What Is Voice Doing To Online Search?

When Siri appeared in 2011, whilst she was met with some scepticism, other smart phone users watched iPhone users with jealousy, wondering when they would get their own version of Siri, or similar to play with.

In 2013, a survey showed 91% of the population own some sort of cell phone, and of this 91%, smart phones take up a large 61%. Maybe it’s this significant percentage, but Google and Microsoft now have platforms that can rival Apple in voice search.

It has been said Voice Search is a threat to SEO, and a lot of rumours and uncertainty have been flying around. What does this mean for search engine optimisation?

Mobile laptop business search

Unlike when you sit down in front of a keyboard and wonder what best to type in to get the results or information you want, Voice enables you to just ask a question, using natural language.

For example, a Typed Search would look something like this:

“personal trainer Auckland”
Whilst a Voice Search, would sound like this:

“find me a personal trainer nearby”
Both searches look and are worded differently, but both achieve the same goal. You’ll notice the Typed Search appears a lot more pointed. But when we speak, we use fillers, like “a”, which give search engines an idea of what your intent is.

This is what Google released Hummingbird in 2013 based on. The exciting thing about Humingbird was it tried to figure out the meaning behind your words.

But it went one step further. Google Now and Microsoft Cortana have the ability to anticipate what you are searching for. Basically, if you said “show me pictures of the Eiffel Tower” and your next query was “how tall is it”, it will realise that by “it”, you mean the Eiffel Tower, and bring up the relevant results.

There’s been one big rumour going around when it comes to Voice Search and SEO. Are keywords important anymore? We speak in natural tone and language, and voice search are interpreting our queries, so does this wipe out the relevance of keywords?

In short, no. Yes, it changes the game slightly and keywords have a different value than they did before. Search engines will still use keywords for categorising and indexing content to bring you the results you want, but some of the focus that previously went on keywords will need to be shifted to content that is more focused on people – not search engines.

One important thing to remember for local businesses though; with more people using Voice Search for local businesses, it’s more important than ever to have up to date information (phone number, address, business hours etc) online, and build positive reviews on local directory sites such as Yelp. Voice Search enables people to find the information they want without even having to visit a website.

You may find your website traffic decreases as a direct result of this, but be assured that if you optimise for Voice Search, in the ways mentioned above, your physical site will pick up traffic – and after all, isn’t that where you really want it?

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