Google voice search, and voice search in general, is becoming increasingly popular to help people find what they’re looking for online. Consumers can simply speak to their go-to devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other compatible voice search devices to find information about local restaurants, hotels, retail stores, and more.
When it comes to the rise of voice search, consider the following when planning your local SEO strategy. Narvar found that 51% of consumers use voice search to find information on products. Within that percentage, 22% of consumers purchase through voice search. And, 17% reorder items through voice search. Considering nearly half of consumers are now voice search users, marketers need to consider voice search’s impact on local SEO.
In this blog, we’ll break down how voice search has evolved, the importance of voice search, and the main voice search applications such as Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, Microsoft, and Alexa.
A Brief History of Google Voice Search
Google Voice Search is a capability Google created for users to quickly search either on their phone, computer, or compatible device and receive a quick answer to their queries. Google Voice Search has evolved numerous times to become an efficient way to answer specific questions and help users shop online.
Initially, Google released 1-800-GOOG-411 in 2007, where users could call the aforementioned number and use keywords to ask the voice directory assistant a question about businesses. Google would then list the results. This application became obsolete as updates and various capabilities for search surpassed this option.
Google announced Google Voice on March 11, 2009, as an expansion of GrandCentral. Users could get voicemail transcripts and communicate through text.
On May 16, 2012, Google introduced the Knowledge Graph. Knowledge Graph became its most influential capability and a gamechanger in how Google understands and evaluates content. Instead of using keywords, this intuitive search capability allowed you to ask more in-depth and specific questions as it recognized people, places, and things.
Since there could be more than one intended meaning for a specific search that relies on further context to understand the searcher’s intended meaning, this was a significant advancement for Google’s Voice Search. Then on Oct 30, 2012, Google added the Voice Search app for IOS. The app is available on iPhones and iPads, competing more closely with Siri.
On August 21, 2014, Google announced another important update. Google expanded the number of languages it offered with over 50 languages available, enabling users to expand search options specifically for local searches.
Why Optimize Content for Voice Search?
Considering that more users are using voice search on a daily basis and more so to shop, it’s valuable to make sure your content is easy for Google to recognize. It’s also crucial to understand and pinpoint what phrases consumers might use in voice search to shop online with your business.
For example, would Google choose your product or service to highlight based on a voice search?
Voice searches use natural language flow. We talk in a different way than we type. We’re more likely to use complete sentences when speaking. Voice search therefore often uses long-tail search terms. Consumers search for something specific, and there’s a lot you can tell about their intent.
Why is Voice Search So Popular?
One reason voice search has become more popular is that it’s convenient for mobile searches. It’s easier and quicker to speak to a voice search app to learn more about a product or service online rather than typing a query out. This makes it essential for marketers to focus on optimizing their local SEO for long-tail keywords and other terms customers may use in a voice search.
For example, Google states that on mobile, 27% of individuals are using voice search, and 60% contact businesses directly from their search results. Therefore, a business’s online information needs to be up-to-date. This should extend past the basic information, such as hours and website link, but content, in-stock products, or service information.
Another way to do this outside of content is to make sure your question and answer section is thorough and could answer questions searchers may have when searching for a local business.
Meeker’s Internet Trends Report shows that voice searches are three times more likely to be for local searches. Users are using voice search for various businesses; to find restaurants to eat at, movie theaters, hotels, and other local businesses
However, when users search, they generally search by asking a question. Therefore, it would be beneficial for marketers to utilize keywords that might appear in those questions to help with SEO when users search locally to find information about businesses in their area.
How & Where Voice Search is Used
It’s important to note that different search engines are compatible with different voice assistants. Therefore, optimizing for both Google and Bing voice results will help expand your presence in local voice search results across multiple devices. The following are some of the leading voice search applications:
Google Assistant is a secure platform that works on smartphones (both Android and iPhone), smart speakers, TV, laptop, smartwatch, in the car, and more. It’s an easy way to ask Google to create a list of tasks, communicate with friends and family, get answers to your questions, and gather local information.
You can teach the Google Assistant app to recognize your voice in the Popular settings through Voice Match. Currently, you can use Google Assistant in 31 different languages. If you need help figuring out everything Google Assistant can do, you can ask the question “what can you do?” to the app.
Apple created Siri as their voice search capability for users to ask questions, communicate with people, change device settings, set an alarm, and more. In 2017, Apple switched from Bing to Google as the default search engine for Siri.
