2017: The Year of Voice Search

Anushree Dubey

Per comScore – “40% of adults use voice search once per day”

“Google voice search queries in 2016 are up 35x over 2008” according to Google trends via Search Engine Watch

“Cortana now has 133 million monthly users” according to Microsoft/Tech Radar

“In May 2016, 1 in 5 searches on an Android app in the USA were through speech” per KPCB

Voice search is not the future anymore – it’s here today. A change in the digital world that started in 2014 is only becoming commonplace in 2017 onwards.

Major technology giants with their voice assistants, such as Apple (Siri), Microsoft (Cortana) and Amazon (Alexa) have been in the market for some time now. But with Google getting into the game, with Google Assistant and Home, only explicates the increasing significance of voice search. By 2020, 50% of total searches will be voice and 30% will be done without screen – predicts comScore & Mediapos.

Amazon, the e-commerce giant, is preparing to expand its platform and launch a paid search product to better position itself in the era of voice search. This would be an advantage for marketers looking to get a grip on its potential.

Starbucks, on the other hand, is also experimenting with voice assistants and testing voice ordering for iOS users in the US. My Starbucks Barista, as the feature is called, will be available in the Starbucks app and let customers order via voice command or text. The company will also release a voice app for the Alexa platform allowing customers to order on any Alexa-compatible device.

With the growing popularity of Alexa powered devices – Huawei adding Amazon’s AI application to its flagship smartphone, Starbucks releasing an app for the Alexa platform and the known success of paid search, it surely makes sense for Amazon to invest in integrating voice and search. If successful, Amazon would be the first Voice Search Giant.

It would be interesting to know the search giant’s next move on voice search. We have not heard much from Google yet; other than the feature it is developing for voice search reporting. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said – “Google is comfortable with how things would turn in coming years”. He added that the “threat of voice search (no screen search) is not as big as people might expect”. Surely, voice enabled gadgets don’t have a screen, but that doesn’t eliminate screens altogether. Voice will be only “one mode,” he said. “Users will have many ways by which they interact” with computers.

Clearly, this is going to affect the SEO industry big time and optimising for voice search will be a major success factor in 2017. But how can you optimise for something whose technology and working is not clearly outlined? You concentrate on the facts you are aware of. One big clue here is – Think like a Human. I will not get into much detail here but will highlight a few pointers which will play an important part in voice search optimisation.

  1. Look out for natural language queries in your GA or Search Console data and use it for optimisation
    Analyse your search reports for any natural language queries and learn types of phrases people use to find your website. Build your strategy on such terms and look out for similar queries.
  2. Think how users will phrase queries – Questions/Phrases
    Shift focus from adding variations of keywords to types of questions or phrases people might search. Contemplate what type of questions or phrases will be relevant to your website and how users will speak them aloud.
  3. Create content which can answer user queries and is in a conversational tone
    Content is an integral part of SEO. So, after exploring the questions/phrases relevant to your website, consider creating content using the same. Also, try and have conversational tone, as that’s the way people will interact with voice assistants.
  4. Add Microdata wherever possible
    While using voice search people will usually have queries including terms such as business location, price, phone number, etc. It’s beneficial to use microdata to allow digital assistants retrieve all this information easily.
  5. Local SEO will be even more important
    Since the voice search will be conversational such as “restaurants near me”, “shopping centre near area”, etc. – it will be even more important to ensure updated and exact business details like phone number, exact location, opening and closing hours, etc.

One of the best ways to understand voice search will be trying it yourself, experimenting with different set of queries and analysing the results.

To find out how voice search may affect your business, Contact Us.