How Voice Search Is Changing (and Why Your SEO Strategy Needs to Adapt)

January 27, 2017 by  
Filed under All About PPC, SEO

by Jayson DeMers

Voice search has been around for longer than most people realize. It feels like the technology has only been around for a couple of years, but in reality, Google voice search first came out in 2002. We think of it as a recent development because only recently have algorithms begun to solve the biggest problems with voice search, including accurately detecting spoken syllables, generating results in an intuitive way, and of course, encouraging mass user adoption.

Now that voice search is popular with a much wider user base and its technological sophistication is accelerating, we’re going to see some major evolutions in the next few years. If you want to get ahead of the competition and reap the rewards for your brand, now’s the time to start adapting your SEO strategy accordingly.

What Changes to Expect

So how is voice search about to evolve?

1. Better semantic recognition and filtering.

First up, voice search algorithms are going to get better at detecting what people are saying, and translating user intent into a query that yields them the results they want. For example, if a user mispronounces something, uses slang terms, users local vernacular, or otherwise distorts a query with these tiny quirks, a better voice search algorithm could infer what they’re trying to search for and give them recommended results accordingly. This will facilitate even more widespread adoption and help centralize searches around keyword phrases. Google RankBrain already does this, to some extent, for typed searches, so voice search is the next logical jump.

2. Emotional inflection detection.

According to Dialpad, one reason the human voice is so powerful is because of its ability to carry emotional inflection. This is why it’s easier to tell when someone’s joking in conversation than it is through text or email. The next generation of voice search software may be able to pick up on a person’s emotional inflection to provide them with better results. For example, a sense of urgency may route someone to faster, more immediate service providers, or a sense of apprehension could connect a user with anonymous service or results for newcomers to a given subject.

3. More personalized results.

In any case, all technologies are becoming more individualized and personalized, and voice-based search results are no exception. Most voice search programs are tied to personal digital assistants, which are already getting better at analyzing individuals’ needs. Expect more intuitive adjustments for personal search preferences, search histories, and immediate factors, like a person’s location.

4. More display and interface options.

One problem with voice search is the lack of an easy interface on which to view results. Most people use voice search on mobile devices, which have limited screen space, so one innovation to come could be a broader range of interface options. Since it’s unlikely that one solution will work best for everyone, it’s more likely that different providers will generate different possibilities, which means a host of potential SERP scenarios to prepare for.

5. Integration with other tech.

According to Morgan Stanley, half of America’s jobs will be replaced by robots and AI programs within the next 20 years. AI and smart home technology are going to take over consumers’ lives, and most of these options will need some mechanism to drive their operations. In this way, voice search–and voice commands–will likely become more tightly integrated into our world, which could extend search optimization to even more practical, physical areas.

How to Prepare

Make sure your strategy is prepared for the future of voice search by adopting these strategies (if you haven’t already):

  • Use more conversational language. If people search more with casual conversation, it pays to use conversational language in your writing. Develop more answers to common consumer questions, and don’t shy away from using vernacular and informal language unless it hurts your brand in some way.
  • Optimize for long-tail phrases. In a similar vein, you should also optimize for more long-tail phrases than head keywords, since few people use voice search for truncated terms. Plus, according to Wordstream, long-tail keywords generate far less competition, which means you’ll have an easier time ranking.
  • Dig deeper into consumer emotions and intent. If you want to think even more forwardly, start optimizing different segments of your strategy for different modes of user intent. This could reflect different stages of the buying cycle or even different consumer emotions.
  • Get ready for a SERP shakeup. It’s hard to tell exactly how interfaces will change, but it’s a near certainty. Stay on your toes here.

The better prepared you are, the more likely your strategy will be to survive and succeed. As usual in the SEO world, you don’t have to be the best to reap the rewards–you just have to be a step ahead of the competition or find a competitive edge. Voice search is unlikely to go away or stop improving anytime soon, so funnel your investments in this area if you want to be equipped for the future.

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