According to Google, around 20% of search queries are now carried out using a voice command rather than by typing it into a browser. Whether you’re asking for directions on your phone, asking Amazon’s Alexa for the latest weather report, or you are instructing Google on your laptop via the built-in mic, these all qualify as voice search.
Of particular relevance is the rise of voice assistants such as Siri, Cortana, Google Voice Search and Amazon Alexa, used by a huge number of people across the UK and beyond. Talking to your device will become second nature very soon – particularly among millennials and generation Z. To back this up, Webindex recently reported that 25% of 16-24 year olds use voice search on mobile.
Is Voice search hype? Not at all. It’s here now and it’ll only grow. With the rise of voice assistants and the fact that mobile search now exceeds desktop search in most sectors, voice search will only increase.
The marketer consumer disconnect
The question is how is it relevant to marketers and website owners? At the moment there’s still often a disconnect between the consumer and the marketer. Often their language is different, which could mean missed opportunities for marketers.
The most obvious behavioural change conflated with voice search is that search queries have increased in length, and secondly, intent has change, with users focussing more on question-based search queries.
Google recently reported that 70 percent of the queries that Google Assistant receives consist of natural language. So, whereas in the past we may have searched on a desktop for “Pizza Hut opening times”, a voice search query is more likely to be along the lines of “What time does Pizza Hut Bristol open on a Monday?”
Natural language content
An obvious solution to this change of behaviour is to revise or reconsider website copy, by considering more Q&A-based natural language content within headlines, sub-headlines or metadata, as well as standard copy.
On a more macro level, you may also want to plan your future site content – be it blog posts, press releases, articles or more sales-focussed pages – on intent-based queries, rather than words taken straight from your company brochure, or other offline collateral.
Possibly the most rewarding side-effect of voice search, is that it allows us to encourage natural language within website copy. Whereas in the past, our content was at the mercy of an algorithm, natural language copy is now de rigeur and hopefully here to stay!
Optimising for voice search
Whilst voice search is still growing, if you’re writing new content or planning a new website, it’s definitely worth considering the following three areas for improvement:
- Target the long tail – we’ve learned that voice search consists of natural language, so consider additional qualifier words that searchers will use to increase intent. These additional words may include locations, adjectives, product specifications or other words “beyond the root keywords”. Consider how these qualifiers can be used in your content.
- Think conversational user intent – remember that voice searches tend to be structured in a different way to conventional search, the focus being on question-based queries, rather than more “staccato statements”. Consider how your content can be built around questions and answers.
- Consider mobile and local – given that voice search is predominantly carried out on a mobile device, it’s very important that you provide a mobile-friendly user experience, with mobile-friendly content and responsive design. Furthermore, given that local search is a huge part of mobile search, if you are a local business, consider how you write and sign-post your local content to mobile searchers. And registering with Google My Business, Yelp, Bing Places for Business and Apple Maps Connect will put you on the map for searchers.