Voice search is growing very, very fast
Voice search is growing, and growing very fast. In fact, it was very much the hot topic at the recent Search Leeds event, where several speakers - some fleetingly and some in great depth – presented some eye-catching stats on just how search is going vocal.
One particularly show-stopping statistic came from Rebecca Weeks and Romain Bonnet from Manning Gottlieb, who relayed the fact that by 2020, over 200 billion voice searches per month will be carried out by voice. Steven Kenwright went one step further, claiming that half of searches will be voice searches by 2020. These stats are amplified even more by the sudden growth of voice search, which made up a ‘negligible’ amount of search only three years ago in 2014.
It seems that the very recent arrival of Digital Assistant devices for the home such as Amazon Echo (2015 in the USA and September last year in the UK) and Google Home (only seven months ago in the USA and as recent as April in the UK) are the explanations for this shock growth. Other brands, including Apple, are working on their own versions of smart speakers so this isn’t a technology that is likely to go away any time soon.
For those involved in SEO, this clearly implies that voice search isn’t something to think about when 2020 rolls about, it’s something to think about right now.
Strategies for success with voice search
Interestingly enough, while voice search was definitely a point of discussion at Search Leeds, the strategies to address it were less pertinent – it seems that agencies are keeping their cards close to their chests with this new development, although some interesting crumbs of insight were shared.
Steven Kenwright’s presentation suggested that it’s time to get serious not about voice search, but about ‘conversational UX’ that re-organises a site to fit the needs of a consumer using the voice function, which allows for a greater depth of query-based keywords (or perhaps, ‘key utterances’) laden with adverbs such as ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, when and ‘how’.
Romain Bonnet and Rebecca Weeks echoed a similar sentiment by suggesting that ‘FAQ’ style architecture may be a positive tactic for good voice search optimisation – answering a user’s question is a great way to usher them towards your brand’s solution.
Such a tactic would give a new lease of life for FAQ pages, which nowadays have a tendency to be buried at the bottom of a site’s footer navigation bar or not even attached to a navigation bar at all.
Furthermore, the impact of voice search on the micro moment journey – another search trend covered in depth by Stickyeyes’ Danny Blackburn and Google’s Stephen Power, is clear. The journey of a user is often based on a question hence the categorisation into ‘I want to know’, ‘I want to do’ and ‘I want to buy’, so making sure your content is optimised for such query-based searches is highly important.
Gearing up for keyword shifts
The rapid growth of search by voice is going to shake the foundations of SEO practices. The very keywords we’re used to optimising for (written, somewhat stilted) are being undone by fluid, conversational and curious phrases spoken into devices that are finding themselves in more homes every day. The brands that adapt to that trend are the ones that will stand the best chance of succeeding in the more vocal age of search.