How Voice Search Is Changing SEO

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how voice search is changing seo

Voice search is really taking off. I use it constantly and I know many of my peers do as well. Why type with your hands when you can just blurt out a search query? Now that Chrome offers voice search on a PC, it is growing even faster. Truthfully, it is going to change SEO. Voice search is young, but we better speculate on some of the implications of this budding technology now, otherwise our search strategies are going to be left in the dust.

In this post, we look at how voice search is changing, or may change, search engine optimization.

More Likely to Search with Natural Language

When you use voice search on your phone, you really don’t take the time to sit and think about the most effective and concise way to perform a query do you? Instead, you just ask your phone a question. This in turn is the underlining factor that leads to many of the subtle changes in voice search when compared to typed search. When we use natural language, things change.

Less Likely to Use Keywords

This point comes directly from Matt Cutts: “It is definitely the case that if you have something coming in via voice, people are more likely to use natural language. They are less likely to use search operators and keywords and that sort of thing and that is a general trend that we see.”

This is largely due to the conversational mode that people are in when they perform voice searches. When someone is looking for an electrician and they do a voice search, they might say, “Where can I find a really good electrician?”, opposed to doing a typed search for something like, “Electrician San Diego.”

This greatly changes the way that Google and other search engines need to interpret queries. In fact, what this means is that they will need to increase their conversational query abilities by mapping questions and phases to keywords, or simply finding a new way to deliver results based on the conversational query. What is really important, is what results they will deliver and how.

Decline in Informational-Based Traffic Queries to Websites

We have seen it with Siri and with Google maps. When we do a search now, our phone talks right back at us and we don’t even need a webpage. Think of the implications of this as this information delivery method expands. If they don’t need our webpages, then they won’t be sending us traffic. This same concept will no doubt spill over into voice search on a PC. Here are some things to consider regarding this:

  • If a user doesn’t need to click on a web page to get information, that will limit search traffic.
  • SEO’s will need to find ways to have their information delivered when a conversational voice search is done. Note: I will cover how to do this in my next post.
  • Marketers will have tracking issues when trying to find out how many times a website/brand has been mentioned as a conversational search result
  • Some queries will still demand that results are delivered via a web page; the more information needed the better chance.
  • Actionable queries (products, services, etc.) will still demand a webpage only if the search engine does not have the ability to carry out that request.
  • Follow up questions will become common in voice search, as only a limited amount of information can be delivered in each response.

Longer and Longer Queries can be Expected

Google may need to change the way they do search to match longer queries. Here is a quote from Matt Cutts on the topic.

“At some point we probably need to change our mental view point a little bit because normally if you add words to your query you are doing an ‘and’ between each of those words. And so, as you do more and more words you get fewer and fewer results because fewer and fewer documents match those words. What you would probably want as you do spoken word queries is the more that you talk the more results you get because we know more about it. So you definitely have to change your viewpoint from it’s an ‘and’ between every word to trying to extract the gist to summarize what they are looking for and then matching that overall idea.”

As we can see, Google will need to find the important parts in longer search queries.  People don’t want to think about keywords, they want to talk and use their thought process to return a result that really matches what they are thinking. Right now, Google doesn’t work like that. With the increase in stop words being used and just longer queries in general, things are truly changing.

Summing it Up

Voice search is a large change for SEO, but it is not negative, it’s just different. Voice queries are easier for users and often deliver information more quickly. The leading SEO companies will always find ways to get their clients listed in the search results, no matter how they are delivered. It’s an excited time in SEO and it will be fun to see how things unfold. As we move forward, innovation will be critical. Now that we have identified the opportunity, it is time to create a path to take advantage of it. Look out for my next post on how to optimize for voice search SEO.

John Lincoln

John Lincoln

John Lincoln is Founder and President of SEO and Social Media at Ignite Visibility, a premier Internet marketing company based in San Diego, CA. As a seasoned online marketing expert John E Lincoln has ensured results for hundreds of online businesses. Lincoln has authored thousands of blog posts and articles, taken multiple websites to the number one position in Google for competitive keywords, and built social media communities by hundreds of thousands of members. Some of his recent noteworthy accomplishments are:• Increasing residual revenue for a client by over 3 million dollars in a single quarter through SEO strategies.• Generating over 66,000 leads annually for a client from only non-paid organic Facebook marketing• Growing a client's traffic by 80,000 visitors a month after only 4 months of SEO workIn the community, Lincoln teaches a quarterly course on social media marketing, search engine optimization and analytics at UC San Diego. He is also a frequent corporate trainer and public speaker. Lincoln holds an M.B.A. in finance from AIU and a B.A. in literature from UC Santa Cruz. He is Google Analytics certified and Google AdWords Certified with an emphasis in Advanced Reporting and Analysis. He is also an avid surfer and soccer player.
John Lincoln

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  • Karthik

    Makes much sense, John. This means a big paradigm shift in SEO where ‘keywords’ have been pretty much the axis of the core optimization process. This also means that the scope of the job for SEOs will spread beyond the website’s horizons (be it links, referral networks, social media outlets, etc.) and well into transactional portals respective to each major mobile player.

    While the magnitude of the change isn’t going to be very dramatic in the near future (in tech world it could mean a year or two?), we know where the world is heading to. And not being prepared for the change would be a crime. Great article!