market by its ability to converse with users and also get things done as per their voice commands. By 2012, everyone had a smartphone and it proved to be a useful platform to test voice recognition software. This led the Google-owned operating system, Android to introduce Google Now in 2012. The Google voice search app for the smartphone crowdsourced data to enhance voice technology from billions of search queries it receives. This helped Google to predict the probability of what users are saying.
How to Use Google Voice Search?
To turn on voice search
- On your Android phone or tablet, open the Google app.
- At the bottom right, tap More Settings Voice.
- Under “Okay Google,” tap Voice match.
- Turn on Access with voice match.
To start a voice search
- On your Android device, open the Google app.
- Say “Ok Google” or tap the Microphone.
Impact of BERT Update on Voice Search
Voice Search is undoubtedly the next big thing in the SEO world. Google has been trying to give more impetus to voice search features in the past couple of years. The BERT update can be considered as one of the major updates in relation to voice search. The latest algorithm update by Google was the result of years of hard work by their language team and AI team. The BERT updates aim to understand the complexity of human language through Natural Language Processing (NLP).
To put simply, Google BERT tries to understand words more accurately. Today 70% of the search terms are long-term. With the BERT update, Google is expected to understand these long-tail search terms and show relevant results in a fraction of seconds. Google says that it is now considering prepositions like “to,” “in”, etc. to decode the correct meaning of the search queries. Comscore predicts that by net year, half of all online searches will be voice-based. The introduction of BERT ahead of the major shift to smart speakers and voice-based search technology has proved to be very fruitful for the consumers.
Voice Search Trends
As per Adobe Analytics Survey, the most common voice searches on smart speakers ask for music (70%), the weather forecast (64%), fun questions (53%), online search (47%), news (46%), and asking directions (34%). Almost half (47%) of smart speaker owners use their devices for product search and research, 43% use them to wishlist items and 32% do so for price comparison. 71% smart speakers owners, reported in 2018, that they use it daily with 44% of them admitting to using them multiple times of the day. Only 8% of the people said that they do not use any kind of smart device.
According to a survey by Canalys last year, the global smart speaker shipment rose by almost 187% year over year in Q2 with China being the largest consumer. In addition, the survey also revealed that Apple, Google, Xiaomi, Amazon, and other manufacturers collectively shipped 16.8 million units in Q1 of 2018. Amazon’s Echo has a 10% penetration of US homes, with Google’s Home at 4% and Microsoft’s Cortana at 2%.
Best Voice Search Devices
These are the top 7 voice search devices and apps:
- Google Home
- Amazon Echo/Alexa
- Google Assistant
- Android Phones And Devices
- Microsoft Cortana
How to Optimize For Voice Search?
Optimizing existing content to make it better suited for voice search is known as voice search optimization and most businesses are trying to follow it to stay ahead of the fierce competition of ranking for both, voice and web searches. Here’s how you can optimize your website for voice search and improve your chances of ranking on the top of the SERP:
Content That Appears in Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are relevant information displayed by Google on the top of the SERP. As per the search query, search engines like Google pulls the best result and displays the content in a box.
According to research, almost 30% of the search results displayed by Google has featured snippets. If your content appears as a featured snippet, your voice assistant will most likely pull its answer from there. So, you should work on providing quality information on your website so that they can appear as featured snippets.
Write User Intent Content
When you write user-intent content, you take into consideration the queries and doubts that a user might have about the products or services you offer. The user intent content should answer the ‘what,’ ‘why,’ ‘who,’ ‘which,’ ‘when,’ and ‘how’ of the audience so that Google can crawl the content and show it on the top of the SERP for any given query. As people make these queries through voice actions, Google digs deep into millions of answers and displays the one that it deems to be the most relevant.
Optimize Your Business Listings
The best way to let Google recognize your business online is by claiming your Google My Business (GMB) profile. This will improve your chances of appearing in the voice searches. You must provide your NAP information accurately. If you have multiple business listings on various sites, you have to ensure that the business name, address, and phone number are consistent.
Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
It’s a no-brainer that most voice searches take place on smartphones. Currently, more than 25% of search queries on mobiles are dominated by voice search. This means every one out of five users prefers voice searches than typing. Therefore you have to develop a mobile-friendly website where customers can find quick answers to their queries and boosts your traffic. Some of the essential factors to consider while developing a mobile-friendly website are proper website design, compressed images, clear content, easy navigation, and bigger buttons for CTA.
Use Long-Tail Keywords Effectively
While conducting a voice search, people don’t go for chopped terms or keywords; they are more likely to use long phrases to get answers to their queries. So, try to use long-tail keywords within your content. This is also beneficial from an SEO point of view. Keywords containing more than 2-3 phrases have high chances of ranking and also face less competition. You can use certain tools to look for the type of long-tail keywords people use while looking for your product and services and optimize your website content accordingly.
Focus on Structured Data
The structured data helps Google to understand your content better when. It is a code added to the HTML markup of the through which you can have better control over how you want your website content to be displayed in the search results. By implementing structured data, your web content can show up in featured snippets and increase the click-through-rate to your website. As your content appears in featured snippets, your chances of appearing in voice search results also increase. You can visit schema.org to understand how you can implement the schema tag or structured data to your site.
Add FAQ Section
Adding a FAQ section works in favor of your website and proves beneficial for voice search optimization. Find questions people are trying to search in Google and create an FAQ combining all the common search queries. AnswerThePublic is a free tool that extracts queries from the Google search database and creates a reservoir of popular questions with your niche terms in them. Don’t limit yourself to this tool alone, look for queries people put in online forums, Quora, Reddit and you can also ask people to shoot their questions on social media and use them to frame your FAQs. If your FAQs match with any online search query, it has a high chance of getting ranked on the top of the search results.
Speed Up Your Website
Work on Local SEO
— The Online Practice (@Online_Practice) September 11, 2019
Most people use voice search to decide where to go locally. They look for restaurants, coffee shops, book stores, salons, plumbers and doctors while they are at home or walking or driving. So to appear in local searches, you need to optimize your content with location-specific keywords, say “ice-cream shop in Los Angeles.” When people in Los Angeles, type queries like “ice-cream shop near me” or “best ice-cream shops in Los Angeles,” Google with detect your business location and if your store is close to them, there is a high probability that your website might show up in the search results.
From all the studies and researches conducted so far, it seems like voice search is here to dominate the search queries in the coming years. Businesses that have already considered the importance of voice search, their visibility in the voice search results will increase significantly in the future and bring in more traffic. For websites that are yet to optimize their content for voice search should do it at the earliest to gain online visibility on the SERP and boost their rank organically.