Users can use Siri across numerous devices such as all Apple devices, including the iPhone, iPad, Mac computer, Apple Watch, AppleTV, CarPlay, and HomePod.
To activate Siri, say “Hey Siri” and ask the question you have. If you have an older iPhone or iPad with a home button, then you will first push the home button to activate Siri. You can also type your request to Siri if you prefer. For an AppleTv, you will click the Siri button on your remote.
Microsoft created Cortana as its productivity assistant for users to ask questions, talk with people, listen to and respond to emails, and provide a daily Briefing email.
Cortana uses Bing search results and operates on Windows-compatible PCs. However, after March 31, 2021, Microsoft ended the use of the Cortana app for mobile to focus more on its productivity for workflow on the computer.
To activate Cortana, sign in to Windows on the Cortana app and switch the feature to on under the Talk to Cortana section so that it will respond to “Hey Cortana.” Make sure that Windows is up-to-date to ensure Cortana will work on your computer.
Amazon created Alexa as their voice AI to help with productivity, conduct searches, and communication. Alexa is cloud-based, uses the internet to operate, and uses Bing search engine results. In addition, they have partners such as Spotify, Apple Music, and ring to connect with these platforms.
Amazon is shutting down Alexa.com as of May 1, 2022, but the Alexa capability will remain active. You can use Alexa on your phone through its app, Echo, Fire TV, Fire tablets, and any Alexa compatible device. It’s simple to begin using Alexa. All you need to do is download the app and follow the instructions to set up your device.
Tips For Voice Search Optimization
Google’s John Mueller answered a question about optimizing for voice search in this Google Webmaster Central episode. Here are some tips based on his response.
Put Structured Data Markup To Work For You
Structured data is additional markup that provides valuable information to help Google understand the content of the page. Mueller said:
“I think that’s really complicated because from Google’s side, what we try to do is to understand your page… and to figure out with which type of voice queries match those pages. So that’s something you can help us with using structured data on the pages, so if you tell us a bit more about what this page is about.”
He went on to discuss the importance of optimizing your website pages by ensuring the pages communicate specifically what they are about while keeping in mind the searcher’s intentions. This makes it easier not just for Google to recognize what the page is about but also for users.
See Google’s structured data resources to learn more.
Use Natural Language
One aspect of content strategy to pay attention to is that you’re using a conversational tone that enables you to connect with your audience.
Mueller commented about natural content, saying, “…if you write naturally and you write in a clear kind of language that’s consistent across the type of queries you want to target then that’s the type of information that we could pick up for voice as well.”
Writing in more conversational language can help engage your audience and make it easier for Google to find the key information on your page. This can also help you incorporate more long-tail keywords, which tend to be highly specific yet lower competition.
What common questions do people have on the subject? How can you present a concise answer that will appeal to voice search users?
Consider How Your Content Sounds Out Loud
It’s important to evaluate your content for how it would sound if it’s read out loud. How do people speak when asking a question on their mobile devices? If your content is formatted in a way easily associated with voice search, it will make it easier to show up on actual voice search queries.
Mueller commented on different content types in regards to reading content out loud. For example, if the content is very long or in a table or image, it is unlikely to be recognized in a voice search.
So when you want the content to show up in voice searches, make sure it makes sense when read out loud.
Consider How Your Content Works as a Voice Snippet
Voice snippets are what Google uses to select fragments to populate their search results, which Google bases on what a user uses to search through Voice Search.
For voice snippets, Mueller stated, “Something you can perhaps also tell us if you have… kind of like information that could be combined into a voice snippet – that might be useful for some kinds of content.”
When creating content and information on your web pages, it’s essential to consider how voice searchers would ask for the information on that page and incorporate those keywords.
Voice Search is Just One Piece of the SEO Puzzle
It’s important to keep in mind that while making valuable information voice search friendly, not everything on your site needs to be short-form content. This is where understanding both user experience and search intent, then being positioned to meet different searcher needs with various types of content is key.
On this topic, Mueller stated that “In a situation where you basically create a doorway site with like all these question variations and like a short piece of answer and the pages themselves have really low value because… they don’t have a lot of information, they’re just targeted for this one specific query.”
Content creators must always think of the topic and audience it’s intended for. Also, consider how you would like to market that content. You’re going to want to be found via voice search with featured snippets and quick answers. But, you may also have an audience who wants to dive deeper into a topic, which will require more content.
Additional SEO Resources
Voice search is an integral part of your SEO strategy – but it’s just one piece. Check out these additional resources to improve your brand’s overall SEO content optimization and performance: