Voice Search Is Changing the Way We Search
Search evolution… to voice search
Since Google burst on the market with their famous white homepage, their search input box, and their search result page, search has become a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives, to the point that we don’t even think about it anymore, especially now when using voice search.
From its humble beginnings of getting a raw list of results, there have been significant improvements in how the answers to our questions are made available to us: instant search, on-the-go results, local based results, history-based results, images, and video, rich answers, content previews, top-featured results… we’ve seen a long list of improvements in the way results have been displayed and brought back to customers.
But despite all those changes, there has been one thing that never evolved: any query always had to begin with a user typing in a set of keywords into a text field and hoping that it would serve up the appropriate answer.
That is… until now! With new technologies such as voice search and the appearance of digital assistants on the market, a new way to search started to appear.
From a mobile phone era…
By 2020 it is projected there will be nearly 21 billion internet-connected devices or “things” in the world. Mobile devices have become an inseparable extension of people’s lives.
According to the Pew Research Centre, 94% of smartphone users claim that they carry their phones with them frequently and 82% report that they never, or rarely, turn their phones off.
Along with the increase in mobile device usage, is the rise of what is called “voice search”, and “personal assistant” software like Alexa, Cortana, or Siri.
When looking at trends, we note that Google trends for voice-related commands have risen by 35 times since 2008. Voice searches will increase by more than 60% in the next five years, according to the Moz*, leading us slowly to a voice activate era.
… To a voice-activated era
Users have become increasingly accustomed to the idea of speaking directly to a device and accessing the information on the internet wherever and whenever they need it, and they want access to quick relevant minimal results and contextualized based on their location.
Just as mobile devices have enabled on-the-go, local based search, voice means a new method of querying and experience for users. Now, when a person activates voice search, most personal assistant technology will only deliver what is considered the best answer, essentially reducing the Search Engine Result Page (or SERP) to one result.
For brands, that means that they either occupy that first position in the results or, as far as voice search is concerned, they do not receive any attention at all.
Evolution of results in Google search
For voice-activated technologies connected to smartphones, brands also need to remain focused on appearing in the top results. When someone uses voice search because they are on-the-go or they need an immediate answer, they’re looking for information-rich content previews as well as quick actions. Organic search engine optimization becomes an everyday fight between brands to ensure they remain visible in the search results and appear in the immediate, rich, and contextual answers, such as Google Quick Answer or Rich card.
As voice search is starting to have an unprecedented effect on organic search, is becoming important to optimize your content for it.
How to optimize for voice search?
Here are some of my personal advice on the subject:
First of all, start by identifying the most commonly searched terms. Analytics integration is important for that first step, as you will then need to optimize your website for them.
A good way to adapt your content is to ensure you include the most searched questions and a direct answer to them somewhere on your website content (why not in your FAQ section if you have one).
Some extra conversational capabilities
Another interesting thing I noted when I started using voice search is this tendency I had to use more conversational terms when searching using my voice.
When searching with a keyboard, users naturally tend to limit the number of words entered to adapt to the web search limitations; this is even truer on mobile. Some data captured by Moz seems to correlate that tendency.
Following on mobile and voice technologies, and looking into the future, the one thing that seems sure is that brands will have to adapt. I will leave you to think about how new trends and technologies would be leveraged to enhance the way customers interact with brands and perform searches… and why not use your voice and share your thoughts in a comment below!