Voice searches are now part of our daily internet habits: Google Now, Siri, Alexa and Cortana are engaged in a four-way battle for the hearts and voices of customers everywhere, and at some point you have to wonder – how is this going to affect my business?
We've been wondering if voice searches are going to experience a "gold rush" effect for a few years now, and while that impact has been subtler than some expected, it has changed the search engine landscape...and continues to increase its influence. Back in 2014 a study showed that 55% of teens and 41% of adults use a voice query on their phones or computers at least once a day, numbers that have probably increased by now. Of course, because voice tech is still new and evolving, some use is trend chasing and will drop off. But other types of voice directed searches will become a standard part of our lives – and that includes our business lives.
2 Significant Growth Areas
- Mobile Voice Queries: This refers to people casually pulling out their phones and saying something like, "Siri, where is a Thai restaurant?" These are general questions where a direct answer is needed fast and people don't want to type in a search. There's actually a sweet spot of natural human queries that fall right into this voice-friendly category, and Neil Patel talks more about it if you want to learn.
- Automation and Control: These aren't so much queries as they are commands – ways to operate software and even hardware with voice commands. There's not nearly as much SEO potential here, but it does add a lot more usability: Amazon's Alexa, which can control smart devices and complete basic software tasks as well as answer questions, is a great example of this.
Voice Search Issues and SEO Worries
As always, look to Google if you're wondering whether to worry about something. While Google has done a lot of work on voice programming, language interpretation, and semantic context necessary for voice queries, it hasn't appeared to include much voice query SEO in its algorithms yet – at least not that they're telling us. This is probably because voice queries are still very, very proprietary. Cortana doesn't hop on Google to answer your questions, she looks through her own files and Microsoft's Bing. Likewise, only Google Now directly uses the Google search engine to get answers. Until this changes, the impact of voice queries is going to be very limited.
The Times Are Changing
Google's current interest is in providing direct answers – allowing voice queries to scan results and come up with a very simple answer – what, where, how far away or did you mean this. The other search engines are following in their own ways. The goal is to distill search information down to a single response for the listener, an approach that seems to negate the purpose of SEO. This is why many brands are sitting up and making their own alarmed voice queries: "Uh, does this mean that all our SEO work is going to become useless in a voice-led mobile world?"
No, it does not – and there are several things you can do to prepare if voice searches are invading your industry.
- Answer Questions and Do It Pristinely: If there are common questions that customers have about your products or companies, answer them in a very clear fashion and post those answers online where everyone, including search bots, can find them. Use language that a robot could understand.
- Make Google Very, Very Happy: Include all your business information – location, services, description, products – wherever you can. This includes your social media profiles, your Google profiles, YouTube, and everywhere else. These are the places that voice queries will draw information from.
- Keep Up Your Local SEO Game: Voice queries are highly local in nature, especially when it comes to driving conversions. Practice excellent local SEO for voice search benefits – and plenty of other benefits too!