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How Voice Search Is Changing SEO

01/06/2016 11:34 pm ET | Updated Jan 06, 2016

Voice search is actively shaping the future of SEO and changing how SEO techniques are adopted in the mobile age. While Google's most recent mobile update put quite a bit of attention on the importance of mobile optimized pages, it's essential for digital marketers to consider Siri in their 2016 search engine strategies.

The Emerging Trend of Mobile and Voice Search

While Mobilegeddon put new emphasis on the importance of mobile search, many SEO professionals may have missed its effect on voice search. According to a study from Northstar Research, 55 percent of teenagers are using voice search every day, and 56 percent of adults use it because it helps them feel more "tech-savvy."

Said simply, speaking is a lot easier and more efficient than typing. Rather than writing out what you have to say, millennials and Generation Z can use Google Now, Cortana and Siri to ask away. Why type when you can talk?

All About Voice Search
According to an official Google blog post from May 2015, "more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan." With 87 percent of the world's population owning a smart phone, 2015 was the year of mobile as more people used their smart phones and tablets instead of the traditional desktop or laptop computer.

As we type away on the commute to and from work, we also speak to Siri and talk to Google Now. If questions can be asked and answers posed directly from search, have we eliminated the need for web pages? We need look no further than Google Answers to answer our question.

According to research, Google is providing a direct answer result on about 19.5 percent of total search engine queries. This figure is up from four percent in the last year alone. And just two years ago, the idea of Google Answers was yet to be seen in search engine results pages. Clearly, Google is intent on delivering quick answers for users on the go.

As an online business owner, SEO company or digital marketer, you should be asking yourself a few questions:

  1. If users no longer need to click on an actual web page to access information, am I likely to see a decrease in organic search traffic?
  2. How can I deliver the same text based information from my web pages via voice search?
  3. Speaking of voice, what is my brand's tone and how do I convey it in as natural language as possible?

The age of relying writing for robots and keyword stuffing is over, and in its place comes conversational search queries.

The Importance of Natural Language
When someone searches for something the traditional way we often think about the shortest queries we can enter in order to get better Google results. Not so with voice search. We're much more likely to say to Siri, "Where is the closest coffee shop?" as opposed to typing "Coffee Shop NYC." Voice search answers the "who, what, where, why and how" questions we often ask in natural discourse.

Google has long sought to diminish the relevance of keyword-focused queries. Why? Instead of delivering valuable content, many search marketers try to over-optimize their web pages by stuffing keywords anywhere and everywhere. Now, thanks to our mobile browsing, Google has another reason to refocus on a resolution.

The conversational search queries created by voice search do not (typically) use keywords, so sites that focus on providing real "who, what, where, why and how" answers will outrank their competition.

Act Now and get Voice Search Ready
The good news is, there are a number of actionable steps you can take right now to get your website voice-search ready. These include:

  1. Implement Long-Tail Keywords: With longer queries originating from voice searchers, you should begin targeting longer tail keywords as well.
  2. Use a FAQ Strategy: What "who, what, where, why and how" questions are your customers asking? Address those answers in your web pages, blog and social media posts.
  3. Write Content in a Natural Voice: Not only will your brand sound more conversational, but you'll be speaking the language used by your customers in voice search.

While Google does not penalize websites for not being "voice search friendly," the websites that will win in 2016 are incorporating (voice) search strategies for typers and talkers, alike.

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