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Digital Marketing Strategy: Optimizing for Voice Search in SEO

Why You Need to Start Optimizing for Voice Search

Google releases updates to its Search algorithm on a near constant basis, and digital marketers are constantly required to adapt if they plan to hold on to hard-won placement on the search engine results page (SERP). One of the newest shifts in focus for SEOs is Voice Search, a mechanism for finding information that has in many ways, fundamentally changed the discovery process for searchers.

What is Voice Search?

Voice search is a type of speech recognition technology that initiates a search when a person says their search terms aloud, instead of typing them into the search field. A proliferation in mobile devices (and recent heavy advertising that focused on built-in personal assistants) helped make Voice search worthy of SEO’s consideration.

Voice search actually includes a number of actions, not all directly relating to search engine usage. These activities include:

  • Search engine queries
  • Clarifying the specifics of requests
  • Requesting specific information
  • Launching programs/applications
  • Searching for content in audio or video files
  • Voice dialing

Voice search is served up by an Intelligent Personal Assistant (IPA), or a software agent that performs the tasks or services for the person inquiring. These tasks/services are based on user input, location awareness, and the ability to access information from various sources.

Some popular IPAs that use voice search include:

  • Google’s Google Now
  • Apple’s Siri
  • Amazon’s Alexa (Amazon Echo)
  • Microsoft’s Cortana

Search Engine Journal shares a more complete history of voice search, but some important highlights include:

  • The first voice search tool was Aubrey in 1952, which could recognize a man’s voice speaking the numbers 1-9
  • Dragon Dictate came out in 1990 with a $9,000 price tag
  • Samsung included voice dictation for texts in 2005, on its SCH-p-207 handset

Ever since the very first signs of voice search, people have been obsessed with dictating their thoughts and questions to their devices.

Why You Need to Optimize for Voice Search

Voice search is quickly becoming a necessity for SEO strategy. To put things into perspective, 60% of searches are done on mobile, and it’s easier to complete searches using voice rather than type them out. 61% of users say that they find voice search useful when their hands or eyes are otherwise occupied, like when driving.

A few more interesting stats when it comes to voice search:

  • 36% use voice search in the car, 43% at home
  • 20% of Google searches are voice searches, and 25% of Bing searches are voice searches
  • Voice searches will account for half of searches by 2020

Clearly, SEOs should start thinking about optimizing for voice search if they haven’t yet already. And if you’re still not convinced, Google found that 45% of teens and 36% of adults want to be able to place a pizza delivery order using voice search. While that isn’t possible yet, it shows how important it is for all businesses—including local businesses—to optimize for voice search.

How Does Voice Search Affect SEO?

Voice queries works like a two-way conversation. The aim is to accomplish tasks in real-time.

In many cases, with voice search, instead of being served up a search engine results page (SERP) filled with links, users can get direct answers from their device.

Moz shares a typical example of someone using voice search to get an answer to a straightforward question:

  • You determine that you’d like to look for the current CEO of a company.
  • If you were to search by typing, you’d likely input “X company CEO”.
  • But your query changes if you use voice search. Instead, you’ll probably ask, “Who is the CEO of X company?”.

Without realizing it, a person’s search behavior changes significantly between a typed search and voice search.

Neil Patel talks about the importance of context in voice search. After Google’s search algorithm update to Hummingbird, a greater focus on semantic context challenged previous notions of effective content marketing and SEO. As such, is no longer as important to rely solely on keyword use and proper implementation to be found by relevant searchers. After this update, it became more important to focus on natural language and the real meaning behind the user’s query.

Should You Change Your SEO Strategy for Voice Search?

A recent Internet Trends report, goes into full detail about how voice search has expanded over the last eight years and is worth a read to understand where voice search is headed.


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There’s no question that voice search is gaining in search share. The following dates and occasions help to tell the story of where voice search is headed, and how quickly it’s picking up:

  • June 2015: Siri handles more than 1 billion requests per week through speech.
  • May 2016: Per Microsoft reps, on Bing, 25% of searches performed on the Windows 10 taskbar are voice searches.
  • May 2016: On Android, 1 in 5 searches on mobile apps in the USA are voice searches, and this share is growing.
  • 2020: Chief Scientist at Baidu, Andrew Ng, predicts that in five years’ time at least 50% of all searches are going to be either through images or speech.

But that’s not all!

Stone Temple Consulting conducted an analysis which found that out of 850,000 queries, Google served a direct answer 19.5% of the time. Bing (Microsoft’s search engine) on the other hand, served direct answers only 1.1% of the time.

In December 2015, Mindmeld conducted a survey which found that 60% of their respondents had started using a voice search IPA in just the last 12 months.


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Data shows that the following represent the primary voice assistant used:


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Another important factor to consider with regards to determining whether you should let voice search affect your SEO strategy is the level of satisfaction for users using an IPA:


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And yet another consideration with regards to whether voice search should affect SEO strategy is how businesses are found by their customers. Though now out of date, Meditative Spotlight’s survey in August 2013 found that 89% of people search for a local business on their smartphones once a week (or even more). 58% are searching at least daily. This certainly represents an opportunity for local businesses to get more traffic if they optimize their content accordingly.

Question phrases dominate voice search. Data shows a 61% YoY increase in question phrases. These phrases include conversational words like “who,” “what,” “where,” “when” and “how.” Many of these phrases are more likely to occur in natural speech rather than when typing.


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So should voice search affect your SEO strategy? In short, yes. What you need to determine is by how much you let it change your current efforts.

How to Optimize for Voice Search

Though a complete voice search SEO strategy is beyond the scope of this article, get into the right mindset for making changes by considering these strategies:

Optimize for Local Listings

People most often use voice searches to find physical places nearest them. It’s best to optimize for specific and local keywords because the voice search can track your location and find the place nearest to you, based on whatever kind of place you’re looking for.

Optimize Google My Business listings, by adding your NAP+W (Name, Address, Phone Number, Website), store hours, prices, and directions to your location. Make sure all this info is the same across all channels. Additionally, make sure Google knows what your microdata stands for. You can use the Structured Data Markup Helper to assist with these efforts.

Target Long Tail Keywords

Two major strategies to consider with regards to optimizing for voice search:

  • Think about how people speak. People won’t be typing long search queries and instead say a shorter version, which represents how a person actually speaks. Answer the Public is a great tool for finding the most relevant phrases related to your keyword, or you can conduct a voice search yourself to see what content comes up for your targeted keyword.
  • Create Content that Answers Questions. This is advice given for normal Google search queries so that your content will show up in the rich snippets, but this strategy can also be useful when it comes to optimizing for voice search.
  • Check your “Queries” report on Google Analytics to see what people are searching for, and to determine if it sounds like it’s coming from a desktop search or voice search query. Use this data to optimize your content accordingly.

Optimize for Mobile

Although there are voice search apps for computers, most people use voice search on mobile. If the results for mobile search are executed poorly, this could result in a higher bounce rate. In general, mobile bounce rate is 9.56% higher than desktop.

Make sure to check Google Analytics to see data coming in from mobile use of your website. Even if there isn’t much available, you may still see some patterns or gaps where you can improve your efforts.

Why You Need to Start Optimizing for Voice Search

As more people are turning to voice search, it won’t be long before SEO strategy needs to change in response. Instead of waiting until a mission critical moment, take steps to adjust your approach today.

What are your best tips when it comes to optimizing for voice search?  We’d love to hear what’s working! Tweet at @DigitalRDMS with your thoughts, and we’ll share the best insights! Contact the experts of Results Driven Marketing at (215) 393-8700 for more information!

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Digital Marketing Strategy: Optimizing for Voice Search in SEO


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