Voice search is rapidly redefining how we approach all aspects of SEO and human/hardware interaction. After ages of just being a thing people talked about (anyone remember Rosie, the Jetsons’ robot maid?), natural language queries are coming into their own as something that’s both useful and being used. As 2017 begins, it’s important for marketers to pay close attention to the evolution of this technology. Developments in voice search are poised to have an immense impact on how brands reach audiences in the coming years. But first, a little background.
The Story So Far…
In 2011, when Apple introduced Siri and Google introduced voice search with their “OK Google” command, it was hilarious just how badly they functioned. Siri had only 62% accuracy, and Google only 75%. Now we’re closing in on 95% accuracy, with the tipping point for universal voice search widely cited at 99%.
Voice search has hit the Internet of Things (IoT) as well. Amazon’s Echo with Alexa and Google’s Google Home really are your robot butlers, enabling users to integrate voice search into their homes. That means you can say, “Where’s the best cheap pizza in town?” and your device will return a selection of pizza parlors in your area, by rating and price. AIs are thinking in sentences now, already able to meet their human masters on a conversational level.
Search is Not Just Keywords Anymore
What exactly is a “natural language query”? It’s a question, spoken like a person would speak. Instead of typing in “mechanic 60618″—how keyword-based SEO worked until six or seven years ago—a natural language query would be, “Where can I get an oil change in Chicago?”
Vintage SEO isn’t going to cut it in the expanding world of voice search; keywords, while still a mainstay, are becoming less relevant. In fact, 20% of searches are made with voice recognition technology. That’s up from 0% just a few years ago.
What This Means for Digital Marketing
Two words: phrase optimization. For marketers, that means optimizing SEO for phrases rather than just peppering copy with relevant-sounding keywords. Answering questions more deeply, and getting back to the Who-What-Where-When-Why-and-How of the topics at hand.
This is Starting to Sound Familiar
A few years ago, Google started laying the groundwork for normalizing responsive design. They set guidelines for building mobile sites and responsive layouts. At first, Google marked these things as optimal and optional.
Then, they announced that any website which was not responsive, or which did not have a website that adapts to mobile, would be moved to the bottom of the list in their algorithms. They didn’t give advanced warning so much as lay down clues that savvy developers took advantage of.
We can’t say for sure that the same thing is happening with voice search right now, but we can say this: Google is pushing voice in their devices. Google Assistant on its Pixel phone remembers conversations you’ve had with it and can tailor its behavior to your context. The signs point toward voice search compatibility being the next big technological hurdle you’re expected to jump over.
So, Can Voice Search Answer All Your Questions?
Brands will need to continue adjusting their SEO to the technological growth that is currently happening in search. They must not only keep their keyword SEO agile, but also incorporate robust natural language content to stay relevant and engage their audiences on new IoT devices.
“Alexa, how can I get my customers to increase their spending in 2017?” you ask.
“That’s a feature for a later version.”