Written by: Colton Radford, Content Marketing Strategist
Where Google Voice SEO stands today, and where it’s going.
Google provides the world with billions of answers every day, but it’s been almost three years since they’ve granted us insight into voice search trends.
It was back in May 2016 when Google revealed that voice searches make up 20% of all mobile queries. But, while that number has almost certainly increased, the tech-trendsetter has since remained ominously quiet about the status of voice search and what the future holds for it.
This stark silence sprinkled with sporadic reports of growth has left many of us to wonder just how much attention we should be paying to voice search optimization. And if we should be paying attention, what is the formula for success?
So, before going any further, let me just say – yes.
Yes, voice search popularity is growing. Yes, people are already uncovering voice search optimization best practices. And yes, your businesses should start taking steps to position itself as a competitor for voice search queries.
Voice Search Optimization is Definitely Worth Your Time
1. Google is training everyone to use it
Just last month, Google cunningly added voice input and spoken results to mobile web searches on Android devices (translation for all you non-techies: When you go to Google.com on your Android phone, there’s now a little microphone in the search bar. By clicking it, you’re able to perform a search using only your voice, and the top result is now spoken aloud to you.) It’s a subtle move that may not seem groundbreaking at first glance.
After all, this technology is nothing new. The default search bar on Android’s home screen has already provided access to the Google Assistant for years, and don’t forget about those little speakers that listen and talk back: the Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Homepod all do this too. So, all Google did is add this functionality to another prominent vehicle in their software empire – the one that receives millions upon millions of global interactions a day.
Essentially, they’re hoping that non-adapters to voice search eventually become tired of typing out their questions in the search bar or maybe just become curious enough to click the microphone icon and learn what it does. Either way, with Google’s domination of the search engine market, it’s only a matter of time until one of those voice searches affects your business.
2. It’s better for your brand
When you ask Google a question using either the Google Home or Google Assistant, the software answers with the “featured snipped” search result. In general, this result is a piece of content from a single webpage that has been deemed as most accurate, trusted, and complete but concise. Keep in mind, the ultimate goal of many SEO efforts is to hold this position zero spot, as it’s been shown to boost click-through rates by 114%.
But, with voice search, the user typically isn’t looking at a screen. They’re just listening to Google read them the “best” answer and then moving on. Therefore it’s reasonable to say that the coveted top spot in search results will soon be the only spot worth having at all. But, where voice search gets really interesting (and beneficial for your business) is the fact that when Google Home responds with its findings it also cites the source of the information by saying the website’s name and sending a link right to the searcher’s Google Home app. If your brand holds that spot, Google will be citing it every time a voice search query returns your website as the featured snippet.
3. Not many businesses are optimizing for voice (yet).
Along the same line, think about the way people talk when they speak aloud compared to texting or writing emails. It’s different and so is the way people search the internet when using their voice, compared to typing into a search bar.
For content creators, search engine optimizers, and brands as a whole, this new variation in how keywords are submitted into search engines means new opportunity to provide the context Google needs to deem a site as the optimal answer to a given voice search query.
The best part is, not many businesses are taking advantage of this modern SEO gold rush. Right now, there are voice search queries that return no featured snippets (or have less than optimal results) because Google is unable to find a webpage optimized well enough for certain new and unique voice searches. The main problem is that no concrete data exists to show content creators how voice search users are searching for information (like there currently is for desktop and mobile search queries).
So, much like the California Gold Rush, there’s an archaic wild west aura around optimizing voice search. Right now, it’s simply a question of whether you’re willing to pan through the dirt (guessing, checking, adjusting, repeating) to get the gold (featured snippet for your brand). If your content already ranks on the first page for mobile or desktop, you’re off to a great start. If not, you’ll want to rethink the SEO strategy for the entire page, taking both manual and voice search queries into consideration. Keep in mind that domain authority and other longstanding SEO rank factors are still a vital piece of ranking for voice.
4. It’s way better for users
The final reason why you should optimize your website for voice search is perhaps the best reason, but maybe not the most obvious from a business standpoint. Voice search produces better results for users and is more convenient to use. It allows everyone to browse the web and consume information without having to dig through pages upon pages of websites, which, is the whole point of SEO in the first place.
Currently, featured snippets for voice search tend to deliver information in an easily digestible way by taking a very natural and conversational tone and, in many cases, utilizing structured data to better categorize information for both search engines and users. And the more search engine algorithms learn intent, the more helpful voice search will become.
Voice search isn’t going anywhere so don’t let the lack of concrete data or mystery around the future of the technology shroud your ability to be a leader in this emerging opportunity.
Without sounding too much like an infomercial host, start optimizing your website now and you’ll provide a better online experience for users and potential customers for years to come. Plus you’ll have a better chance of nabbing a featured snipped spot, and retaining it.
So, why is Google so quiet?
If voice search is so helpful, with all this untapped potential, why isn’t Google constantly telling us about how awesome it is or giving some direction as to how we can optimize it?
The reasons could be many, but it’s likely because there just isn’t quite enough people using it to justify large amounts of focus and advertising spend. Just like any business, consumers ultimately determine the success or failure of new products and services (just look at the fate of Google+). And while voice search definitely provides a better experience to users, Google can’t monetize it (and balance the likely unavoidable loss from their very profitable desktop and mobile search advertising business) until a large percentage of users are
Another reason could be that, like the rest of us, Google itself doesn’t have enough data on voice search trends to bring a money-making model to market. To get this, they need people to use it a lot (why they’ve just recently added it to mobile web searches) and content creators to optimize for it (something that will naturally happen as more and more people become acclimated to voice search).
It will be a process, but not one you need to sit back and watch unfold. It starts with individual people optimizing individual pages for voice search, analyzing the results, and adjusting. In this way, we all have the power to define the future of the world wide web and make each other’s voices heard.