By Airon Rodrigues
The top 3 SEO trends for 2017 are mobile, mobile and mobile. (Okay, it’s only number one) And with mobile, comes voice search. SEO as we know it is always changing. Updates are important news only until the next update. As the digital world changes, so do the factors associated with digital services. One of the fastest growing search options in the world of SEO is voice search. Yes, searching by speaking.
Apple introduced the iPhone 4s in the year of 2011, with that introduction came the very loyal assistant, Siri. Many know of her, many have used her. Since the arrival of Siri, Google Voice, Google Assistant, Cortana and Amazon Alexa have all arrived to showcase their voice-activated, digital personalities.
Since then, understanding and optimizing for voice search has been crucial for SEO. In a recent survey of 39 SEO experts, voice search was listed as third of the largest SEO trends for 2017 and beyond.
But What is Voice Search And How Does It Work?
Voice search is a technology that is based on speech recognition. It allows its users to search by speaking instead of typing. A computer, mobile or tablet uses one of four methods to decipher a voice search query. The first method is simple matching; when a word is recognized in its entirety and is then compared to similar sounds saved in the memory. Pattern and feature analysis are second; this is when each word is dissected into vowels that are recognized from key features.
The third method is language modeling and statistical analysis where a device recognizes the likelihood of words that follow each other to complete a search query. The fourth approach employs artificial neural networks; in this method, a device can recognize patterns of sounds and words after extensive training.
Hey Siri, what do I need to know when optimizing for voice search?
With the introduction of voice search, users are indeed more likely to search the way they speak, as if an order is being placed over the phone. For example, instead of searching for “roasted coffee, Perth” A user will instead search for “Where can I find roasted coffee in Perth?”. Therefore, if you only optimize for phrases containing one or two words, you are unlikely to receive voice searchers. This changes the keyword usage that we currently know of SEO, and how users will now search.
Optimize for Topics, Not Keywords
As briefly mentioned above, users who are searching through voice search are unlikely to say one or two words but instead search by saying a full sentence. Keywords will always have that important stigma attached to them, but voice search concentrates more on answering search queries directly by topic. What this means for marketers is that topics will now be the focus, not just keywords. The goal is to research common questions and find all the words and phrases related to your keyword research.
Know Which Search Engine You are Optimizing For
Before even setting your site up for voice search, it is important to know the different virtual assistants out there, and of course who they ‘belong’ to. Interestingly, Siri uses Bing as its default search engine, regardless of what you have set as your default search engine unless you specify otherwise in your Siri command. For example, instead of saying “Search for the latest movies” you can say “Google the latest movies” and Siri will return results from those respective search engines.
Cortana, one of the leading virtual assistants, uses Bing by default as it’s associated with Microsoft. Microsoft has officially made its default browser Edge and its default search engine Bing for Cortana search results. Meaning, Cortana will ignore your default browser setting.
Amazon’s Alexa has become one of the newest members of the virtual assistant’s club. Alexa is the voice behind the Amazon’s speaker Echo, as it provides capabilities that enable users to interact with devices in a more intuitive fashion by way of voice. Examples of these capabilities include the ability to play music, answer questions, set an alarm and more.
Alexa is built in the cloud, so it is always getting smarter. Like Cortana, Alexa is supported by Bing as its default search engine. Google Assistant, supported by Google Search of course, recently arrived on the Pixel and Pixel XL phones and is also available on Google Home smart speaker. Google Assistant also works with Gmail, Google Flights, Google Photos and Google Maps.
This is an obvious one. Voice search is predominantly used on mobile, therefore, ensuring your website is mobile friendly is crucial. A mobile-friendly website is not only about the design and how the layout is displayed on the device, but also about the speed. Voice search queries go hand -in-hand with a fast page speed, and one of the ways to highly impact mobile speed is through AMP. With Accelerated Mobile projects, users are becoming accustomed to websites loading faster, so using mobile speed tools such as Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and WebPageTest is highly important for voice search and can assist in your mobile speed and suggest recommendations on what can be improved.These tools will check to see if your website loads well on mobile devices and give you tips on what to fix if it doesn’t.
The growth in mobile over recent years not only results in and an increase in competition, but also dramatically changes the digital world. A website now needs to not only be highly responsive but also mobile optimized to convert, especially with voice search. Voice search is one of the biggest trends of the digital age.
With a continuation of new installments, including the already Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana, digital marketers need to recognize the power of voice innovation especially in 2017.