Image of woman making a voice search on mobile phone.

How Will Voice Search Change Things in Search Engine Results?

newexecdigi Digital Marketing Experts

If you are like us, you have spent a couple of years acquainting yourself with keywords. How they trend, who misspells what, what consumers mean to ask for with their three choice words. We have gotten well-acquainted with the shorthand used for search queries. We have learned how to match our web copy to user searches, mastering the whole game of SEO.

But now we have a new player: voice search. As it turns out, consumers enjoy the hands-free, voice-activated query system. It also turns out that the way users speak to a system like Siri is much different than the way they type into Google’s search bar, in quest of the same search result.

So we are pumping the brakes, briefly. Examining the differences in the way consumers search per method and determining how to best adapt our SEO strategies. Follow along to do the same for your company and marketing plan.

First thing first. What is voice search?

Voice search refers the digital assistant or entry point available on most smartphones and desktops. On iPhone, it is holding down the home button to activate Siri. On Google desktop, it is the Google speech search microphone on the right-hand side of the search bar. Instead of typing in questions or keywords, voice search allows users to simply speak their questions aloud.

Who is using it?

It turns out that the most active adopters of voice search are in the 44+ age range. Typically, the 18-43 age range sees the highest volume of early adoption, but for voice search, the higher age range seems fitting. Devices are small, failing vision requires the largest font settings on phone and texting, quite frankly, is not as natural for this generation.

That said, the younger generation is also adopting the method. Studies show that as margins of search error decrease, use continues to climb.

What is voice search used for, really?

Voice search is used for just about everything. Finding out who is trending, what is happening at the polls, what the weather across the world is like tomorrow, what time the World Series airs, etc. The most common use of voice search? Directions!

There is some comedy in this revelation for sure. All of us “smart” phone users lost and unable to find our way anywhere. But voice-activated search queries makes finding directions on the road much less dangerous than typing to find the same result.

Voice queries are preferred on the go, when hands are not free or clean, and of course, when we just feel curious about how the AI might respond.

Is it actually growing?

According to Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report, we can expect 50 percent of searches to be images or voice in the next five years. That is a significant statistic! It means that as people adopt the method, they are becoming more comfortable with it and choosing it as a preferred method of search. Microsoft’s voice search system, Cortana, currently one-third of all queries via voice.

So, into it or not, voice query systems are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. This means that we all must adapt to the way that users are searching and find the best ways to accommodate our SEO.  

Let’s look at the main differences between voice and text searches:

  • Question length

Voice queries are longer! People are talking into their phones, asking questions like they might ask a friend. Instead of Walgreens address, they are asking “Siri, where is Walgreens located?”

  • Question words

Now that we are speaking in sentences, we are asking questions. Where is X, what is X, who is X. In text search, we omit the question words.

  • Intent

The intent is clearer due to natural language. Question words help identify the intent of a user’s query. Are they interested in product stats? Cost? Where to drive and get one right now?

  • Local influence

Voice search has a substantial influence on local brands. Most smartphone searches are local-based, and most voice searches are via smartphones. This means that those voice queries are most likely to pull up local-based results. It is imperative that physical, local brands refine their copy to include relevant, physical landmarks.

  • Answers vs. action

There’s a significant influence on third-party listings now. Instead of searching and be presented with an answer, users are giving actionable options. For example, if I search for a local spa, I am not only given the list of spas in my area. I am given an immediate option to call, book online or begin navigation. Make sure to have these actionable features available.

By the sound of it, voice search engine technology is here to stay and to flourish. No problem, adaptation is on the way, it’s what we do best after all, isn’t it? How exactly will we adapt?

As voice queries surpass text queries, we will see the following changes emerge:

  • Search queries will adopt more natural, conversational language. We will be responsible for including both in our copy.
  • Long-tail keyword terms will be the focus of content. Long-tail keywords include three or four keyword phrases.
  • Content will provide direct answers to questions
  • We will see fewer keyword search terms
  • Semantic search will generate different results
  • Digital assistant will share data on search queries
  • Schema markup (or semantic code) could become a big player in matching query and result
  • Videos will rise in search lists as relevant solutions

As mentioned, SEO digital marketing strategies are some of the first elements to be affected. Instead of focusing solely on typed search phrases, we have to expand our keyword bases to include voice search phrases, too. Using conversational language is the first way to respond. As users verbally request information, they will be using natural, conversational language. So natural, conversational content is more likely to match their desired results.

Keeping your integrated digital marketing services up to date with the speed of search engine advancements is integral to remaining relevant and at the top of your industry. For more insight and tips on how to adjust to the query transition, reach out to our team Executive Digital. We look forward to helping you navigate the change that is upon us and all that is to come.