18 Feb

Leading through Technology: Voice Search and SEO

One of the most challenging parts of a leadership role is the sheer number of “hats” that need to be worn on any given day. Small business leaders, in particular, may have to switch back and forth from Planner to Accountant to Manager to HR Rep and more multitude times daily…to the point where knowing all job descriptions is part of the job description.

The most effective leaders may respond by saying “I hire people for that,” and well they should. In smaller businesses, however, this is not always an option; even when it is, the wise leader still needs to have at least a basic understanding of what each job entails, and a general knowledge of trends and developments.

With that in mind, we occasionally present a quick overview of some up-and-coming feature that we feel leaders would benefit from knowing, but may not yet have had time to look into on their own. Today’s subject: voice search, and SEO.

“Hey, Google, Who’s Looking for Me?”

When it comes to online searches, more and more people are bypassing the standard query box for the convenience of voice search. As the technology powering these systems advances, it’s especially important for smaller or mid-sized businesses to recognize this shift, and take steps to ensure their websites remain fully optimized for voice searching.

Based on data from Google, the Google Assistant app is now available on more than 400 million devices. Over 50% of US teens and 41% of adults use voice search on a daily basis. The website eMarketer revealed that some 35.6 million Americans used a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month in 2017—a year-over-year increase of 128.9 percent.

It is critical that businesses respond accordingly to this trend: voice commerce sales reached nearly $2 billion last year, and are predicted to reach $40 billion by 2022. This may mean that your website needs to be adjusted to leverage voice searching.

Optimization Techniques for Voice Search

Today’s website optimization techniques were not designed for vocal search, but you shouldn’t need to totally revamp your website around voice search: a few comparatively minor changes can help merchants take advantage of this new trend.

For example, nearly 75% of smart speaker owners search for local business information weekly; over 50% do so daily. Obviously, consumers are taking advantage of the ability to ask for local business information without having to pick up the phone. This means your site’s SEO initiatives need to be receptive to queries about services, hours, and locations.

Another factor to consider is speed. We know that a website’s loading speed directly impacts SERP. Fast-loading websites simply rank higher in Google searches, including voice search. According to Backlinko, the average voice search result page loads in 4.6 seconds (52% faster than the average page). It was also measurably faster to load a voice search page (4.6 seconds) than most web pages (8.8 seconds).

Talk to the People Talking to You

Voice searches are much more conversational in tone. Users are more apt to phrase a question as if actually speaking to another person. Rather than searching for “Thai food restaurant,” a voice searcher might ask “What’s the best-rated Thai food restaurant near me?” It’s important to add more conversational keyword phrases to your SEO to accommodate voice searching.

And not only are people speaking more conversationally when using voice search, they also expect conversational responses. With vocal search, customers aren’t look for in-depth information: they just want a question answered. Make sure your site is able to provide quick, concise  answers–ideally, 28 words or less. Also, add trigger words like who, what, and how, which people will commonly use in voice searching.

The voice search phenomenon has exploded in recent months, and shows no signs of slowing. We’re mere months away from 2020, the year we’re predicted to hit the 50% benchmark for voice search adoption…but seeing as how smart speakers are now being used by nearly 46% of the US,  we may even hit that mark earlier.

Completely overhauling your website for voice search is likely to have an adverse effect on all the other SEO tactics already working for you. Speak to your SEO or programming expert to see how to best leverage this new direction.