Last year, the best-selling Black Friday product on Amazon was the company’s own affordable voice-controlled digital assistant, Amazon Echo Dot. At the same time, an increasing number of homes are equipped with Google Home in Canada: a speaker with Artificial Intelligence built-in that listens to spoken commands and searches, informs about the weather, plays music, and performs various other tasks without the user even touching it. Smartphones, too, are showing an increasing support for voice search – after all, it’s much easier to ask Siri about the nearest pizza joint than to pick up the phone, bring up the search engine, and type in a query.
In the eight years that have passed between 2008 and 2016, the number of voice searches performed by users has grown 35 times. Some reports speak of 40% of adults using voice search at least once a day, and so do about a quarter of the youngsters aged between 16 and 24. At the beginning of last year, specialists predicted that the number of active voice-first devices – digital assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo – will increase by at least 25 million. And this is not a far-fetched figure, considering that Amazon has sold out its Echo devices during last year’s holiday shopping craze.
All this data is meant to emphasize the importance of optimizing web pages for the ever-increasing number of voice searches that are coming. And yes, you have to do it differently from your current optimization methods.
That’s because people don’t type a search the way they speak. When searching through a “classic” search engine, an internet user will either use one keyword or a string of keywords and browses through a list of links returned by the engine. Voice searches work a bit differently, though – people use natural speech patterns when searching through Amazon Echo or Google Home, and expect the device to give them the best possible reply without having to filter the results for themselves.
In 2018 and beyond, optimizing for voice search will become increasingly important. Right now, Google uses the information in the “featured snippets” of websites in “position zero” in its search results as a response to voice queries. To keep your position in the search results, you’ll have to also optimize your website for natural patterns rather than keywords – long-tail key phrases will become more important than individual words. After all, when using voice search, people will not simply say “plumber” but “OK Google, find me a plumber near me”. And the content made available through these websites will have to be truly relevant.
Voice search will continue to grow, and focus on finding the best possible reply for the user. And providing this will become crucial in the near future.