Voice Search: The Next Evolution of User-first Design
Although today’s teenagers may not even remember a time when they couldn’t speak to their phone, the technology is not as new as you might think. In fact, voice search and voice recognition were novel when Siri first came on the market toward the end of October in 2011. Today, we have Alexa, voice search through Google, Siri, and a wide array of other voice recognition technologies as well. By the end of 2014, about 41 percent of adults and 55 percent of teenagers used voice search more than twice per day, and it is expected that more than half of all search queries will be completed via voice search by 2020.
How Voice Search Differs from Copy Search
Primarily, we currently use voice search to obtain information regarding a place we want to go, such as “find Mexican restaurant close to me.” Or, when we are in another city, “Find a Holiday Inn in Austin.” The words “near me,” or “close to my location,” are recognized by voice search, then your physical location is accessed to give you the results of your query. Because more and more people are using voice search, it is imperative that your website be optimized for such a search, and that you are as specific as possible with your business information and relevant categories.
Writing for Voice Search: Actionable Tips
Below are some tips for voice recognition optimization:
- Check to see how your business name, address and phone number appear in a multitude of web listings. If there are discrepancies between your listings, Google will have less confidence in your business, and your rankings will fall.
- Remember that people do not use voice search in the same way they do a “regular” search — when typing on your phone you are likely to use the most succinct search possible (“take-out pizza near me”). Think of voice search as a conversation with another person — real speech — and tailor your website accordingly.
- Work on some question and answer-style content, then when a person asks their phone a similar question, your business may pull up. Consider revamping product pages and even blog posts to optimize them for these types of questions. Make sure there are answers on your website regarding business location and hours. Obviously, the types of questions you are optimizing for voice search will be dependent on your type of business, your industry, and your audience.
- Take a look at the Structured Data Markup Helper offered by Google, and you will get a good idea of the types of content which can be marked up to create the right HTML for voice searches.
- Remember that most voice searchers are conducted on mobile phones. According to Google, mobile phone bounce rates are even higher than those for computers — almost 10 percent higher. If your website is not optimized for voice recognition, your searchers will immediately go to another website. Google has a mobile-friendly test to determine whether your website is properly optimized for voice search, and has already had two algorithm updates for mobile phones.
- Finally, site speed is crucial in voice searches, and people are not inclined to read large blocks of text on their cell phone, so make it a quick, easy scan by using informative headers, simple sentences and short paragraphs.
Test Queries in Siri and Alexa
According to a 2017 article in the Huffington Post:
- In 2014 one in ten search queries came through Baidu.
- In 2015, Siri was handling more than one billion voice requests per week.
- In 2016, one in five searches on mobile phones were voice requests.
- Also in 2016, 25 percent of Bing searches were voice requests.
- In less than three years, at least half of all searches will be voice requests.
Since Siri and Alexa are so incredibly popular right now, try asking both questions about your business. This will let you know what others will see when they ask similar questions. You may realize you need to make some serious changes to your website to optimize it for voice searches.
What is Schema Markup for Voice Search?
Schema markup is similar to rich snippets — a code, added to your website which provides context to the search engines as to what different text on your site means. As an example, if your business sells bolts, you may want to create a schema markup which lets search engines know that your business sells real, metal bolts, so that those asking about the movie Bolt will not be directed to your page. When schema markup is used appropriately, and your content is built so that you answer questions searchers may have, you will be a step closer to having your website optimized for voice searches.
Voice search is coming in strong — make sure your website is ready.