The evolution of SEO isn’t just about how much Google’s algorithm has changed over the years, but how technology has transformed the way in which consumers search for information online.
Search engines have come a long way since the dawn of primitive platforms, like AltaVista, Lycos, and Ask Jeeves (now Ask). Search has become increasingly intuitive.
Instead of matching results based purely on keywords, Google, Bing, and other major search engines, now use a variety of implicit signals to align with user intent.
Since machines are sophisticated enough to understand complex, conversational queries, users are beginning to speak to search engines in the same way they would speak to another human being – using words like “who,” “what,” “where,” and “how.”
Voice search is taking this semantic technology to the next level. Instead of typing a query into Google and choosing from a list of search results, voice search technology allows consumers to use voice commands on their smartphones or personal assistant devices.
Voice search takes traditional search one step further, by choosing the single, most relevant result and reading it back to the user.
This makes the SEO landscape even more competitive, since the total number of organic results is reduced from 10 listings to one.
The Current State of Voice Search
Voice search is becoming increasingly popular among consumers, because it’s convenient, easy to use, and it’s surprisingly reliable.
The accuracy of voice search technology has improved drastically over the past few years.
In 2013, the average error rate was about 25 percent, and as of 2016 the error rate is down to 8 percent.
Although it’s still very much in it’s infancy, the future of voice search looks promising, to say the least.
Back in 2015, Google announced that “near me” searches doubled since the previous year.
According to Dan Leibson from Local SEO Guide, “near me” search volume is still “climbing rapidly,” and showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Optimizing Your Website to Rank for Voice Search Queries
When you’re optimizing your site for voice search, many of the same SEO rules apply: publish quality content, optimize for mobile, connect with user intent, and so on.
The main difference between traditional search and voice search is the types of queries people use.
I included some tips below to help you identify the voice search queries your customers might be using, and how to optimize for them.
#1 Convert Short Tail to Long Tail – Most of us talk much faster than we type.
On average, humans speak about 150 words per minute, compared to about 40 words per minute when typing.
Since we speak approximately three times faster than we type, voice queries are likely to be longer and more complex.
For example, if you’re looking for a nearby pizza restaurant, the typed query might look something like this: pizza near me.
Whereas the voice query might be more conversational: where is the closest pizza restaurant to me that is opened right now?
Currently, there’s no way to extract voice search data from visitors to analyze the specific queries they’re using.
However, you can still gather plenty of insights from the data you do have (Google Analytics, Search Console, AdWords, etc.) and keyword suggestion tools, like Google Keyword Planner, Moz Keyword Explorer, and SEMrush.
From there, you can extrapolate your keywords to align with the longer tail voice queries customers are most likely to be using.
When you speak to customers, either on in person or over the phone, pay attention to the type of language they use.
Chances are other potential customers are using similar terms and phrasing.