2016 saw the popularity of voice-enabled devices rise exponentially, and that trend does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon. In fact, during his keynote at SMX West, Behshad Behzadi, Principal Engineer at Google Zurich, stated that voice search is the fastest growing form of search.

According to a prediction made by comscore, half of all searches will be completed via voice search by 2020. Why is voice search increasing so quickly in popularity? It can be completed hands-free, it allows you to multitask, and the technology is much more reliable than it was even just a few short months ago. In 2014, the rate of voice search error hovered around 20 percent. However, this has dropped significantly to just about 8 percent.

In keeping up with the wants of consumers, search engine optimization tactics will likely need to adapt. How can you be sure that your online content is optimized for voice search?


How Search Engines are Adapting

When it comes to search queries, most people do not type the same way that they speak. It is common to use shorthand when typing. For example, if you wanted to know the capital of Texas, you may type something like “capital Texas.” However, when speaking, it is more likely that you ask the full question you are seeking the answer to – “What is the capital of Texas?”.

Amazon Echo and Google Home

The Amazon Echo and Google Home. Just two of the many devices we can talk to today.

There’s no shortage of devices for us to talk to today. With more than 11 million units sold, the Amazon Echo has become increasingly popular, and Google has recently entered the home assistant space with Google Home. Of course you can’t forget our handy smartphone and computer based voice assistants like Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant and Samsung’s soon-to-arrive Bixby.

With all of these virtual assistants connected to the Internet and doing our vocal bidding, it has become incredibly important for search engines to learn how to discern natural phrases. Luckily, Google has been preparing for the onset of voice search for years now. In case you missed it, here are a few tricks that Google can already do when it comes to determining the context and intent of search queries – either typed or spoken.

  • Recognize follow-up questions: If you search a question such as “Where is the Mall of America,” and then ask “What stores does it have,” Google is able to recognize what “it” is in the follow-up question if it related to the initial search.
  • Respond to spelling corrections: When using voice search, if you ask to see photos of the “Great Plains,” and your search returns photos of planes, you can spell out the word “P-L-A-I-N-S” to get the results you want.
  • Recognize you: If you ask Google “What is the address of my employer,” Google knows that the word “my” refers to you.
  • Knows the context of what you see on screen: If you are looking at a page on actress Kerry Washington and then ask “Show me a photo of Kerry,” you will be provided with a variety of photos featuring Kerry Washington because that it the “Kerry” on the page you are viewing.


Optimization Strategies

So how can savvy marketers capitalize on these new changes? There are a variety of ways you can tailor your content to be better suited for voice search.  A few of these methods are listed below:

  • Include pages that answer frequently asked questions: When using voice search, queries often begin with words such as “where,” “who,” “when,” “how,” etc. Including an FAQ page using these adverbs will be advantageous. Be sure that the answers to these questions are also conversational.
  • Long-tail keywords are a must: While voice search won’t eliminate short-tail keywords completely, long-tail keywords will become even more important because they are more conversational and more in line with how we actually speak.
  • Use schema markup to add context: If you are not familiar with schema markup, it can be beneficial to get acquainted with it. It is an HTML add-on that allows search engines to get a better understanding of your content. It can help you rank better in normal searches, which in turn will enhance relevancy for those using voice search.
  • Shift the focus of keyword research to conversational queries: There are a variety of tools available that can help you determine the questions you should be answering in your content. Base these searches on the FAQ format previously mentioned and see which long-tail keywords are generating a lot of searches.


Don’t Ignore the Importance of Voice Search

There is no longer the same stigma attached to talking to our phones when there isn’t a real person on the other end of the line that there was in the past. The younger generation, typically made up of early adopters when it comes to technology, have welcomed voice search and use it for a variety of tasks (directions, homework help, making calls, etc.) It’s not just kids and teens who turn to voice search, either. Adults are also rapidly utilizing this technology, meaning it would be a mistake to ignore it when optimizing your online content. Creating content that is more conversational can lead to more engaging pieces as well as ones that rank higher. The tips and strategies mentioned above are a great start for adapting content to the voice search era.

Meet Jennifer Prokop

Jennifer is a content manager for Launch Digital Marketing. She graduated with a degree in print journalism from Lewis University in Romeoville, IL. She enjoys hockey, music, reading, and shopping.