A voice search on phone
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Google launched its first voice search App in 2008, and it wasn’t long after that similar voice recognition devices were released, including Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Echo (Alexa), and Google’s refined Google Assistant.

Voice assistant software has continued to increase in popularity up until 2019, where it seems to have decreased slightly. In 2017, 13% of all households in the United States owned a smart speaker, and in 2018, 72% of people who own voice-activated speakers said that their devices were used as part of their daily routines.

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But how popular is voice search in 2019, and is it worth targeting specifically with SEO?

Is Voice Search as Popular as We Once Thought?

Most people who use voice assistant software currently use it for voice commands, such as making phone calls, sending texts, or setting alarms, which don’t require an internet search. Voice search is just one aspect of voice assistant software, but it’s the one that can be capitalized on most for marketing. Unfortunately, the statistics of one are often conflated with the other, so it’s hard to pin down just how popular voice search really is.

For example, a popular statistic that floats around online is the forecast that in five years’ time (which would be in 2020) 50% of all searches will be done by voice.

This statistic likely came from a misquoting of Braidu’s former Chief Data Scientist, Andrew Bg, in a 2014 Fast Company Interview. Baidu is a Chinese search engine, so this quote was speaking from data based in China which could be drastically different from the U.S. for several reasons.

Not only that, but it was a forecasted from 2014 and was in reference to speech and image searches. Statistics are often misquoted and repeated out of context to the point that they become inaccurate or untraceable altogether. Voice search is certainly nothing to ignore, but it’s growing at a much slower rate than we once thought it would.

So Why Is Voice Search on the Decline?

Aside from the overly zealous prediction that voice search will make up half of all searches by 2020, there was a consensus among experts that it would take off much quicker than it has.

One of the reasons may be that the technology is still being perfected—users may avoid opting into voice search if it takes multiple attempts to get the information that they could’ve found in one attempt on a manual search.

But this could soon be corrected. According to Google, voice recognition accuracy has increased to 95% since 2013. But it may still take time for many people to give voice technology a chance.

Chart on google machine learning

According to a study from Stone Temple released in March of this year, voice search has actually lagged from third to fourth place in how people use their phones to find information.

Chart on top 3 choices for performing searches

What was interesting about this study, though, is that it also suggested that those who did use voice search considered it their top choice. This means that there are many people who just have not tried the new technology, had a bad experience with it in the past, or do not have a voice technology assistant for financial or personal reasons, who may eventually prefer voice search.

This decline in voice searches may also be due in part to privacy concerns that have been mounting in the past few years. Before Bloomberg reported that Amazon was reviewing the spoken commands given to Alexa, many people were not aware that all major voice assistant data is reviewed by human personal.  But this should come as no surprise—technology companies review frequent commands and searches made and how their technology responds to them in order to increase accuracy.

As technology improves and more people invest in voice technology assistants, voice search can be expected to grow—even if it doesn’t grow as fast as we’d once thought.

What’s Unique About Voice Search Technology?

According to Google, people often use their voice technology because it can help them multitask, making their daily routine easier and faster. Voice searches, specifically, allow them to instantly get answers and information without having to type and weed through more irrelevant information.

Voice search is convenient for hands free searching, which likely occurs most in the car. People may use it to ask for directions or recommendations for restaurants, businesses, or treatment centers when they’re on a time constraint. And with many states cracking down on texting and touching phones while driving, voice search allows people continued access to information in a much safer way.

Businesses like treatment centers should be especially conscious of voice search SEO, as addicts as well as friends and family of addicts may search for a drug rehab facility on the go or in a time sensitive situation.

Finally, voice search has immense potential for increasing ADA accessibility on the web. Rather than having to type, whether on a phone or desktop computer, a user can simply speak an action phrase such as “ok Google” followed by a query. And rather than having to visually and mentally comb through a multitude of results, a user will be read aloud the most relevant answer to their query.

For individuals with physical, visual, and mental disabilities, voice search could level the playing field and allow easier access to information online.

While voice search will probably never monopolize online searches, it’s absolutely worth accounting for in your SEO strategy.

How to Optimize SEO for Voice Search

The best strategy to optimize for voice search is do so when developing content from the beginning—that’s why you should work it into your SEO and content strategies now.

One major difference between voice and manual search is that voice search is much more conversational. Whereas someone might Google “drug rehab treatment centers in Los Angeles no insurance”, they might voice search “where can I go for drug rehab without insurance?”

People who know how to search efficiently will naturally pack their inquiries with keywords and relevant information like locations and stipulations, but voice search is unique in that it is meant to be treated like a (human) personal assistant.

So, you may need to fill in some of the gaps in your content. While packing in keywords may do some good for manual SEO, voice searches tend to pull from conversational content that happens to have relevant words in it. And since everyone speaks differently, you’ll have to consider the many different variations of questions people may ask and try to phrase your content to fit as many of them as possible.

The good news is, there are countless SEO tools to help you do this! For example, there is a tool called Answer the Public that will give you a map and list of commonly asked questions related to the keywords you type in. Google even has their own tool called “People Also Asked” that can give you related questions to any that you input.

As far as developing voice search friendly content, FAQ pages are incredibly effective at answering common voice search queries in a conversational tone about how-to’s, locations, and product and service information.

Additionally, it’s important to note that a vast amount of voice searches are made on mobile phones, meaning that having a mobile-friendly website is key. For example, page speed is a huge mobile ranking factor, and that comes through in voice searches. According to Backlino, voice search results load 52 percent faster than average pages.

Optimizing your site for local search results will also benefit your voice search SEO, so be sure to claim your business listing through Google My Business if you haven’t already done so and ensure all this information is accurate. You can then make content on your site that answers location and services-based questions in an accessible, voice search friendly tone.

So, the more you can do to optimize your site and content for local search results, the better optimized you’ll be for both kinds of queries. Claiming your business listing through Google My Business is the first step. Then you can develop content that easily answers location-based questions.

Securing your website with an HTTPS website domain may also boost your voice search SEO. According to Backlinko, 70.4% of Google Home result pages are secured with HTTPS.

Don’t wait until voice search actually makes up half of all online searches, start optimizing for it today! If you have questions about voice search or general SEO tactics, get in touch with us.

SeoTuners is well-versed in SEO and can help craft a custom, affordable solution for your business to increase exposure and SERP rankings. With affordable SEO solutions that include web design, social media, custom link building, SEO penalty recovery, and more, we’re confident we have a solution for all your marketing needs. Contact us today to learn about how we can boost your Google rankings.

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