Google Voice Search was launched back in 2012, but it’s only been in the 12-18 months that people have really started to sit up and listen. With the introduction of voice assistants such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, voice search has been pushed to centre stage for marketers.
The growing popularity of voice assistants and the increased use of voice search has changed the dynamic of SEO roles. Now, more than ever, we have to think about things such as mobile optimisation, ranking for featured snippets, schema and PageSpeed. People are searching differently for things for the first time since Google came on the scene and as a result, we have to change the way in which things can be found. Keyword research, for example, is taking on a completely different focus – keywords are longer, more conversational and highlight user intent in a way we’ve never seen before.
How SEO and voice is evolving
People are accessing and searching for content in multiple ways, at multi times. We’re using everything from traditional desktop computers through to smart watches and, increasingly, voice search to discover new brands, find solutions to our problems and to research and buy products. From our own research at BrandContent, we’ve found that more than a fifth of UK adults use voice search several times a day – and the majority of those early adopters are millennials or adults aged 45 – 54.
We also found that 22% of voice search users are using it to find local business information every day, so in 2019 voice search is bringing huge opportunities for smaller businesses who in the past would have little chance of appearing in page one on Google.
With so many searches being local or “near me” searches, the opportunity for local brands has blown wide open. These smaller businesses, who might not have had the budget to make their presence known in the past, can simply make use of directories, comparison sites and Google My Business to drive awareness and become the sole results of a range of relevant questions and keywords.
Predictions for the future of voice
It’s going to be exciting to see how technology adapts to cater for voice search over the coming years. Research suggests that by 2022 as many as 90% of new cars will offer some form of voice recognition capability. Televisions are obviously already jumping on board too. There’s going to be huge opportunity with intertwining technology over the next few years and I think the momentum will keep growing.
One factor that could jar the smooth evolution of voice is trust. At the moment, there seems to be a lot of conversation around the trust, or lack of it, that people have in search technology such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa. Many people think they are listening in to every conversation, but this isn’t the case – it’s only when the wake-up command, like “Hey Google” is spoken. In the end, it will become a weigh up – if people want these devices in their home then they perhaps have to sacrifice a small part of their privacy, and trust that any indirect information absorbed by the assistants aren’t going to be stored or used.
One of the sectors most in need of building trust when it comes to voice is the finance and insurance industry. This sector tends to be slow adopters of new technology – mobile banking apps being a prime example. Over the next few years, people’s trust and understanding will hopefully grow and people will realise their data is just as secure through voice search and voice assistants as it is through their phone or laptop.
How and why brands need to find their voice
There are a few key things to consider when optimising for voice search but one of the simplest first steps brands can take is to make content more conversational and take into account long-tail keywords. The way people are asking questions through voice gives a lot of information about user intent that we haven’t had access to in the past with just two or three words in a text search.
Brands also need to make sure to optimise for mobile and monitor PageSpeed, as an estimated 60% of voice searches are coming from mobile so it’s vital any optimisation strategy caters for all devices. PageSpeed in particular is important as the average voice search results page loads in under five seconds, while the current average speed index (the perceived load time) is over eight seconds.