How Voice Search Impacts SEO

Dec 18, 2014

Voice-enabled search is where SEO and search engine marketing are headed, and this is one emerging technology that you need get out in front of today or risk being left behind tomorrow. More than just another bright and shiny object, voice search is here to stay, and is expected to become the dominant force in search in the coming years as the technology becomes even more refined and accurate.

Voice Search Impacts SEO

Keywords as we know them are already losing importance as users in increasing numbers use conversational speech instead of a keyboard to find what they want on the Internet. According to Google, an estimated 55 percent of all teen users are already using voice-enabled search, with adult usage trailing at about 40 percent.

What is Voice-enabled Search?
Voice search is basically a speech recognition process that enables users to initiate a search query by speaking the desired search terms aloud instead of typing them into a search query box. The rapid growth of smartphones and other web-accessible mobile devices has helped increased the potential of voice-enabled search. Some of the most important applications include:

  • Initiating search engine queries.
  • Refining or clarifying a search request.
  • Making a specific information request, such as the current time in another city or a sports score.
  • Searching audio or video files for specific content.
  • Voice dialing.

Although voice-based devices have been around in one form or another for a number of years, they never really took off until Apple acquired SRI’s Siri voice recognition technology and integrated it into the Apple iPhone 4S in 2011. Google jumped on the bandwagon one year later with Google Now, followed by Microsoft’s Cortana in 2014.

How is Voice Search Being Used?
While the ability to initiate a search without the need for typing a query is particularly useful for mobile device users, desktop-based applications are also beginning to make their appearance. Google’s Chrome web browser now supports voice search and other competitive applications are sure to follow.

Desktop voice-based search offers users the convenience of hands-free search whether at or away from the desk, and is particularly helpful when making longer search queries. Users who are unsure of the exact spelling of a term will also benefit from using voice search.

Will Voice Search Make SEO Obsolete?
The short answer is no – but voice search will definitely change the way SEO is done. Keywords have traditionally been at the heart of the SEO process. When web pages are optimized for target keywords, the search engines are able to match relevant content with the keyword terms entered in the search query by the user. Voice-enabled search will reduce the importance of keywords somewhat, relying instead on the context of the natural language used to make the query.

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update focused on interpreting the semantic context, or the underlying meaning of the user’s search query to determine what users were really looking for, and voice-enabled search technology is basically an extension of that effort.

How to Optimize Your Website for Voice Search
Because voice search basically bypasses the need for traditional keywords, the websites that have content that is aligned with the user’s query will benefit from voice-enabled search. This means that your site needs to focus on providing answers and solutions to common problems faced by users. Your content should provide more specific topics and include more relevant long-tail terms.

Stop stressing on keywords for the sake of trying to rank, and concentrate on giving visitors the type of information that they want. Use your company blog to stay current with what people are interested in reading about.