Well, quite a lot as it turns out. With voice search becoming more popular as the years pass, it begins to have more of an impact on businesses SEO strategies.
First I’ll outline just how popular voice search has become over time. After that, I’ll delve a bit into how this changes how we should be approaching SEO, moving away from the familiar keyword focus we all know and love. Finally, I’ll give a few tips for SEOers out there on how to optimise their site in accordance with all these changes.
Google is shifting quite rapidly, so to keep up we’ve also written about upcoming changes in the industry within the next 12 months, but we’ll focus on voice search here for brevity’s sake.
We need to consider a few things before we move on, and that’s the behaviour of users when using voice search. In 2014, Google published a post telling us that a whopping 55% of teens surveyed use voice search daily, and 41% of adults also use it daily. The increase in popularity is mainly due to convenience, when on the street looking for directions, or wondering whether to take an umbrella in case it rains (or just when you’re bored, 22% of teens use voice search when in the bathroom). We haven’t even began to consider people using voice search due to disabilities, so it’s clear the importance and popularity of it can’t be shunned as just a fad.
- When do people use it? People use voice search on the move, when needing information quickly, when multitasking, when watching TV or cooking etc.
- Why do people use it?: People use voice search because of convenience, because voice search has become more sophisticated at understanding our intentions, it’s more efficient, or simply “because it’s the future” (as 88% of teens would say)
- How do people use it?: People use voice search, colloquially!
All of this leads into my next point. We know the popularity of voice search and why people use it, so how does this impact our SEO strategy moving forward?
Less Focus on Keywords
It sounds like blasphemy for an SEOer to say this, but if we take into account how users use voice search, the focus on keywords is less evident. We get more: “what’s the weather like tomorrow?” and less: “weather forecast 7th January”. We also get a lot more focus on local searches like: “where’s the closest restaurant to me?” as we know more and more people are using it on the go.
Searching with your voice naturally encourages users to speak colloquially, and we don’t tend to use keywords when speaking naturally hence the nature of voice search. So summing this up, we need to shift our SEO strategy towards:
- Optimised local SEO
- Less keyword focused, more focused on answering the question (I’ll focus on this one)
Remember, everything Google does is to provide relevant results for users, so we need to make sure we’re providing great results for queries through voice search. How do we do this? By providing relevant content that answers what the user is looking for. We’ve heard it before with content, but the focus on relevance is even more important with regards to voice search due to the intent of the user.
Google is heading towards a search engine that can fully understand semantics (as evidenced by aspects like Knowledge Graphs linking together relevant entities). We can already see the focus shifting away from keywords and more towards answering the question the user is asking, and focusing on the intent rather than the keywords.
Coping with these changes
- Make sure you’re optimised for local SEO and you always keep your NAP (name, address, phone number) up to date to deal with users on the move
- Think like a voice searcher: “If I want people to land on my site, what would I say to my phone to get there?” After going through this process, give relevant information that answers your search
- Don’t focus your content too much on keywords (but don’t neglect other SEO ranking factors such as links, meta-data etc.)
It’s going to come to a point where Google can truly understand the intent behind every search, with this in mind, make sure your pages have content that mimics the intent of the user. When it comes to voice search, this trend has already begun, so get a head start before it goes further.