3 Ways Voice Activated Search Is Changing SEO

To paraphrase Sophia from The Golden Girls, picture it, somewhere in everyday America.

Courtesy of beeteep60.

As a business owner, your website is a core part of the business. Contact information is up-to-date, and homepage stays fresh and clean. A couple employees make sure the small blog is maintained and updated regularly. The service and product pages are treated with tender care as every other part of the website.

Life is gliding along. Then, suddenly, someone in the office mentions traffic has slowly been dropping off. No, not foot traffic from the loyal and dedicated base of customers. Web traffic. When you get a spare moment, you set the in-office chat to unavailable and start looking at the analytics.

Web pages are fine, nothing is broken. Digging a little deeper, you can’t find any 301 redirect issues anywhere. There’s nothing you can find glaringly obvious, so you ask the social media manager how their end of things is going. Very well, they reply.

Bamboozled. This comes to mind, because you know there’s something causing the drop in web traffic. It has to be something, even if you can’t think of it. Glancing at the clock, the day is done and it’s time to head home. With your smartphone in one hand and keys in the other, you head out the door and lock up for the night.

At this point, you’re likely asking where this Sophia Petrillo inspired parable is heading. What did you have in your hand as you left for the day? Keys and cell phone, you say.

It’s the last item that’s beginning to play havoc with your web traffic and others.

Our smartphones, tablets, and consumer gadgets such as Amazon Echo and Google Home all use voice activated search. We dictate a text message while walking, add dinner dates to our calendar while typing a memo, and order lunch while on hold. Fueled by artificial intelligence and voice recognition software, our digital personal assistants are changing the way we get things done each day.

But what if we told you they’re also changing how customers and consumers alike find your website?

Voice search as we know and use it shares key characteristics as keyword focused searches done with a keyboard. It uses search engine optimization to return results through a search engine. But there the paths begin to separate.

What Is Voice Search?

The accuracy of voice search has increased immensely in a short amount of time. How short? Four years ago, Google had less than 80 percent accuracy for returning results a user actually wanted.

Today, it’s more than 90 percent and growing, according to KPCB’s Internet Trends 2016 report.

But how does a smartphone or other voice search activated device know what we want?

Using natural language processing, a computer program works to understand human speech as it’s spoken. This covers everything from a person clearly pronouncing their search to an accented question with a specific dialect. Through natural language and words, voice search shows a stronger intent toward a search topic, including emotion. The strength of intent is subconsciously changing our voice searches from regular keywords to long tail keyword searches.

Why Is Voice Activated Search Becoming So Popular?

We’re a bunch of multitaskers, or we play them in our daily lives. Smart devices in tow everywhere, people try to eek out two tasks at once regularly. With Siri’s introduction from Apple in late 2011, being able to add an eye exam appointment to your calendar while drying dishes is possible.

How are Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and other voice activated searches different from each other?

At the root of it, they’re not. Each is a voice-activated personal or intelligent assistant. Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Alexa use natural language commands from phrases to full questions and return answers. Where the answers come from can depend on the device and/or platform being used.

Amazon’s Alexa takes the voice search ability a little further than what we use on our smartphones. The software learns not only from individual users, but all user’s speech patterns and vocabulary. For example, when you order lunch on Thursdays, you go with the usual – beef lo mein with egg rolls and sweet and sour sauce for dipping. Spoken to Alexa, it would understand your order was different than the intern, who orders pork lo mein and egg rolls, but no sauce. Both of you would have the orders placed, but Alexa has already figured out to separate and differentiate. No late lunch surprises.



Alexa is the software behind Amazon Echo device. This device is expected to further fuel the growth of voice-activated search technology through its use of apps and actions. Instead of using keyword returns, Echo uses skills or the equal of apps from companies queued in the results. With more than 1,000 added in 2016 alone, it currently favors medium to large size businesses if only from a resources standpoint. Small businesses have a disadvantage due to a lack of resources to develop and maintain their own apps. But, they can still be relevant through search citations on vertical sites like Yelp and Kayak.

With Google Voice Search, users speak speech queries and commands via a mobile device. If used on Android, can give voice commands to send emails, open an app, set alarms, and so on like Siri. From there, Google’s voice-activated technology hones in on specifics. Users of Google Home, Google’s answer to the Echo, may find the software to be a blend of two former Google products. Home uses Google Assistant, a bot adaptation of Google Now and Ok Google, with both adding contexts to questions and commands.

How Do My Customers and Consumers Use Voice Activated Technology?

These ways are growing every day. It’s a personal assistant for people on the go, adding appointments to calendars or taking down and sending an email to the person across the hall. Fun and entertainment are covered through “What movies are playing today?” and “Did the Cardinals win?” Yet, not all voice search results will be the same. Jeff Dunn, a tech reporter with Business Insider, found the popular assistants do have varied results, in both accuracy and specificity.

But it’s making the biggest impact with search engine optimization for businesses of all sizes through general and local information.

Three Ways Voice Activated Technology Is Changing SEO

Google revealed 1 in 5 searches made with an Android app was a voice search in 2016. It may seem mundane, but with 40,000 search queries every second of every day on average, it’s a significant number.

Expect to See More Long Tail Search Keywords

Long tail keywords are specific, very specific three to four or more word phrases a user is searching for. Right now they have less traffic due to how specific they are, but this traffic may see an uptick as voice search brings changes to traditional SEO. This makes it easy to currently rank for a long tail keyword.

How can a business blog adjust to this? Thinking as their customers do, or in this case, searching in their mindset. The step before staring at a blank page, wondering how to start writing, should be keyword research. During research, think beyond traditional keywords like “water damage.” For long tail queries, people will use “water damaged wood floor” or “frozen pipe burst in the kitchen.” Their problem or issue is specific, leaving any content created to be as specific and to the point as needed.

Local Search Citations Have to Be Accurate

Voice search will make having accurate and up to date local search citations for your business imperative. Moz posed a great question for voice search: how do people describe your neighborhood, such as where your business is located, in natural language? Do they reference the shuttered diner down the block or the playground across the street?

Checking your business information can become a painstaking task. But not updating a phone number on Yelp or listing business hours on Google+ can mean the difference between being a search result on Siri or being left behind in the information shuffle.

Voice Search Isn’t Going Away

As more and more people gain access to the internet across the globe, it’s often done through a smartphone. Smartphone ownership has increased by more than 25 percentage points in Turkey, Malaysia, Chile, and Brazil, according to Pew Research Center since 2013. This doesn’t seem like a huge gain, but these countries represent emerging economies with large populations.

For many people, a smart device is their only access to the internet. And though screen sizes have increased, would you rather fumble with a tiny keyboard or simply say what you want into a microphone? Our guess is the mic wins every time.

Is Your Business Information Accurate Across the Internet?

Looking to increase your local citation footprint before voice search becomes the norm? MMC offers citation management as part of its SEO management for clients.

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