Although it may already feel as if we have been talking to our phones for years, voice search is a relative newcomer to the world of search engines. However, it’s quickly become indispensable with the growing use of voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the soon-to-be-released Apple HomePod. What might not be clear at first is the degree to which voice search affects search engine optimization (SEO). Does the process of speaking a search request into a device, rather than typing it out, really change the likely search results?

How widespread is voice search?

Over the last few years, voice search has gone from a novelty to an ever-present part of our lives. More than one-half of all search engine queries are made from mobile devices, rather than laptops, tablets, or desktop computers. The search category with the highest number of mobile device results, incidentally, is “food and beverage”—indicating that many users are using their devices to look up nearby restaurants. The reasons for voice search’s popularity include:

  • It’s faster and easier than typing. Typing into a mobile device’s small keyboard can be awkward and difficult for many people—a frustrating obstacle that voice search all but eliminates.
  • It makes fewer mistakes. It’s easy to make a mistake or two while typing into your mobile device, but the accuracy of modern software has made errors in voice search much rarer.
  • It facilitates multitasking. Many people use voice search while cooking, watching television, or engaging in other activities where it would be inconvenient or even hazardous to pause long enough to type.

Younger mobile device users are increasingly inclined to use voice search for even the simplest tasks. A 2014 study found that while adults are most likely to use voice search to look up directions, teens are more likely to use this technology to make phone calls—skipping the extra effort needed to look up a phone number. If the trend continues, voice search will rapidly become the dominant means of doing internet searches. This means that it’s imperative for companies to adapt to the changing situation and learn to shape their SEO strategies to an evolving technology.

How has voice search changed SEO?

Voice search has made it as quick and easy as it has ever been to do online searches—but does that make it more or less likely that internet users will land on your page? What we do know is that voice search has changed a number of things about search queries. These are some of the most notable trend shifts that have occurred since voice search began to take over:

  • Conversational phrases dominate search results. When people type a search query, they generally focus on typing important words—dentist, doctor, veterinarian. When the same people speak a search query out loud, however, they generally do not do this. When we ask our phone a question, we automatically speak in a conversational tone. Instead of optimizing your content to target keywords and short phrases, you should be targeting long-tail keywords that reflect the way people are most likely to phrase their queries.
  • Local searches are more prevalent. When people use their devices to do a voice search for a company, it’s highly likely that they’re looking for something in their immediate area. According to the 2016 Internet Trends Report, 22% of mobile voice searches—or a little more than 1 out of 5—are for “local information.” Companies that want to thrive in the era of voice search should strive to make as much of their content optimized for local searches as possible.
  • Searches are more likely to be for micro-moments. A micro-moment happens when you use your mobile device or smart speaker to do a search while trying to make a decision about something—whether to purchase a product or whether to visit a store, for example. Since these devices and voice search technology facilitate quick, easy searches, micro-moments are now more common than ever before. Optimizing for area-specific searches is the best way to attract potential visitors who are looking for products and services “near me.”
How can your company optimize for voice search?

What every company wants to know, of course, is how they can refine their content to make it more appealing to search engines. When voice search needs to be factored into this process, SEO can start to seem more complicated than ever before. However, there are a few straightforward strategies you can utilize to enhance your chances of staying as visible as possible in local search engine results for your industry:

  • Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. If visitors are going to be looking at your website from a mobile device, it’s important to make sure that your site looks the way it’s supposed to. The fastest way to tell if your website will load and display correctly on a mobile device is to use Google’s online Mobile-Friendly Test. Having a mobile-friendly site will only become more important as mobile searches become more widespread. Make sure that your site loads quickly on mobile devices, rather than slowing down or freezing.
  • Focus on optimizing for local results. When somebody does a search for your service in your area, the only way your company is likely to appear in the earliest results is if you have optimized for the region. If you’re not optimizing for your region, you could be depriving yourself of numerous potential customers. Make sure to include your location prominently on every page of your website.
  • Optimize your Google My Business listing. If you want to do well in Google’s rankings, you should make sure that Google has the information it needs to list your company accurately. If you haven’t already, you should claim your Google My Business listing and make sure that all of the information it includes is up to date. The more specific the information you provide is, the more likely your business is to turn up in Google search results when somebody does a voice search for a company in your area.
  • Use online analytics to study your search results. Online analytics tools have had a major effect on the way many companies think about SEO. While Google doesn’t yet provide analytics related to voice search, you can see all of the queries that brought visitors to your site. If many of the queries are conversational in tone rather than keyword-focused, it’s a likely sign that you’re getting a lot of voice search customers.
  • Add an FAQ section to your site. One of the surest ways to optimize your site for voice search queries is to add a section with frequently asked questions. Not only is this helpful to customers, but it’s also smart for voice search SEO strategy. By including phrases that potential customers are likely to search for—such as “Am I a good candidate for Invisalign?”—you can boost the chances that any given internet user will stumble across your website.
  • Keep your website’s copy readable. Written content that is easy to understand is more likely to bring in new potential customers than content that is complex or convoluted. Instead of flooding every landing page with statistics and figures, make sure that all of the writing is as straightforward and clear as it can possibly be. When visitors arrive at your site, after all, you want to give them a good reason to stay there.
Is voice search here to stay?

In the world of SEO, few trends are ever predictable from one year to the next—but voice search may be the exception. It is unlikely that voice search will disappear any time soon; in fact, it’s becoming more prevalent every year, and entire industries are already starting to adapt to many of the changes it has ushered in. If today’s companies want to continue to do well in local search engine rankings, it’s essential that they start factoring voice search into their SEO marketing strategy. The sooner you and your company begin strategizing for this long-term change, the sooner you’ll begin to see results.

At Pennington Creative, we specialize in creating engaging web content for businesses of all sizes. If you want to upgrade your website with content that is optimized for voice search as well as traditional search engine rankings, contact us to schedule a consultation. We can provide service pages, FAQ pages, blog content, and much more.

About the Author

Justyn - Digital Marketing Manager, Special Projects
Justyn Dillingham

Digital Marketing Manager, Special Projects