Everything You Need to Know About Voice Search and What It Means for Your Website

Author: Cheryl Luzet

It probably won’t have escaped your notice that products such as Google My Home and Amazon’s Alexa were being heavily advertised in the run up to Christmas 2017. In fact you might even be getting very used to asking ‘Alexa what’s the weather?’ when you start the day yourself! At Wagada HQ we’ve been keeping a close eye on developments in voice search and we anticipate that as these devices become more and more sophisticated they are going to keep gaining in popularity throughout 2018 and beyond.

Whilst you may be well versed in the fact that they are great for keeping your playlists in one place or helping you manage your home heating you may not have considered the affect that these type of voice search gadgets will have on your website. So we’ve put together a handy guide to give you the lowdown on voice search, how it works, why it’s becoming so popular and the impact that it could have on your business. We’ll also discuss some of the things you need to consider to make sure that your website is fully prepared for the rise of voice search.

So what is voice search?

Voice search has already been around for a number of years and was first available via smartphones in the form of ‘digital assistants’ such as Siri and Cortana. In simple terms it is just a way of searching for information online by using your voice rather than having to type in your query. Voice search had a rather shaky start with assistants often being unable to recognise certain terms or words or coming up with totally irrelevant (and sometimes quite humorous) answers. However as the technology has developed and become more useful data shows that the use of voice search assistants is on the rise. In fact in 2016 20% of searches on Android devices in America were voice activated.

One of the major influences on the voice search market is the impact of ‘home assistants’ which really made it big in 2017. Now it’s easier than ever for consumers to use voice search in every room of their home, and with new product developments being made all the time such as the Echo Show (which incorporates a screen), it’s clear to see that in the long term this is going to change the way consumers search online.

Why do people love voice search?

The main benefit that voice search offers customers is of course convenience. You don’t need to have your computer or phone to hand. In fact you don’t even need to type in your question. You simply ask the question as it pops into your head. Its functionality means that it can easily be used by all consumers no matter what their age or technical skills! Voice search also offers instant answers and in our fast paced society this is a big bonus. However there are still some downsides to voice search. Firstly research shows that voice search is usually only used situations when the user is at home rather than on public transport or in the office. Secondly there are still many jobs that voice search can’t do. However as we know technology moves quickly and so we expect to see the range of what digital assistants can offer improve and increase on a regular basis.

What does voice search mean for my website?

If your potential customers are going to be searching for your product or service using voice search in the near future then there are a number of things that you can start thinking about to ensure that your site works well with this new technology. It’s always a good to be ahead of the game and we think it’s never too early to start preparing for the inevitable increase in voice searches. So take the time to review your website and make sure that you incorporate the following ideas:

1.      Get conversational

Voice search tends to work best with ‘conversational’ style search queries. For example a customer may type in ‘SEO agencies St Albans’ into a search engine, however a customer using voice search could say ‘Give me a list of SEO agencies based in St Albans’. In return users also expect a conversational answer back from their device. This means that it’s important to look at the language that you use within your site to make sure that it can respond to these types of questions. Ensure that your writing is as natural as possible in order to fit in with the way that customers will be phrasing their questions.

You can start by pulling together some of the most important long tail keyword phrases that you know your customers use to find you. Then think about how these could translate into spoken questions. SEO experts suggest adding a Frequently Asked Questions page to your website which offers succinct answers to the kinds of questions your potential customers may be asking their digital assistants. You also need to think about the descriptions that searchers may use such as ‘fastest’ takeaway or ‘nearest’ post office and ensure that those terms are included in your copy.

2.      Think about context as well as content

Relevance of content for your customers has always been important since the Google Hummingbird update which was made in 2013. This is now particularly pertinent for voice search queries. The search engines want to see why your website offers the best fit to their user’s questions so you need to ensure that Google can clearly see the relevance of the information you are offering. This means that it’s vital that your text is structured correctly. Think about the clarity of your message and whether this translates well to a voice answer. Copy should be easily readable and simple to understand – after all voice users want an instant answer that gets to the point quickly.

3.      Ensure that your site is optimised for mobile usage

As many people will be using voice search on their smart phones or mobile devices it’s important that you make sure that your site works well on these devices. It needs to download quickly, be clear and concise and enable the customer to fulfil what they need to do as easily as possible. So whist you are reviewing your website for voice search accessibility you also need to take a look at your mobile site and ensure that it meets all of Google’s recommendations.

We’re really excited about the future of voice search and we think we’ll see some amazing developments in this technology over the next few years. Whilst it’s still fairly early days it could pay big dividends to invest some time in thinking about how your website is optimised for voice search now, and will mean that you find yourself ahead of many of your competitors. So review your website content to make sure that it incorporates your main long tail keyword phrases and that it picks up on the conversational style of voice search. Ensure that your content is relevant, succinct and clearly written and don’t forget to optimise your site for mobile usage too.