This explosion in voice search undoubtedly represents one of the biggest upheavals the search world has seen over the last few years. How can brands adapt to this change?
First of all, it’s important to understand that with voice search, the user’s experience and needs are profoundly different. Classic search, which consists of typing keywords into a search engine, has given way to conversational search. Users are using natural language, asking specific questions, and expecting clear answers (“Where can I find a good pizzeria,” “How can I make savoury cupcakes”, etc.). Google understands that improving the relevance of search results means factoring in the user experience, as proven by the update to its indexing criteria. With Hummingbird, the search engine’s latest algorithm, Google is now able to better understand users’ search intentions by interpreting natural language, thematic associations, and semantic concepts. And then there’s RankBrain, a new system that Google will henceforth use to evaluate which pages are most likely to respond to users’ searches by analysing and processing a number of criteria using machine learning.
With voice search, we input out requests using more natural language. In fact, users are searching by asking real questions (sentences starting with “How can I” or “Where can I go” or “Where can I find”) and making more specific requests (“women’s hiking shoes for less than $100” rather than “hiking shoes women”). Concretely, for SEOs, this marks the ascension of long-tail search phrases and means they will need to pay more attention to what users are searching for: Content will no longer rank based solely on keywords, but instead needs to respond to users’ needs (the boundary between SEO and user experience is getting thinner and thinner). For PPC specialists, this will lead them to target searches made up of multiple keywords, and prioritizing exact matches over broad matches.
Foraging for keywords is therefore becoming a more and more essential part of an SEO’s job, much as it is for an SEM campaign manager.
Another aspect of voice search is the fact that it’s done on mobile. As a result, to benefit from this type of search, you absolutely need to make sure that your company and products are visible on mobile devices. This means having a responsive website that adapts to the mobile format, both in terms of usability (possible to navigate by touch and able to scale down to small screens) and performance (fast page load time, both over wifi or 3G). It was with this in mind that the AMP format (Accelerated Mobile Pages) was launched, HTML pages with pared down code that load quickly on mobile.
In addition, users often use their phones simply to find the address or phone number of a company or point of sales. Make sure they can find what they’re looking for quickly.
Here are a few ideas to help you rank for voice searches, whether you specialize in SEO or SEM:
In short, voice search is a trend that will establish itself as a norm in the near future. Web giants are turning their attention to it more and more to improve the relevancy of their results both in search, and with voice assistants. In fact, Google (Google Now), Apple (Siri) and Microsoft (Cortana) are getting into a fierce war in the race for the best artificial intelligence-based search experience.