With Voice Search on the rise, and some publications predicting Voice Search will make up 50% (the true stat is closer to 35%) of all online searches by as soon as 2020, it is more important than ever to prepare your website and content for this rising trend.
Here are a few stats that support the predicted market growth and answer the question “How big is the Voice Search market?”
With the overwhelming evidence and studies that have been performed, it is evident that the invasion of smart speakers into our homes is inevitable, but the key question remains: how do you leverage the 1 billion voice searches completed for your brand of business?
The increase of Voice Search, and the functionality to perform searches via voice, has been constantly increasing. An estimated 20% of all searches on a mobile device are voice-based search and the global market for smart speakers has grown to 26.1 million units (up 55% in Q2 2019).
The research from a Bright Local: Voice Search for Local Business Survey in 2018 was clear Voice Search is an active and growing community.
The survey showed users explore and adapt Voice Search across a number of key areas:
Unsurprisingly, with the current access to smartphone devices, this was the most used Voice Search medium.
Studies show that Voice Search is used by users in lots of different ways, but some of the most common weekly uses include Music (77%), Weather (75%), General Information (74%) and News (42%).
Outside of Voice Search, 76% of people who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a physical place within 24 hours. 28% of these result in a purchase. 88% of people who conduct a local search visit a related store within a week.
With the market still in its infancy around direct transactions, the biggest opportunity for brands is therefore defined in three areas currently:
The market for transactional Voice Searches will take time to develop, but it is predicted that the 5% of Consumers using Voice Shopping could reach as high as 50% by 2022.
The short answer is: Conversationally. It’s question-based and to provide personal assistance.
As this report shows, when we type in a search using a computer, we use short phrases to save physical effort, and we believe that this will improve the search engine’s understanding of the query.
However, when we use Voice Search, Google studies show 41% of people who own a speaker say it feels like they are talking to a friend or another person. Therefore, one of the biggest defining characteristics of Voice Search is that queries are more likely to be longer “through the tail”
By speaking in a more conversational tone, we are more likely to ask longer questions as a result. Luckily, there are some relatively easy ways to identify the correct questions and the longer format of questions to optimise for.
If you have access to SEMRush, then you have access to the Keyword Magic Tool, located under Keyword Analytics. Simply type in a topic and click the questions button on the left. You can then see what the most searched for questions are for your chosen topic.
A quick pivot table, spits out this sort of information, which gives you a clear indication of which phrasing to focus on, whilst also helping to inform the content you are writing.
You will notice that “What” and “How” for the topic of New York are the most prominent for the overall topic. Not only this, but keyword difficulty is considerably lower for question-based topics.
This sort of set-up can also allow you to double check sub-topics. For example, a quick filter of the results for the further keyword “Restaurants” shows how this topic emphasises changes.
Still the best free way to understand questions, research potential blog posts and in general discover the most likely long-tail searches.
Optimising for Voice Search isn’t too dissimilar to optimising your pages to have great content. The style and format should be written specifically to engage with the users, albeit in a slightly more conversational and easier to read format. There are a number of key Google and Bing features that will further assist in getting more appearances in Voice Search.
A featured snippet – or position 0 – is the lucrative position in organic results. This is where Google has pulled an answer from one of the pages on its top listings and highlighted information that it thinks answers your query, so you don’t have to click any further.
The first examples on Google were known as “quick answers” or “answer boxes”. In 2016, Google confirmed the official name as “featured snippets”.
The below example is on the term “3 nights itinerary for New York”. The example used is typical of a computer-based search.
They tend to come in five different types.
The strength of the traffic from these positions is directly related to the size of the listing, effectively pushing other organic results lower down the page. In cases where people want to learn more, this can have a dominant effect on Click-Through Rate and traffic for the SERP.
Featured snippets are heavily used for Voice Search, but you are more likely to use a conversational, question-based element. This would generate a conversational search result like “What Should I Do…” or “Where should I go…” rather than “3 Nights itinerary” or “Things to do…”:
This example from Google, which we established earlier, only accounts for 11% of the smart speaker market in the UK (but obviously Voice Search can take place on a phone via its assistant, or via voice typing on keyboard, or via desktop). The rest relies on results from Bing. Luckily, Bing and Google have similar set-ups for Featured Snippets, so optimising for Google means a good chance of optimising for Bing as well.
As we discussed, the best way to optimise for large quantities of Voice Search is to optimise for Featured Snippets. The key here is to ensure the page you are optimising for the Featured Snippet uses language and sentences that are the same or similar to the conversational, long-tail question and answer format.
When the content is written, you need to consider the five styles of Featured Snippet, but only three are likely to be used for Smart Speakers. The other two will still be used for some searches that result in a display. You should consider how these Featured Snippets are used and see where in the copy it would be relevant to include them.
This usually appears for pages that use short passages, which answer a question or query in full, but implements concise language, followed by additional information for further reading.
A bulleted list can appear anywhere in the text, and often gets pulled out of long form content to be displayed in a featured snippet. Here are the details:
Numbered lists are often used for recipes or instructions, DIY tasks or How To guides.
The Recipe for Numbered List Featured Snippet Success:
Following these steps can encourage Google to create its own Numbered list from your content. The example below takes the headings of each section within the article to form its own Featured Snippet.
