Almost one year ago, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced in a keynote speech that 20% of all queries on its mobile app are voice searches. One year on and this increasing trend doesn’t show any signs of letting up.
Voice search has evolved over the years to not only be a tool to find out quirky or interesting facts, it has become a medium to perform actions for us, recommend restaurants and tell us jokes. Not just confined to mobile or desktop devices, it is being rolled out in cars, televisions and home hubs and can be inter-connected across many platforms.
But how will the evolution of voice search affect marketers jostling for exposure in a changing landscape?
The Evolution of Voice Search & SEO
SEO is likely to experience the biggest ripples of change. Gone are the days of optimising websites solely on a keyword/keyphrase level. Now, we must consider the spoken word and how language used in voice search differs to that used on a keyboard.
Conversational content is a big part of how the industry will need to adapt. Search engines are understanding humanised requests and responding accordingly using the tools at its disposable.
Google introduced knowledge graph and answer snippets to its search engine in 2012 (followed shortly after by a major algorithm update: Hummingbird) – a move undoubtedly made to better organise its results to adapt to voice and long tail search behaviour.
As featured snippets are displayed for an estimated +12% of all queries and growing, being featured here will become the holy grail for any company wishing to stay ahead of the voice search curve, not to mention the other ranking benefits.
Localisation and understanding the importance behind micro-moments will also be an important consideration for those looking to take advantage of this changing trend.
Over one third of voice search queries have local intent implied, placing a great deal of importance on the set up of store physical listings across search engines.
A check of trending search data for the term ‘near me’ shows the increase in popularity over the past 5 years:
Micro-moments and understanding user-intent, an area often considered across all digital channels, will likely experience a shake up too. Micro-moments consider the intent behind particular search queries and how we can qualitatively back up that up with data. The 5W1H concept is important here – Who, Where, Why, When and How – to interpret the many funnels users venture down before converting.
It’s important to take steps now to ensure your online content offering is in shape to reap the greatest benefits from these opportunities.
So, what’s next?
In a nutshell, it’s going to get better. Search engines and home hubs will become more intuitive and will to get to know your hobbies, interests and browsing behaviour better. Data-driven search will also be able to give you personalised results and recommend content or even products.
As AI improves it is likely knowledge graph and featured snippet adoption will continue to increase across a larger query base.
The challenge for voice search lie in the transactional market. Can you realistically make online purchases without potentially seeing what you are buying? For many products, this is unlikely. Search engines realise this and Google for one are making big steps into the world of conversational shopping to tackle this.
Voice search technology could also be hugely lucrative for large companies, especially with advances in chatbots and natural language understanding (NLU). Customer service chatbots such as Twyla are transforming the way companies such as Pizza Hut and Uber respond to customers in real time. This has the potential to save time, money, and customer patience.
Whereas voice search is making huge strides it still has a long way to go before it becomes the dominant search player. The challenge for those in digital marketing is ensuring your website is optimised across voice and text search. By ensuring your website content is set up to complement changing user trends you stand a far greater chance of being ahead of your competitors.