Table featured snippets display columns of data. In order to maximise the chances of appearing for these terms, the table should have more than 4 rows and multiple columns. The tables that get picked up don’t have to be limited to just two or three columns.
With regards to Voice Search, these are least likely to appear across a Smart Speaker, as the format isn’t particularly user friendly when being read aloud.
Video snippets have risen and dropped in popularity over the last couple of years. Video recommendations, similar to numbered lists, tend to appear for “How to”, or “step-by-step” guides. There are a few things that a video should have to increase its chance of being picked up though:
This article runs through what is needed in more detail and a few ways of finding available SERPs that use video.
According to research by Bright Local, 76% of smart speaker users perform local searches at least weekly, with 53% performing the action every day. However, only 18% have used the smart speakers for local Voice Searches.
Using local SEO to optimise for Voice Search is therefore a long-term investment in a growing market, especially when current predictions show an $80 billion voice commerce industry by 2023. Plenty of the research on smart speakers suggests general information; specifically, local businesses. On mobile, the increase of “near me” related searches have continued to increase year on year.
Google Trends “Near Me” searches in the UK
The US market is equally as strong. Here are just some of the stats “Think with Google” insights are reporting:
With the growing market having already been established, our optimisation of content for local searches and businesses needs to focus on the circumstances where people will use a Voice Search in relation to local businesses.
Studies have highlighted that the most popular uses for Voice Search are to obtain an address, receive directions, find a phone number or determine opening hours.
With this in mind, the type of business is also important. The research shows that early adopters in industries that involve food will be the most likely to capitalise on the trend immediately, but as the market grows, delivery and at-home service industries will have an established market presence.
There are a number of foundational actions that are needed to start taking advantage of Local Voice Search, and this involves ensuring your local results are fully optimised.
These four basics will cover you for getting noticed for branded terms and direct searches for you and your products. Being competitive means optimising the Google My Business pages and map pack options, as well as keeping them updated with new content. From a Voice Search point of view, basic optimisation will benefit a local business now, as consumers get more and more used to asking for local information through the medium of Voice Search.
To be increasingly competitive, we need to look towards more advanced Local SEO techniques.
One of the hardest things to do when you are a national retailer with multiple stores is write localised content that is unique and original for the region. One of the most impressive examples of this type of local content generation is from Asda.
Lessons from Asda’s Store Locator
The Asda Store Locator is a dominant brand piece, which ensures maximum coverage for every Asda store. Since each store is usually close to other supermarkets, this dominance of local coverage ensures potential customers always know where their local store is and the impact on the local community.
SEMRush reports over 7,500 key phrases with search volume ranking in top 10 positions, with 1,000 of these being non-branded. This includes top 10 rankings for phrases such as “24 hour supermarket” and 146 high volume “near me” phrases.
The store page for Leeds Bridge Petrol Filling Station
So, what are the key lessons we can take from these community pages?
Reviews, love them or hate them, have become the cornerstone to a customer visit for local search. To get listed higher in local rankings, having a strong number of positive reviews has been shown to have a strong impact on map rankings.
Research from (you guessed it!) Bright Local has shown that 3 stars is the minimum for customers to even consider clicking on your review, so whether the impact on rankings from having great reviews is direct, or indirect, the importance on fantastic review management is the same.
Part of every local SEO strategy should extend beyond local directories and citations to obtaining backlinks from localised websites.
You should work on Digital PR campaigns and an Offsite Strategy that covers
Essentially, your local offsite strategy should allow you to engage with the communities your stores are in, helping to promote the website at all locations. This tactic is even more important if you only have one location.
Using keyword research tools, we can identify terms that might be eligible for a Voice Search. Using traditional methods like the Question Based SEMRush method discussed earlier will certainly help.
If you are looking for a sure-fire way to identify terms that are actively being Voice Searched at the moment, then using Paid search can provide you with valuable insights for this market. We identified this in a recent post by resident expert Emilia Lingwood.
Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT, is the latest algorithm being rolled out by Google and it is a huge leap in presenting results on long-tail terms and understanding the true intent behind a phrase.
As we focused on right at the beginning of this article, Voice Search changes the way people search because people speak in a much more conversational way when using it. BERT analyses the full intent of a sentence especially where words like “to” and “for” change the meaning of a sentence.
Here is an interesting point made by Google in relation to this:
“Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like “for” and “to” matter a lot to the meaning, Search will be able to understand the context of the words in your query. You can search in a way that feels natural for you.”
Here is an example that demonstrates the impact:
For Voice Search, this change will vastly improve the quality of results from conversational queries and therefore increase the chance that people who use Voice Search will get a result they want. This will mean that they will try out more queries on a regular basis and – within a few years – start using it habitually. These advancements in search quality are the reason that even sceptical articles are predicting a vast growth in Voice Search in the next year, never mind growth in the next five years.
With the new algorithm rolling out, it will become increasingly important to produce quality, mistake-free and well written content. In Google’s own words “There’s nothing to optimise for with BERT, nor anything for anyone to be rethinking. The fundamentals of us seeking to reward great content remain unchanged.”
The underlying message here is that, as Google has always suggested, it will reward great content. This means that optimising poorly written or weak areas of content on a website will ultimately lead to better rankings.
Fancy further discussing any of the above? We’d be more than happy to have a chat – drop us a line here!